By Rachel Gobep
A petition for a women and gender resource center brought to Youngstown State University has been signed by over 1,000 people.
Students were at the forefront of a pop-up women’s center in Kilcawley Center, and helped to educate others on how a women’s center would provide an environment for people to seek support and guidance on issues relating to gender, sexuality, sexual health issues, gender education and other topics.
Development for a women’s center began at the university in September 2017, but progress has been delayed.
Samantha Fritz, a student advocate and committee member for the center and a junior philosophy and political science major at YSU, said she believes it is very important that students are the ones leading the initiative for the center.
“We think that is the way to get an administrative response to our students,” she said.
YSU President Jim Tressel said the women’s center has been a part of the overall diversity and inclusion discussion on campus, and the university is also looking to have new leadership in the area, with an assistant provost for diversity and inclusion.
He said it is good that they are showing their level of interest in a women’s center by creating the pop-up.
“I think it’s an affirmation that it’s something important that needs to … get attention, and eventually, figure out where it fits in the whole,” Tressel said.
Eva Lamberson, another student advocate, committee member and a freshman philosophy and religious studies major, said she was shocked to learn that YSU does not have a women’s center and agrees that the initiative needs to be student led.
According to the pop-up flyer, “All college campuses have a need for a women’s center, and all but two campuses in Ohio have one.”
The center also has the ability to provide a “calm, inviting atmosphere to those who feel as though they need a comfortable place to be when handling these sensitive issues.”
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college, and Fritz said there is not currently a place on campus for students to come with their concerns in a safe space.
Fritz said a women’s center is something that can help everyone feel comfortable and safe at YSU.
The flyer states that a women’s center in Ohio would typically provide resources for those struggling with gender and sexuality issues, advice and advocacy for issues relating to discrimination and violence based on gender, a safe and nonjudgmental environment for all, education on gender and sexuality topics, condoms and menstruation products, relationship and domestic violence resources and an environment that fosters conversation about gender discrimination and inequality.
One misconception about the center that Lamberson discussed is that the center would not just be for women, but for anyone at YSU.
Michael Factor, a student advocate and sophomore political science major, said he is supporting the initiative because it is “the right thing to do” because it is important for women to have access to the resources that they need.
He said even if he never uses the center, he wants to make sure his friends feel safe on campus.
“I think it’s a travesty that we don’t have one area, centrally located. We have gaps in that safety on campus,” he said.
The administration at the YSU and advocates for the center are in discussion to determine its direction.