March 8 of every year is recognized as International Women’s Day, dedicated to the celebration of social, political, cultural and scientific achievements of women around the world. But perhaps more importantly, International Women’s Day serves as a reminder of the progress yet to be made and the challenges ahead in achieving true gender equity.
Fittingly, a group of University of Miami women are currently taking initiative to ensure gender equality and justice at UM. On Change.org, students are petitioning for the creation of a Women’s and Gender Resource Center on campus. The center, dedicated to gender equity and sexual assault prevention, would hypothetically provide a physical space for support. The proposed petition highlights the need for an umbrella organization to help unify the many gender-related student organizations and services on campus.
A Women’s and Gender Resource Center would be an important addition to campus if it meets a unique, clear purpose that distinguishes its work from existing initiatives and offices.
Potential issues of redundancy and confusion could arise with this proposed center. If the center offers sexual assault services, would it handle the situation directly? Or would it refer the student to the necessary organization that already exists? Would the center run separately from the LGBTQ Resource Center? If the center is to succeed, it must make gender-related services more accessible and streamlined, not more convoluted. In a difficult situation, the last thing a student should experience is uncertainty as to which office would provide the necessary help.
In the best-case scenario, the center would act as the one-stop destination for all gender-related issues on campus. The university currently has an LGBTQ Student Center and the Sexual Assault Resource Team (S.A.R.T.). Additionally, there are organizations, such as Canes Care for Canes and No Zebras, that are dedicated to preventing sexual assault. The proposed center would benefit from absorbing these under its umbrella, acting as both an overseer and central location for the gender-dedicated resources on campus.
Whether through a specialized center or other avenues, there are certainly small but effective ways to tangibly improve the experience of women on campus. For example, making free feminine hygiene products available on campus would be a practical health and safety measure that would help many, a subject of another UM Change.org petition. The petitions alone are inviting candid dialogue surrounding such issues on campus, and students may increasingly recognize other opportunities to improve their campus.
If the petition results in an all-inclusive Women’s and Gender Resource Center that is open to all students and provides needed services, it will be a valuable resource to the UM community.
Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.