Blueprint for Action
The women’s center must be relocated to an above-ground facility near other offices dealing with student services, like the Office of Career Services, the Bureau of Study Counsel, and the Office for the Arts.
- The ownership of its own space and address provides the institutional legitimacy for the Women’s Center to, both literally and in practice, take up more space on campus and become a more formalized part of campus programming, rather than a niche office for students who happen to be interested and passionate in feminism and social justice.
- A physically functioning space that does not require constant maintenance and upkeep will allow Women’s Center staff to allocate more attention to gender-focused, campus-focused work, rather than expending time and resources simply keeping the center functioning; as well as be more welcoming to students.
- The renovation process will occur as a result of the relocation process, but the renovation concept needs to move beyond the idea that a “newer, bigger” space will necessarily make the Women’s Center a better community space.
- Incorporation of student voices and student artwork in the fabric of the center makes the student central in the physical space of the women’s center, which opens understanding for the Women’s Center as a locus of student action and change.
- The incorporation of historical and Harvard based feminist / woman / gender non-conforming photos, images, writings, in the decor and atmosphere of the center makes the mission of the Center clear in its physical environment.
- The incorporation of the Women’s Center into first-year opening days programming or freshmen orientation programming is key to ensuring that everyone who enters the College knows that the Center exists, and what it exists for.
- The current structure is that there is a day of open houses where diversity offices (HCWC, Foundation, BGLTQ office,) open their doors and are prepared to offer tours to students; but there is not official or formalized process by which students must visit centers of diversity as a part of their entry to campus.
- The incorporation or collaboration of the Women’s Center with gender and feminism focused museum/art exhibits, libraries, or courses on campus, would expand the reach of the Center beyond simply being a space to reserve for meetings or events.
- For example, WGS or other related courses could require a field visit to the women’s center to incorporate some aspect of course work.
- The Schlessinger Library at Radcliffe could host a certain collection of works or a specific artifact/writing exhibit at the center each month as a way to increase the reach/pull of the center and draw more people.
- The BGLTQ office, which recently moved out of its basement office in Boylston into a renovated space in Grays Basement in the Yard, could be used as a model for how to get the institution of Harvard to jumpstart the relocation and renovation of the Women’s Center.
- The BGLTQ office, however, moved to Grays Basement which is still a basement space. Is the constraint of leaving diversity offices in the basement of yard buildings a reach consideration or is it an unwillingness on the part of the university to grant further legitimacy to the offices by instating them in buildings near other freestanding offices by Mt. Auburn St., like the BSC?
- The advantage of remaining in Yard basements is that these spaces are more easily accessible for first year students who are hesitant to leave the yard (many first year students do not know where upper class houses are, and it is safe to assume that they are not familiar with university offices near these other houses either), and the article published in the Crimson regarding the BGLTQ office move seems to confirm the fact that first year students are more comfortable with utilizing offices within the Yard.
- However, there still needs to be a way for there to be increased visibility for diversity offices like the BGLTQ office and the Women’s Center if they are in a basement location. Possible ideas include better signage (the current Women’s Center sign is a sandwich board that we put up in the hallway by Canaday B, where the entrance to the basement is.
- Tuft’s Women’s Center, as well as Yale Women’s center, has physical and visible signage on the building clearly indicating the visibility of the center to students at street level.
- Students should be able to feel welcome to the Center by walking by and seeing the name of the center and recognizing that it exists.
- Tufts Women’s Center can also be a model for how to effectively change a women’s center after relocation and renovation, so greater collaboration between the team of people responsible for spearheading the relocation of the Harvard College Women’s Center and the Tufts Women’s Center to understand how they have historically undergone this transition could be a helpful resource.
- Finally, a network of women’s centers across various nearby campuses might also be useful for the Harvard College Women’s Center in order to share institutional knowledge rather than these women’s centers existing in a vacuum.
- While it is true that each women’s center is responsible for its campus only, the field visit as well as the literature suggest that several concerns are shared across women’s centers, so the lack of an institutional system by which knowledge can be shared across campuses- especially in a college town like Boston- is disappointing.