WRGC Drops “L” From Official Name

The original logo for the WGRC which included the “L” @MC_WGRCINSTAGRAM/COURTESY

By Angelina Persaud, News Editor & Grace Cardinal, Asst. News Editor

Manhattan College’s Women and Gender Resource Center (WGRC) has officially removed the Lasallian designation from its name, yet confusion remains among students and staff as to the lack of communication and circumstances of the sudden change. 

The center’s name originated from the needs of students who wanted a place to openly have discussions regarding women’s health and reproductive rights at a Catholic college. 

Ronald Gray, vice president of student life, explained to The Quadrangle that the reasoning behind removing the “L” was not intended to be a political statement but was a decision made to free the center from any potentially negative religious connotations.

“When we talk about Lasallian, we’re talking about Lasallian Catholic values,” Gray said. “When it was discussed, the impression was to give the WGRC more freedom by taking the ‘L’. We didn’t want it to be the Lasallian Catholic Women’s and Gender Resource Center. I think that the concern was that it would be limiting the WGRC if we added the Catholic connotation to it.”

Gray also stated that the advising team and interns were supposedly tasked with communicating the name change on behalf of the center, yet no formal statement was shared with the MC community following the discussions. 

“I think we wanted it [the name change] to come from the center itself, and I think we just missed the boat on that. I expected another cycle of conversation, but it didn’t happen.”

Jordan Pascoe, Ph.D., faculty co-founder of the WGRC, explained to The Quadrangle that when the center was first created, they modeled themselves after the WGRC at St. Mary’s College, the only other Lasallian institution with a women’s center. While their center did change their name, students were highly involved in the process and an open conference was held. Pascoe said that while the WGRC at MC was meant to evolve, student involvement should have always remained the priority. 

“Watching St. Mary’s taught us from the very beginning that you’ve got to be ready to evolve,” Pascoe said. “You’ve got to be ready to rethink and reframe yourself as needed. So I’m open to name changes. I feel strongly about the procedural question.”  

Pascoe also emphasized that students should feel ownership of the center as it’s run for students, by students.

“It was founded by students and is run by students on a day to day basis,” Pascoe said. “I want to make sure that students feel that they have ownership of the center and I think that should include ownership of the center’s name. I’m not sure what to think about this name change, I am worried that students did not play a role in it.” 

  Junior Elena Willoughby spoke to The Quadrangle about the message the unannounced name change sent to students, especially those involved with the center. 

“I feel like it definitely conveys a message that what we’re doing isn’t Lasallian, which it is because one of the Lasallian values is inclusivity,” Willoughby said. “Social justice is another Lasallian value…just because we’re talking about reproductive justice and an issue that a lot of people cannot relate to, doesn’t make it any less Lasallian. It’s definitely uneasy.”

Zachary Schwab, a senior who identifies as non-binary, echoed Willoughby’s sentiment and spoke to The Quadrangle about the message the name change sent to students in the LGBTQ+ community. They specifically noted that social justice, a key characteristic of the Lasallian tradition, should be at the forefront of conversations like these.

“I’m non-binary and I don’t think this stuff should be political,” Schwab said. “I mean, it’s just basic human rights. I know they just put in that new [preferred name and gender] policy. Then they take away their support of the WGRC, that just really strikes me as off. I think [it’s about] supporting people and their basic human rights, and I don’t think it necessarily has to be political.”

Robin Lovell, Ph.D., director of the geography program at MC, spoke about the center serving as a place of refuge for many LGBTQ+ students and faculty. 

“Given the recent lack of support/response from the administration at MC and the Catholic Church more broadly on LGBTQ+ issues, this is a clear signal to our queer community that the center is a place of refuge,” Lovell wrote in an email to The Quadrangle.  

Gray does not believe that the current political climate surrounding women’s health and religion was relevant in the reasoning behind the WGRC’s name change. Rather, he acknowledged the center’s open conversation regarding politically charged issues such as abortion rights and reproductive health for women. 

“I think the intention was to reframe the term ‘Lasallian’ to make sure that we keep the Catholic identity attached to Lasallian,” Gray said. “The intention was not to harm the center, the intent was to free up the center from, I don’t want to say stigma, but the possible constraint.”

Pascoe noted the swiftness of the name change despite a lack of consultation with students and faculty. She acknowledges that the center openly discusses issues relating to abortion and contraception and is hopeful the change will allow for wider conversations about these issues moving forward. 

“Those of us who were on the faculty advisory board also don’t know how or why it happened,” Pascoe said. “My hope is that part of what this is signaling is a willingness to allow these conversations to happen within the center by maybe creating a little bit of a space between the center and the religious commitments of the college. For college students, this is not a theoretical question and the conversation is not going to fade away any time soon.”  

Schwab identified that the lack of student involvement in important decisions is a pattern they have seen in their last four years at Manhattan. 

“I just think that it’s really, really crummy,” Schwab said. “That’s the word I’ll use because it just shows it’s a pattern the school has. The school has shown repeatedly over the past few years they don’t necessarily care to talk with the student body or provide for the student body.”

Gray also mentioned that there is to be a lunch set up between the students and President Daniel Gardner to continue facilitating necessary conversation regarding the center.

He also mentioned that a group of students he met with posed a powerful argument questioning why there wasn’t room in the college’s Lasallian ideals for the work they do. He hopes that the student’s conversation with Gardner will help develop a deeper notion of what it means to be Lasallian. 

“The students said to me some really interesting things…the notion that ‘where is the space for them?,” Gray said. “I think that is absolutely right, that the Lasallian values should incorporate them and the removal of that silences the work that they’re doing. And so I said, ‘I think that’s a fair statement and a fair conversation to bring up to Br. Dan’.”

Willoughby also stated that while the name change was sudden and widely uncommunicated, they are glad that the center will continue to be able to carry out its work in the future. 

“When I was told about it [the name change] I was definitely confused,” Willoughby said. “But at the same time, when I thought about it more and more, I was like, ‘oh, this is exactly what they wanted the whole time’. It is better that they change the name rather than dismantle the whole program.”

Pascoe highlighted the importance of the center evolving in tandem with the priorities of the students to ensure it remains a refuge for all. 

“Students change over time. As students change, their priorities change,” Pascoe said. “So, you know, I think that the most important thing is that the center stays really responsive to student priorities, and that it just continues to be what the students need it to be, because that’s what it was always intended to be.”