Women's center hosts brown bag lunch about navigating differences

Elika Roohi/Sun Star Reporter
October 9, 2012

Dr. Sunwood of the UAF Women’s Center leads discussion about how women can deal with some of the differences that they face in the workplace and around campus. Oct. 2, 2012 Allen Obermiller/Sun Star

This summer, UAF administration proposed a restructuring of certain offices on campus.  This proposal would move the Women’s Center from Eielson 112 to the Nordic House.  There was a lot of community backlash against the project once students, faculty and staff started to realize it was happening.  The project to move the Women’s Center was put on pause for a month and since then has been stopped.

This semester, the Women’s Center is having brown bag lunch talks.  They plan to meet three times this semester, and hopefully make this a regular service the Women’s Center provides.  The center hosted their first brown bag lunch on Tuesday, Oct. 2 for faculty to sit down and discuss “navigating differences,” a topic that was brought up by Sharon Bird, a visiting professor that gave a speech on the subject on Monday, Sept. 24 in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the women’s program. Kayt Sunwood, the Director of the Women’s Center, says that she hopes to have these sessions open for students soon.

In attendance at last Tuesday’s lunch was Sine Anahita, the Coordinator of the Women’s and Gender Studies program and the Associate Director of the Northern Studies program, Ellen Lopez, an Assistant Professor of Psychology, Diana DiStefano, an assistant professor of history, Jane Weber, an adviser in the Academic Advising Center and an Assistant Professor of Developmental Math and Sunwood.

The five women spent the an hour delving into some of the topics Bird had discussed in her lecture.  They focused on the fact that they felt the need to keep their personal life and work life separate.

“You kind of wait awhile before you talk to anybody, or at least I do,” DiStefano said. “Before I talk to anybody about my personal life at all.  Or even mention that I have one.”

Anahita went on to propose some tactics for change.  “Making these issues public and visible, I think is our first strategy,” Anahita said.  “Whether that’s salary or whether it’s unfair employment practices… we need to talk about it and make it visible.”

The lunchtime discussion touched on what had happened with the Women’s Center this summer.  Anahita said that making the issue visible had truly worked for the Women’s Center, and she was encouraged by the support for the center.  She also felt the Women’s Center had formed new networks as a result and were in a place to move forward.

Weber voiced a more somber view.  “Do you really think people are prepared to move forward?” Webber said.  “I’m not so sure.  The Women’s Center has been left here for now… I don’t really see it in the forefront of people’s mind at all.”

Sunwood mentioned that the Committee on the Status of Women is not very accessible to many groups including staff and even students.  “ASUAF doesn’t have a Committee on the Status of Women,” Sunwood said.

The Women’s Center is hoping to host brown bag lunch talks for students on similar topics in the upcoming weeks.

By the end of the lunch hour, many problems were brought up but solutions seemed harder to come by.  “Nothing’s gonna change unless we force it,” said Lopez.

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