Women’s Center celebrates 25 years

The Women’s Center is celebrating year 25 at SCSU. The Women’s Center is hosting their annual Women on Wednesday events here on campus from 12 to 1 p.m. every Wednesday until December 3, in the Atwood theatre.

This is their third week of discussing numerous topics that get the conversation going here on campus. The topic discussed this past Wednesday, Diversity Efforts to Build Bridges, was to reflect on anti-racism and alliance building around campus and the community.

The panelist included, Jane Olsen, director of the Women’s Center, Hedy Tripp, an instructor in the department of ethnic and women’s studies for the Asian American studies program, Tami Spry, professor of communication studies, and June Parrott of minority studies. The panelist remembers the retreat of 1994 where feminists on campus wanted to stop the racism happening at SCSU.  Many people joined this movement and wasn’t limited to one race.  This work went on for a decade.

The discussion started off with reflecting, and sharing a memory on the first time where they felt like racism made a difference in their lives.  Spry remembers a time when she was in high school on the cheerleading team and one of her close friends was African American.

“They started calling us salt and pepper and I just thought it was delightful, as a white woman I didn’t know any better this was my friend.  But my friend didn’t delight in it and I noticed this was a problem gradually,” Spry said.

Spry wasn’t all the way aware of the racism going on around her. White woman began to hassle them and her friend seemed to be getting more upset at the situation. Spry explains how she didn’t have the clarity, words, or even experience back then to have realized what was happening at that time.

Olsen recalls the 90s where a lot of discriminatory acts were going on around campus, including sexism, sexual harassment, and racism. The Women’s Center has helped out with these issues on numerous occasions and to this day can see a social change happening at SCSU.

“I believe two percent of the student body in 1989 were students of color, and what I can tell you now of fall 2014, there are at least 21 percent of incoming students who are students of color,” Olsen said.

Being the director of the women’s center for 25 years, Olsen can’t say it was easy.  Racism was put aside and wasn’t addressed as much, but now seeing the type of leadership come together and have resources such as ethic studies, women studies, multicultural student services, American-Indian center and more, it has made a difference.

Parrott came to Minnesota in 1989 from teaching in Washington D.C. She planned on staying in Minneapolis, but the women studies program offered her a position at SCSU in 1992.  Her goal was to recruit more woman of color.

“One of the challenges is the fact that you’re reminded you are a minority or different and that makes you feel marginalized,” Parrott said.

Parrott explains how we have expectations of how we should or shouldn’t behave.  Each of us has to develop who we are, what’s important to us and how we can reflect on our community. She wants people to make sure you have a purpose out of life and remember nobody is better than you.

“The women’s center has come to be a safe place,” Hedy said.

Hedy excitedly explains how joyful she is to be using the basement of the Women’s Center to teach a class.

All of the panelist can agree on how everyone should be vulnerable, and make mistakes, continue to believe in your work and be conscious of yourself.

The Women’s Center will continue to celebrate 25 years and welcomes all students from all different backgrounds and all walks of life to celebrate with them as well.

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