Breaking down the bill: The Gender Equity Center

Breaking down the bill: The Gender Equity Center

Elizabeth Wirtz
Trigger warning: This piece mentions sexual assault

Following President Linda Oubré’s email, Campus Relations Director fourth-year Grace Reeder sent out an email on April 25 listing resources for reporting acts of violence at Whittier. The email also announced that a new Bill, the Gender Equity Center (GEC) Bill, would be announced on April 29 at the weekly ASWC Senate meeting. President Oubré sent out an email to the campus reminding everyone of the observance of Denim Day, that sexual assault is a crime, and that “Whittier College maintains a no-tolerance policy against sexual misconduct.” 

The College observed Denim Day on April 24, the anniversary of a historic Italian court case from 20 years ago when a judge dismissed a sexual assault case because the survivor wore jeans, which he ruled implied her consent. For more on Denim Day see page 11. The GEC aims to provide more resources to students who have experienced sexual and gender-based violence.

Reeder feels this is an important component of the campus. “I feel that this is a necessary addition to our campus but a student should not have to enter the Dean of Students office or the OEI or Campus Safety or any other administrative avenue on this campus as the sole provider of resources relating to SGBV (sexual or gender based violence) or discrimination,” said Reeder. This is a personal matter for Reed and she continued to recount her own experiences dealing with this at the College, “I personally had to deal with finding resources through those avenues when I had to report the violence I had experienced my sophomore year. It is very uncomfortable to go to Campus Safety or to go to the Dean of Students office to access resources, and I think that we are not providing a safe space on this campus where students can just ask questions or get resources that are separate from the administration. I should not have to feel like I’m the one getting in trouble when I’m just trying to figure out what options I have after I experienced sexual violence.” After going to South Africa during Jan Term, Director Reeder was inspired with this idea, but it will remain both a professional and personal passion. “That is where this Bill is coming from for me. It is very personal because I had to fight to find the resources provided on this campus and I want to ensure that no student has to do that in the future. If we had a Gender Equity Center, students would know just from the name alone that this would be a location that is a safe space as well as somewhere that either provides the resources I am looking for or knows where to point me so I can access those resources.”

Why it matters: 

– The Gender Equity Bill points out many of Whittier College’s flaws when providing adequate support and resources for victims of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV). The Bill begins by discussing the federally required Title IX guidelines all college institutions who receive federal funding are required to follow — “proactively prevent and respond to claims of sexual harassment, sexual violence, and other forms of gender-based violence, retaliation, discrimination, and have an impartial and prompt process for investigating and adjudicating reported cases.” However, Whittier College has students access these services through administrative avenues. The role Title IX Coordinator is also the Vice President and Dean of Students. This means that students trying to access resources for traumatic experiences have to access them through the Dean of Students office. 

– In 2015, the College underwent the Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium (HEDs) Sexual Assault Climate Survey, and it was reported that primarily female students were unaware of the confidential resources available on campus.

– Several comparable institutions, such as Occidental College, have Gender Equity Centers, a resource that Whittier College currently lacks.

– The Dean of Students, Residential Life and President’s offices are all supporting this Bill. Director Reeder has met with all of these departments. “These offices have shown their support for this initiative,” she said. “I think that this confirms the commitment that the administration has to seeing this Bill get off the ground and confirms that this is something they want to see happen as well.”

– The GEC Bill calls for the creation of a task force beginning in the 2019 – 20 academic year, so there is a possibility for students to become involved in this project. 

What it does:

– The Bill gives between $20,000 and $25,000 in funds from the Associated Students of Whittier College (ASWC) Senate to help pay for the GEC. The Bill reads: “[Senate] will provide between $20,000 and $25,000 of funding dedicated to the start-up costs associated with providing a Gender Equity Center on campus.” It calls for administration and the Board of Trustees to also fund the Gender Equity Center. 

– The GEC Bill calls for the creation of a Gender Equity Task Force consisting of “ASWC Senate table members, students, faculty, staff, appropriate administrators, gender advocates, and other necessary parties.” The initial objective of the task force will be to ensure that funds from ASWC are being used appropriately. The task force is intended to meet monthly for the 2019 – 20 academic year.

– The Bill highlights the successes of Occidental College and University of Pennsylvania in their Gender Equity Centers, and uses them as a framework for Whittier to build off of. It states the populations that the GEC serves as well.

– The Bill states a space study needs to be conducted across the campus so that the necessary space to host the center can be found.

– The Advocacy Committee will ensure that funds acquired for the center are used appropriately.

What it does not do:

– The Bill does not discuss who will staff the GEC and if it will be necessary to hire additional staff for the new center. Student Life is currently hiring additional staff within the Office of Student Engagement and Dean of Students. 

– The Bill mentions the need for administration and the Board of Trustees to fund the GEC, but it does not discuss how much funding will be necessary, secure funding, nor discuss what professional staff will be responsible for obtaining the funding.

– The Bill does not state whether the Center will be added under an existing department of the College or if it will be its own department. 

– It does not expand beyond stating a space study needs to be conducted, such as who will be leading the space study or what group/department will oversee the space study.

Voting on the Bill:

– The Bill was introduced at the Senate meeting on April 28. Director Reeder sent out an email to the student body on April 30 that read “ASWC Senate will be voting on this bill at the final senate meeting, on May 6  at 7 p.m. in Villalobos [Hall].” The Bill is available on OrgSync and has been sent to all students via their @poets email. The Quaker Campus will continue to report on the GEC over the course of the 2019 – 20 academic year.

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