By Morgan Petronelli
For over the past year, Youngstown State University has struggled to make the idea of a Women and Gender Resource Center on campus become a reality.
Issues, ranging from difficulties naming a director and now finding an assistant director to trying to locate a space sufficient enough to house the resource center, have been problematic for those advocating for the project.
Recently, students from YSU banded together to create a petition in support of the creation of a Women and Gender Resource Center on campus.
The petition was created by Lindsay Heldreth and Moataz Abdelrasoul with the goal of gaining 500 signatures to present to Provost Martin Abraham in hopes of moving the conversation about the center’s development forward.
Heldreth, a student at YSU and board member for the Women and Gender Resource Initiative, said they started the petition “to demonstrate overwhelming student support for the initiative, and demand action.”
She said four promises were made for the initiative: a part-time interim director, an assistant director, student workers and a space. A part-time interim director, Megan List, was appointed, but the other three promises have since gone untouched.
Citing a series of articles written by Elizabeth Lehman in The Jambar about the ongoing development of the initiative, the petition states that Provost Abraham’s focus has shifted to allocating the decision-making responsibilities onto its proponents in order for the initiative to move forward.
Heldreth said space is the number one priority at the moment in order to get the center on track to being a reality.
“The petition proposes that the old space for the Student Health Center be repurposed for the Women and Gender Resource Center,” Heldreth said. “This space would be ideal, as it is centralized, and is an adequate size for the center. We would certainly be open to discussing other possibilities, but starting the conversation here seemed like our best move.”
Ernie Barkett, a YSU student involved in the petition, said YSU is one of the only Inter-University Council of Ohio IUC colleges without a women’s center and “has fallen behind in providing crucial support to a large population at the University.”
He said the women’s center could be an instrumental resource for a large number of YSU students.
“The women’s center can be a safe zone for victims of rape, sexual assault, discrimination and those seeking support for various reasons,” Barkett said. “Not only will this offer support to the women on campus, but also those exploring their gender identity and other marginalized groups.”
Caroline Smith, a YSU student and petitioner, explained why she chose to become a part of the petition.
“I chose to become involved with the petition because I care about women’s issues. I think a women’s center would be an excellent resource that could greatly enrich all of student life on campus,” Smith said.
She said a center “has the capacity to engage with students in a way that is personal and identity focused,” such as introducing rape crisis management and counseling into resources the center could potentially provide.
The petition is available in three forms. One is a physical copy of the petition for students to sign. The other two are online forms located on change.org for non-students and then in a google form for students.
At the moment, Heldreth estimated that the petition has close to 130 signatures from students, and 87 signatures from faculty, alumni and community members.
A fundraiser dinner for the Women and Gender Resource Initiative will take place on Friday, April 27 from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Ohio Room in Kilcawley Center.