by Taylor Brethauer & Samantha Walla, Editor in Chief & Production Editor
The Women and Gender Resource Center opened its doors with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 12 p.m. in Kelly Commons 3C on Friday, Oct. 19. The entirety of Friday consisted of events hosted and sponsored by the new center.
The events of the day included a Keynote delivered by Kerry Brodie of Emma’s Torch and Student Sessions.
The student sessions were hosted by the Women Inspiring Successful Enterprise program (W.I.S.E.) of the Office of Career Pathways, along with a presentation on “The White Feminist Fantasy: WoC, Resistance, and the Academy.” The latter was presented by students Nafisa Ibrahim, Gabriella Ramirez, Katherine Rojas, Evaniz Orellana and Roksana Badruddoja, associate professor of sociology and co-coordinator of the Center.
These were followed by the opening remarks which preceded the ribbon-cutting.
“[This is] a student-centered initiative … fueled by student need, student interests and student desires to have access to these kinds of resources and this kind of support and this kind of forum,” said President Brennan O’Donnell to the packed crowd in Kelly 5B.
“At its best, deep in the charism of Lasallian values is a restless spirit of innovation … how can we do what we do better?” said O’Donnell.
O’Donnell then invited up the other co-coordinator of the Center, Jordan Pascoe, associate professor of philosophy, to provide more opening remarks.
Pascoe spoke about the journey the Center took from its very beginnings two years ago to that day’s grand opening. Students had questions about how to help out underrepresented groups on campus, along with providing specific resources to those groups.
“Together these students brought their questions to the administration … it has brought us here today,” said Jordan Pascoe.
She also spoke about where the Lasallian values come into play within the Center, seeing the values as both a tool for feminism and how badly the values need feminism.
“Intersectional feminism led by women of color is really an instantiation of Lasallian values,” said Pascoe.
She then welcomed up Badruddoja to the podium, who spoke about her area of study that focuses on gender-based violence and marginalized groups and how the Center will benefit multiple groups across campus and provide services and resources to many students.
“The Lasallian Women and Gender Resource Center is committed to being a service to those being the most marginalized,” said Badruddoja.
After the remarks, the crowd was invited down to witness the official ribbon cutting in Kelly 3C. Lining the entirety of the third floor hallway, students, faculty and staff cheered and applauded as Badruddoja and Pascoe, assisted by student workers Samantha Monfils and Reilly Rebhahn, cut the ribbon.
Students sat in the space, which was once a student study room within the building, commenting on the interior design, provided by a student committee, multiple books available for reading and the LGBTQ flags wrapped around the column in the room.
Ultimately, the space has a warm and welcome feeling, which was exactly what the staff of the Center was going for when transforming the study room into something beautiful.
Following the ribbon cutting were two panels lead by students and faculty to extend the conversation about the value of having a Women and Gender Center on campus.
Melissa Samanoglu and Lilybeth Delgado, both W.I.S.E. interns, opened the discussion with a presentation on imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome often felt by women, who feel that their accomplishments are due to luck and that they will be exposed as a “fraud.” As Pascoe explained, its the struggle to be accepted on someone else’s terms.
“It’s not you, it’s the system,” said Pascoe. “Imposter syndrome is a problem in the system. If you’re feeling that you don’t belong, it’s not because you don’t belong, it’s because the system is designed that way.”
By bringing topics like these to the forefront of discussions, the Center can be a place for those marginalized groups to feel comfortable in a way that they are unable to in their daily lives.
“I think it’s important because when you hear about something that other people are feeling and you realize that you’re not alone,” said Samanoglu, a junior psychology major. “When you don’t hear other people’s opinions you think that you’re the only one who feels this way but when there’s a whole talk about it then you’re clearly not alone, I feel like it lessens the evil of it.”
The second panel expanded on the question: “Why Women at Manhattan College?” with a focus on the importance of building a women’s center on campus.
“We are the Lasallian Women and Gender Center. A big part of what that means is that our project to work on gender and on deconstructing gender as a force of power, discipline and oppression,” said Pascoe. “The work of gender and the burden of gender is disproportionately placed on the shoulders of women as well as queer, LGBTQ, really anyone who’s not male… As long as gender continues to be women’s problem, and queer students’ problem, and trans students’ problem, we are the Lasallian Women and Gender Center.”
Natalia Imperatori-Lee, a religious studies professor, highlighted the role of the Lasallian tradition in the Center’s work.
“What was revolutionary about La Salle’s educational philosophy is that his whole point was to educate those who were the most vulnerable and the most overlooked,” said Imperatori-Lee. “It only makes sense then that populations that are the most vulnerable and the most overlooked be highlighted in a Lasallian setting.
“The Women and Gender Resource Center is a response just like La Salle’s response to seeing boys who were not of the bourgeois class uneducated and suffering in the street. His response was not ‘let me educate the upper class so that they will be nicer to the poor children.’ His response was ‘I will teach in the vernacular and reach these children where they are so that they can change the world, not so that change can trickle down from the people in power.”
Pascoe also noted that at the beginning of the Center’s development, a reading group was formed in which women faculty and students studied La Salle’s foundational texts. From this reading panel arose the focus that de La Salle put on the body, which lead to a physical space being important in the development of the Center.
“[The Center will be] a place where we can come as bodies and be comfortable and together in solidarity and by association, and to think about what it means to inhabit our bodies: our gender, our race, as sites of possibility, promise, and healing,” said Pascoe.
The Lasallian Women and Gender Resource Center is staffed Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Friday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Kelly Commons 3C.