Tuesday, April 08, 1997

Women’s tent protests inaction

Women’s tent protests inaction
The Chicago Maroon
By Shannon Brown and Pamela Appea

In an attempt to heighten public awareness for the need of women’s center on campus, the University’s Coalition Against Sexual Violence assembled a tent as a temporary Women’s Center at 10 a.m. on the Quads.

Frustrated with the absence of an official Women’s Center on campus, students in the Coalition have set up the tent as “a symbol of the urgent need for a University-sponsored Women’s Center,” according to an April 3 press release.

The tent will house literature and referral information on sexual violence, gender inequality issues, HIV/AIDS, and other health issues. It will be staffed by volunteers and assembled on the quads every weekday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the remainder of Spring Quarter.

The Coalition Against Sexual Violence, comprised of 100 students representing a myriad of campus organizations including the Womyn’s Union, Alpha Omega Pi sorority, and the Muslim Students Association, was formed in response to two recent rapes in the Hyde Park area.

“A Women’s Center, meaning a centralized location where women can find all the resources they urgently need i.e. counseling, sexual assault advice, and reproductive health information, in one easy-to-understand system, is necessary,” said Olivia Given, third-year student in the College and undergraduate coordinator for the Sexual Violence Prevent and Resource Center.

According to Katie Romich of the Womyn’s Union, “a Women’s Center would be a way for the University community to recognize and attempt to create a solution for the sexism and misogyny which women face.” Romich went to say that “we do not enter this University as gender-less, race-less, background-less individuals.”

The resources and services the Coalition hopes a Women’s Center would provide include educational materials on gender, sexuality, and sexual violence, an accessible phone line, a “safe space” for women in cases of emergency, available counselors trained in dealing with issues of sexual assault, and information referrals to link visitors with other resources.

Deputy dean of students Kathy Stell said she said “the primary justification” of the Coalition’s demand for a Women’s Center as a place to “house anti-sexual violence measures.” Stell says she is “open to the idea that there might be a need for a [a Women’s Center], but only if it is for reasons other than a place to house sexual violence efforts.”

Stell spent four years as a Sexual Harassment Complain Counselor and has been Sexual Assault Dean On-Call for the past year. Stell said that, “like anything else, [sexual violence resources] could be improved,” but she still doesn’t “see the establishment of a Women’s Center as a way to improve them.”

The Coalition press release points to the Women’s Centers at Emory, Northwestern, Stanford, and Duke as examples of instances where goals such as their own have been achieved. Emory’s center is praised by the Coalition for its accessibility, Northwestern’s center for its excellent counseling staff, and Duke’s center for its emergency-relief space.

Sponsoring organizations for The Women’s Center Tent are Womyn’s Union, Queers and Associates, Feminist Majority, Center for Gender Studies, Student Caucus, Comadres, Muslim Students Association, Women’s Guide to the U of C, Women’s Lacrosse Team, and Alpha Omega Pi Sorority.

There will be a press conference this Wednesday from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. on the main campus quadrangle in which Rebecca Gordon, director of women’s affairs at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Leora Auslander, associate professor in the department of History, will speak.

Originally published April 8, 1997