UAF Women’s Center opens in Wood Center

By Julia Taylor

The UAF Women’s Center (WoC) opened

Women's Center

The Women’s Center is open in Wood Center 103, across from The Pub.

in the Wood Center in the spot that used to house the Spirit of Alaska Federal Credit Union.

All of the new furniture in the office was funded by ASUAF. Their support made the transition less stressful, said Women’s Center Coordinator Kayt Sunwood.

The new space is larger, and provides for more flexibility for its usage, said Sunwood. She says having the ability to keep conversations confidential in the inner office, without having to close the entire office is a major advantage of the new layout. At the old location in the Eielsen building, closing the door to have a confidential conversation with people meant closing the center to others.

Nearly 2,500 people used the women’s center from October 2013 – May 2014 according to the Center’s 2014 annual report. According to the report the most common reasons for visits to WoC are wanting to “talk, in confidence, about sexual harassment and sexual assault in order to sort through, at their own pace, options for dealing with sexual harassment and/or assault they have experienced.”

The most common category also includes discussions about “gender discrimination, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, pay equity, economic and/or intellectual survival tactics, questions, challenges or issues.”

Students, who make up 53 percent of users, may be discussing these kinds of sensitive issues for the first time, and feeling safe in doing so is very important, said Sunwood.

In September, WoC will host a series of National Campus Safety Awareness Month (NCSAM) webinars, which can be watched live at the WoC. The WoC will also have links available for students to watch recordings of the NCSAM webinars after they have been broadcast. Sunwood says that students will also be able to find the links to NCSAM webinars at the WoC blog, http://uafwomen.blogspot.com, after the airdate.

Topics range from supporting assault and sexual abuse survivors to fire dangers and how students can be effective in dealing with difficult issues with administrators on campus. The first NCSAM webinar was on Sept. 2. There will be four more. Three on September 9, 11th and 22nd at 9 a.m. and one on September 11 at 11 a.m.

The “Docs of the WoC” program will be an opportunity for the UAF campus community to come together and explore issues of gender and equity, through watching and discussing documentaries about important social topics. It debuts on September 16th. The first video, “A Girl & A Gun,” looks at the 17 million women who are gun owners.

According to the film’s website says, “This documentary delves into the psyche of the American gun world to understand the complex relationship between American women and their guns.”

Sunwood hopes that the movies and the discussions after, will be valuable to the entire UAF community, and support the ongoing mission of WoC to be a place where men and women, as well as people for whom a gender binary doesn’t make sense, can find safe spaces to talk about issues that impact their lives. Sunwood says that the library has many documentaries with current, relevant topics, but that often it is hard to find them presented in a format that allows students to respectfully talk about the issues and to hear about experiences from other students who may have different perspectives.

Sunwood hopes that Docs at the WoC series will become a weekly event that people look forward to, and that it will be successful enough that it outgrows even the new office space.

“We are moving in and developing this space and the programming to meet the needs of the campus community,” Sunwood says. “Everyone can come, get involved and be part of the evolution.”

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