Professors root for return of Women’s Center

All that remains of the Women’s Center are boxes of old books and pamphlets locked away in a small basement room in DeBartolo Hall. They’ve collected dust for nearly a decade. 

L.J. Tessier, a professor of philosophy and religious studies and the former director of women’s studies, said she remembers when both women’s studies and the Women’s Center were thriving, around the time the programs started in 1988. Since then, the Women’s Center has been closed three times. 

“The single most heartbreaking experience to me in my 23 years on campus was when they closed the Women’s Center,” Tessier said.

Tessier said the Women’s Center had moved around. Originally a part of the welcome center, it moved to Kilcawley Center, then to the third floor of DeBartolo Hall and eventually out of existence. 

Even though there isn’t a Women’s Center at this time, students can still minor in women’s studies. 

Galadriel Gerardo, director of women’s studies, said students can also choose to pursue a women’s studies major through an individual curriculum program, or ICP. She has two students who “major” in women’s studies. 

When Gerardo took over the women’s studies program in 2009, she inherited the materials left over from the Women’s Center. 

Tessier said the Women’s Center’s peak was in the late 1980s, when it had a library and functioned as a safe place for students. 

“We were a presence for women on campus,” Tessier said. 

Gerardo said that one of the most significant ways a Women’s Center could be used today is to provide area women with resources for sexual and contraceptive education. 

“A Women’s Center is not only something that would be valuable to have on campus, but is integral to have access on campus to things such as sex education,” Gerardo said. “One of the things that always surprises me [is that] my young traditional college-aged students have kids. There are really a lack of resources available to young women in this area that [do] not even give them information of contraceptive options.”

Gerardo added that YSU is the only university she’s ever worked at that didn’t have stations with free condoms for students. 

“That’s bizarre to me, but I know that is something that the Women’s Center did provide,” Gerardo said. 

Along with information on contraceptives, Gerardo is also concerned about the lack of places on campus where mothers can nurse their children.  

These services are just some of the many that a Women’s Center could provide.

Tessier said that one of the arguments made against the Women’s Center was that it discriminated against men on campus. 

Gerardo, however, has male students who take her courses — and even return for more women’s studies courses. 

She said a background in women’s studies could be useful for jobs in politics, health care, government research, history, teaching and any profession that involves public speaking.