By Yasmin Rubayo, Staff Writer—
On Jan. 10, The Center for Women and Gender Equity welcomed students to drop by their “Meet and Greet: Winter Edition” to learn what the organization is doing to help balance social injustices and celebrate diversity on campus.
The organization, located at 350 University Center, invites anyone who is interested in having conversations on subjects such as feminism, sexuality, and gender identity to come spend time in their living room.
Staff Member Lauren Ouwerkerk took some time to talk about the ways the Center is here for UTC students.
“We are giving a space and a community for people to feel comfortable together,” Ouwerkerk said. “What’s most important to the students who come to the Center is having allyship and involvement in our topics and our space.”
Ouwerkerk went on to say that “The Center for Women and Gender Equity functions under the values of awareness, activism and advocacy, collaboration, leadership, and community.”
The Center hosts events throughout the semester to support these values such as the “Take Back the Night” event that occurred during the fall semester.
Take Back the Night is one of the organization’s big events, making use of community partners that have initiatives surrounding survivor support.
“We count on these relationships to make the most of our programming that are student-backed. Students are the ones coming up with the ideas, “ Ouwerkerk said.
The Center has done programs for Women’s History Month, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and specifically those that support LGBTQ+ students.
Not all events are large-scale. The “Desserts and Dialogues” series is an event in which a handful of students talk in a more intimate setting.
As important as it is that students feel safe to be who they are, it is equally important that students know they have somewhere to go if they find themselves in a situation of dating or relationship violence.
“These students can meet with an advocate,” Ouwerkerk said as she stressed the need for students to seek help in a safe space.
The Center for Women and Gender Equity, while an important resource and safe space for students, is also just a community.
“A lot of our students just sit here,” Ouwerkerk added. “They may have an hour or two between classes and they don’t want to sit in their car—and that’s okay.”
During the event, students came and went, spending time in the living room among positive images and quotes.
Students talked about ways they are dealing with stress while seated in a space that was created just for them.
“This ice-breaker is for the student who is afraid to walk into a room of people who all know each other and not know anyone, that this space is for you,” Ouwerkerk said.