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Students Spearhead New M.C. Women’s Center

by Olivia Paladino

Staff Writer

The creation of a new women’s resource center is currently underway.

Projected to open this fall, the center will provide resources, information and a safe-space to speak about the important issues that affect female students.

Junior Alannah Boyle and Seniors Victoria James and Olivia Smith are spearheading the project.

The group mentioned that though the center is aimed towards women, it is not exclusively for females and it will not deal only with the issue of sexual assault.

“It is about experiences we have in our genders, and [providing] a place to work those out, talk about different things, and have a space for those conversations,” said Boyle.

The trio has assembled the Lasallian Women’s Resource Committee, which is comprised of faculty, administration and students.

The committee will host the First Annual Women in the Lasallian Mission Conference, on Apr. 7. The conference will take place on the fifth floor of Kelly Commons and will feature speakers such as women in the Lasallian faith, theologians and representatives from local sexual assault nonprofits and organizations.

Location and funding for the center have yet to be determined. Currently, the committee is in the process of designing a proposal to present to the administration. With this, they hope to gain approval for the centers’ creation.

This project began in Oct. 2016, when Boyle, James and Smith came together with a mutual concern about the way sexual assault is handled by both Manhattan College and schools around the world.

Boyle, a Peace Studies and Philosophy major, attended the Lasallian Leadership and Global Understanding Conference in Mexico City this past summer where she spoke with college students from Lasallian schools all over the world.

Boyle and other Lasallian students spoke about many systemic issues. When doing so, Boyle noticed that similar problems plagued both Manhattan College and other countries that are thousands of miles away.

“One of the [issues] that came up in conversation was the women’s issue of sexual assault, how it happens on college campuses, and the different resources that are in place,” she said. “I was inspired by some of the conversations to ask, ‘What can I do as a student at my college to help create a space where people can talk about these issues, know they’re not alone, and ensure resources that are needed are easily accessible and centrally located.’”

Boyle looked into the ways that schools similar to Manhattan College handled the issues of sexual assault, and came up with the idea of a women’s center. In particular, she wanted to uncover how these centers operated under the Catholic umbrella, with the Church’s view on sex and birth control in mind. She then contacted nonprofit organizations in the area to find what resources they had to offer, and looked into those available on campus.

“The biggest [problem] for me is that it was really hard to find this kind of information, and it was all over campus. It’s not centrally located, so I had to ask a lot of questions and do some digging,” she said.

James was especially worried about the attitude Manhattan College, as an institution, specifically exhibits toward sexual assault. After attending the mandatory Title IV presentation at freshman orientation this year as an RA, this concern was heightened.

“[Many RAs were] talking about [the presentation] like, ‘This isn’t the kind of stuff we should be teaching,’ and, from my experience in the past four years here, I have noticed there are flaws in  the way our school handles cases of sexual assault. We don’t provide as many resources as we should, or as much support to students who face it,” James explained.

James and Smith began to collaborate, but were unsure of how to address these problems on campus. That is when Jordan Pascoe, Ph.D. united the three girls, who, Boyle said, “were on parallel paths, but came at the issue from different angles.”

“I’m really excited about this [project] because it is entirely student driven, they’re driving the conversation,” said Pascoe. “All of the resources that we have on campus now are faculty and administration driven. It’s really exciting that we have students who really know what’s going on, who are building on the experience of other students, to say ‘this is what we need.’”

The women’s center will be the first of its kind to operate within the Lasallian tradition, and the trio aims to embrace Manhattan’s Lasallian background to create something that promotes equality and inclusivity on campus.

“In our center, our goal is to incorporate the Lasallian mission as much as possible, and to try to bring the various offices on campus that typically handle cases separately, together,” Smith said.

Boyle, James and Smith hope that the women’s resource center will help students struggling with sexual assault, or any other issues.

As juniors and seniors, “we recognize that there is a need on campus based on our experiences as students,” said Boyle. “This is something that we might’ve used had it been in existence.”

“I think the Center will help students and faculty by centralizing our response to issues of sexual assault.  Students, staff, and administrators seem to me uncomfortable with handling these incidences, which is entirely fair, but I hope this center will make everyone feel more comfortable and confident in their ability to keep students safe,” Smith said.

Though the project is still in its planning stages, student involvement is essential to its success moving forward. Those interested should contact Allanah Boyle (aboyle01@manhattan.edu), Victoria James (vjames01@manhattan.edu) or Olivia Smith (osmith01@manhattan.edu) to get involved.

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