College Women’s Center Celebrates Anniversary

Unnamed photo
Eric A. Reavis

Buttons stressing gender equality were handed out yesterday at the Women’s Center’s open house.

As the Harvard College Women’s Center celebrated its second birthday at an open house last night, its staff reflected on the center’s accomplishments and touted its new initiatives for the coming year.

The center, which aims to promote awareness of women’s and gender issues, has prepared for this semester with an extensive schedule of programs.

Its calendar includes a dramatic performance called “The Veiled Monologues,” co-sponsored by the American Repertory Theatre, which uses stories by Muslim women to explore relationships in the Islamic world.

The center also co-hosted a campaigning workshop on Monday with the Undergraduate Council to advise freshmen who are thinking about running for the UC.

“We are going into this year with many new creative and diverse programs that help us continue in our mission,” said Susan B. Marine, the center’s director.

About 50 students, most of them freshmen, wandered in and out of the center’s brightly lit lounge and mingled over an array of desserts as the Radcliffe Pitches performed.

One visitor, Ben M. Jaffe ’11, said the center’s atmosphere contrasted sharply with that of “male institutions.”

“They are more rowdy, and are dominated by beer and football, whereas there are cake and punch here,” he said.

Some of the students who had already used the center called it a comfortable and friendly place. Michelle C. Kellaway ’10, for instance, said she considered the center a home away from her dorm.

“I’m attracted by the center’s trans-gender education events because there is so little space elsewhere on campus for discussions on those issues,” she said.

The College began work on the center, in the basement of Canaday Hall, at the beginning of 2006 as part of an effort to expand social spaces across campus.

In its first year of operation, the center hosted about 100 events and 300 meetings of student organizations, and functioned as a meeting place for several classes, Marine said.

Students have flocked to the center for more practical reasons, as well. It offers free printing and reduced-price copying services. The center also provides computers, a lounge, a conference room, and a full kitchen.

Some 14 student interns maintain the center and work on a variety projects. This year, intern Natasha S. Alford ’08 will oversee the launch of the center’s own magazine, AMPLIFY.

“I envisioned the idea for a magazine that provides a platform for both men and women with a particular eye for gender issues to amplify their voices,” Alford said.

The women’s center project was led by former Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71 and Associate Dean Judith H. Kidd. Gross, who stepped down at the end of last month, said yesterday that the center’s success will hinge on how students use its resources.

“I think all of the new spaces get a lot of use, and I’ve gotten some positive feedback about the activities that take place there,” Gross wrote in an e-mailed statement. “It’s now up to the students to make them their own.”

—Staff writer Jennifer Ding can be reached at ding@fas.harvard.edu.