UC Irvine never looks the same after a fun summer away. This fall, one of the most obvious changes is the missing sign on 100 Gateway Commons that used to read, ‘Center for Women and Men.’
The center was officially closed this past August by Dean of Students Sally Peterson.
The controversial decision has sparked criticism because students and staff were not consulted before the decision was made. Here are some things you should know:
As part of a three-year budget cut, the Office of the Dean of Students was asked to reduce their permanent funding by $148,000 for the 2004-2005 academic year.
At the same time, the director of the Center for Women and Men, Christine Fredericks, resigned from her position in June 2004 and created a vacancy in payroll. Peterson then had some decisions to make.
Peterson manages many campus resources including the Disability Services Center, the International Center, the Volunteer Center and the LGBTRC.
In order to meet her reduction goal, she said she only had two options.
The first option was to fill Fredericks’ position and cut evenly over all DOS programs. This may have meant other staff layoffs as their budget is structured to accomodate certain payroll percentages.
The second option, ultimately chosen by Peterson, was to entirely remove Fredricks’ position from the payroll. Most of the program funding that went to the CWM was also cut.
State law requires sexual assault resources on all California campuses, so the Campus Assault Resource Program remains intact with one staff member and a small budget of $8,400.
These cuts made up for 32 percent of the needed budget cut amount from one resource under the DOS. Subsequently, the other DOS resources were less affected.
‘As a manager, my overall goal was to avoid laying off any of my existing staff. By closing the center I was able to achieve that,’ Peterson said.
Some people question whether more options existed. Positions within other departments have been filled using temporary funding.
Had this money been bestowed upon CWM, the center might not have had to close.
Many fear that the decision to close the center paints UCI as a campus that does not value gender equality and education.
Kristina Crawford, a women’s studies major, challenges the decision.
‘Closing the Center for Women and Men is antagonistic to the ideals expressed in the [Principles of Community],’ Crawford said. ‘I find it hard to believe that a campus is so dedicated to mutual respect and nondiscrimination when it closes one of the most important spaces on campus for these values to materialize.’
The Campus Assault Resources Program focuses solely on sexual assault awareness, prevention and support for survivors.
It is therefore unable to cover the following issues: body image, social activism, sexuality and intimacy, biracial dating, issues of masculinity, gender equality, personal empowerment and mutually respectful relationships.
Many of these issues, and the lack of education concerning them, are the root of the problems that drive the necessity of programs like CARP on college campuses.
Because of the CWM’s closing, numerous programs designed to prevent sexual assault are no longer offered. These include the popular events ‘Take Back the Night’ and ‘Dear Hip-Hop.’
After receiving feedback and weighing her options, Peterson arranged for additional funding for a gender education task force to make up for the lack of programming available.
Representatives from various departments on campus, including the Counseling Center, the Women’s Studies Department and ASUCI are planning to assemble and host gender education programs. Meeting later this fall, the team hopes to implement six campus-wide programs to take place during the winter and spring quarters of this year.
The programs will be marketed as a series, similar to the Chancellor’s Distinguished Lecture Series.
Some fear that this committee would decentralize the gender education effort and prevent students and faculty from having a ‘go-to’ location and staff person to address their needs.
There are also fears that this task force will not remain permanent, as it is funded only temporarily.
Peterson confirms that there are no finalized long-term plans.
‘Not filling the director’s position is a temporary solution to an immediate budgetary crisis,’ Peterson said. ‘The campus-wide task force will play a major part in helping to determine the future of gender education at UCI.’
There is speculation as to whether the task force is an effective or reasonable alternative to having a permanent center.
Supporters of the CWM feel that these members do not have the training, resources or time to plan enlightening and beneficial programs surrounding these issues.
In addition, they have their own staff and dwindling budgets to worry about.
Nichole Miller, a graduate student and women’s studies TA said, ‘I know that many of my students found resources at the Center for Women and Men that they could not find elsewhere on campus.’
An online petition was started by students which more than 400 students, staff and community members have already signed in support of reopening the center.
The petition can be visited at http://www.petitiononline.com/ucicwm/petition.html.