As of Friday, March 20, the Women’s Resource Center (WRC) will be vacated so that a Dharmic prayer center can occupy the space.
Following a meeting in the fall, the university notified the student groups that use the WRC that they would be required to relocate to the Student Sexuality Information Service suite, also in the SCC. The groups were given a week to relocate after a March 13 email from Assistant Dean of Students Stephanie Grimes. The new prayer center will be a space for followers of the Jainist, Sikh and Buddhist faiths and open on March 26, according to a Facebook post from the Dean of Students’ Office.
Located on the third floor of the SCC, the WRC houses Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (FMLA) meetings, Students Talking About Relationships (STAR), peer counseling and an expansive library.
FMLA’s primary grievance is the university’s refusal to commit to and specify a new permanent space for the WRC. “Unfortunately, misogyny, sexism and violence against women in various forms is still very present in society at large and at Brandeis,” the FMLA E-board wrote in a press release circulated on the club’s listserv and Facebook. “Given this, we find it unacceptable that Brandeis is eliminating a space that is absolutely crucial—without actively working to find either an acceptable interim space or a permanent space for the Women’s Resource Center to occupy in the future.” FMLA is concerned that the Brandeis community will lose a safe space for marginalized genders.
FMLA President Zuri Gordon ’15 made clear that she supports a Dharmic prayer space, but she is upset that it will take over the space currently held by the Women’s Resource Center. “I don’t really mind if future FMLAs have to meet in a new room, but I do think that a Women’s Resource Center is a necessity,” Gordon told The Brandeis Hoot. “I also don’t have a problem with the addition of a new chaplaincy, I just wish it didn’t have to come at the expense of the WRC.”
A page called “Brandeis Deans,” which was deleted on March 19 hours after its first post was made, explained that the SSIS suite was chosen because of the vacancy following the moves of Triskelion, the Queer Resource Center and Queer People of Color to a suite in Usdan. The deleted post also stressed that “the WRC is not cut nor closed.”
FMLA, STAR and SSIS contend that this is not an appropriate space, however, mainly concerning the fundamental difference between SSIS and FMLA: that SSIS is apolitical while FMLA is explicitly political. Currently, the WRC reflects the political, pro-choice nature of FMLA, but FMLA worries that because “SSIS cannot have the word ‘feminist’ on their walls, the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance cannot … meaningfully claim that space as our own in any way,” according to an extension of the press release.
Student protests of the university’s decision have flooded Facebook, with many people posting and sharing FMLA’s press release with the hashtag “#ProtectTheWRC.” Other student organizations, including Brandeis Students Against Sexual Violence, the Brandeis Labor Coalition and Jaded, criticized the university’s decision.
The WRC has been in existence for more than 17 years and has amassed a library of books, artwork, videos, periodicals and pamphlets. It also serves as storage space for FMLA and STAR materials.
STAR and Grimes could not be reached for comment before publication.