March marks Women’s History Month and the conversation around issues facing women is happening nationally and locally. Some UK students are now calling for the establishment of a UK Women’s Center to serve as a place of support and resources for students who identify as women.
Brittney Sawyer is the president of the Women’s Coalition for the establishment of the UK Women’s Center. Sawyer said she and the rest of the Women’s Coalition team aim to found the Women’s Center as a place where female students can find support and feel safe beyond the traditional spaces that are associated with that on a college campus.
“We want to cultivate a different message about what it means to support women outside of the Greek life on campus,” Sawyer said.
Sawyer added that the Women’s Center will of course be inclusive and welcoming to those involved with Greek life, but it will eliminate the financial barrier of dues that would traditionally come along with Greek life, which can feel like the only major source of support for female students on campus.
The Women’s Coalition has developed several ideas for how a UK Women’s Center could support students in an initial proposal to be used in future conversations with the administration.
“Women amongst varying races, ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses, sexual identities, cultures, religions and backgrounds all have experiences that are unparalleled. These must be addressed. Without a space to break down these barriers, provide tangible resources and actively participate in policy change– equity will never be possible,” reads the proposal’s opening/
The Women’s Coalition aims to amplify the diverse experiences of women-identifying students here at UK by highlighting what a women’s center would mean for students on their social media.
In a story highlight on the UK Women’s Coalition Instagram, one anonymous student shared an experience where they had trouble finding a safe space to breast-feed on campus. Another anonymous student shared an instance where they were threatened to be counted absent when their period unexpectedly started in class, and they needed to go to the bathroom. Another student shared a want for a safe space to discuss the intersection of womanhood and religion because she was constantly asked by strangers about her hijab.
In order to address issues like this, the Women’s Coalition has included an outline in the proposal on what they hope the UK Women’s Center will be able to do once it comes into fruition.
One of the major components of the Women’s Coalition proposal is the focus on education. The proposal outlines the Women’s center as a place to “supply education and support on the raw experiences of women in every perspective.” This includes education on how systemic racism impacts women, education on cultural and religious differences amongst women, education on financial aid opportunities offered to women at UK and education on further financial help and childcare programs.
One major aspect of this proposal in terms of education is the incorporation of educational events hosted by the Women’s Center. Some of the education events that the Women’s Coalition suggests the Women’s Center would host are:
Seminars discussing current events involving women
Seminars on how to better support immigrant peers that have gender-based violence occurring in their home countries
Weekly sessions for open-discussion on a variety of women-related topics
Monthly table-talks about issues facing women
The proposal also paints the UK Women’s Center as a physical and mental health resource for students. The proposal says that the Women’s Center would be a place for counseling and mental wellness for women by women, as well as a safe place for women to seek medical help. The center will also provide Women’s Health 101 and information on transgender health.
The proposal also suggests a few more physical suggestions for the space such as having a lactation room and a study and conference room, as well as having a space to celebrate women’s art and publications.
The proposal also offers a look at the University of Missouri’s Women’s Center, where the Women’s Coalition got their inspiration for the proposal.
“Above all, the Women’s Center will offer a guaranteed safe place for women to participate in higher education,” the proposal reads. “Not to just bring women’s careers to fruition, but to further understand, uplift and celebrate the differences of all women that take part in UK’s community.”
Sawyer said she believes these resources could be life-changing for women on campus.
“UK has the chance to change the futures of so many women coming to campus,” Sawyer said.
Sawyer said that the resources can help to mend the divides and rifts that we all feel in the world right now.
“The women’s center would provide a place of not only acceptance but that uplifts and educates women to build bridges over so many societal barriers,” Sawyer said.
The proposal already has 10 organizations who have given a verbal endorsement, meaning they support the belief that UK should establish a women’s center in a timely manner. Sawyer said she is looking forward to bringing this idea to the UK Vice President for Student Success in a meeting soon, with hopes to bring it to higher administration in the coming months.
Students who wish to support can find the Women’s Coalition on Instagram at @thewomenscoalition. Sawyer also added that students can fill out the petition for the establishment of the Women’s Center at the link in the bio of the page’s Instagram. Sawyer said while numbers were of some importance, the most important part of the petition was the call for personal statements at the end because she said those anecdotes will show the administration what it would really mean to students to have this resource.
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