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Who is "Us"?
A Space for All
“To some degree the Women’s Center helps bridge the gap between what is student-accessible and what is not student-accessible, like if I were talking to an administrator as a student and was not a women’s center intern, I guess I could sign up for their office hours, but I just wouldn’t have as much legitimacy. I probably wouldn’t even have the incentive to go talk to them in the first place.”
- Lane*, HCWC intern *names of interns are pseudonyms for privacy
The Women's Center is a space where all individuals have access. This manifests in different forms, and while the main inhabitants of the space are students, the presence of various administrators and other university figures in the space at times, creates the bridges and the legitimacy to form relationships.
The intern viewpoint on seeing the Women's Center role as one that exists in connection to various other parts of the university as a whole is reflected in this brainstorming poster, created during one of our training days, and posted up in the front of the center for visitors and students to see. When thinking about what the Women's Center does, interns reflected on their perspectives of seeing the Women's Center as serving a range of responsibilities, from providing a "voice for women on campus" to "building community" to influencing the "agenda of Harvard College" itself. This broad span of roles that interns see the Center as taking on is reflective of its multifaceted function as more than simply a space.
“I feel like I’m a lot more chill with administrators, because I see them in and out of the space. I see us talking about them…I’m not scared now to talk to Dean Khurana, I’m not scared to talk to Dean Dingman, I feel like I have more of that courage.”
- Whitney, HCWC intern
Intern Whitney notes the feeling of comfort in the Women's Center as feeling "chill"- a feeling that extends beyond the everyday use of the concept of comfort, and into a sense of ease with administrators and the facets of the university itself. "Chill" can mean comfort to be yourself in a space, as well as- in this example- the very root of courage itself. The Women's Center embodies this comfort and creates it by the presence of different actors of the university inhabiting a shared space with students, in that way creating a sense of community.
“I think definitely with administrators, there aren’t that many opportunities for students and administrators to get to know each other. Like, I adore my residential dean. I think House life is one of the only ways where [administrator-student interaction] happens really effectively on campus. And that feels like such a limited population.”
- Lillien, HCWC intern
Intern Lillien echoes the sense of needing places that perform the function of physically bringing administrators and students into the same space to build relationships. She notes that House life is one place that serves this function, but that many other places in Harvard are lacking this aspect of community.
In this second part of the poster created during intern training, it is evident that the interns see the Center as point outreach to various actors- students, administrators, and even other universities, as the Center is a "model" for university women's centers. Interns also note that the Women's Center can mean "different things to different people," that it can take on different roles depending on whom it is serving.
Gender & Change
"I mean, my friends I’ve talked to who’ve had gender 101’s, their eyes have been completely opened. Even if its not some kind of systemic change, if you change a bunch of individual people—the university’s made of individual people, so changing individual minds makes it kind of easier to change the group mind.”
- Maddy, HCWC intern
The Women's Center's Gender 101 workshop, provided by the Campus Education interns, is a small workshop with a big and ever-growing reach. As intern Maddy notes, the sense of change created by the Gender 101's is created through smaller scale, individual changes. While many aspects of the Center deal with change and gender empowerment on a slower, larger scale way, at the university level and even beyond, the interns see the immediate effects of their own work and efforts through Gender 101's and are motivated by the sense that each small step can make waves.
Finding Our Place
“I struggled finding my place on campus. When I look back on college, a lot of it will be my work here.”
- Lillien, HCWC intern
Ultimately, a large part of the purpose that the community of the Women's Center serves is giving students and interns alike a place where they can feel like they belong. Interns, including myself, note that it was difficult to truly feel connected to the university before working at the Women's Center in a more official role.