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A Center Is Unnecessary


By Garrett A. Price iii

This is an argument about means and not about ends. One can sympathize with the goals that some hope a womens' center would accomplish and still question whether such a center will actually achieve them.

The need for a womens' center is predicated on the belief that there are certain issues specific to gender which historically have been ignored or maginalized in mainstream discourse. Harvard, which itself did not abolish quotas on the number of women admitted until 1975, must bear some responsibility for rectifying this matter.

But that a Harvard-funded women's center is the proper method for fully incorporating women into the Harvard community is by no means as "obvious" as the staff contends. Rather than bring women's (and gender) issues into the mainstream of the University, a women's center will only serve to divide and marginalize such concerns further.

Despite the assertion that a women's center would welcome everyone, it is highly unlikely that those oblivious to women's issues would flock to it. A women's center would really serve as a special interest resource with very little (positive) influence on the Harvard community as a whole.

The effect of a Harvard-funded women's center would be tremendously negative. It sends a message of division, not unification to the Harvard community. It encourages every special interest group to demand their own separate buildings as part of their fundamental rights as students. Why should there not also be a Harvard-funded Black center, Asian center, Puerto Rican center, Gay and Lesbian Center, Somoan Center, ad nauseum? In principle there is no relevant difference unless the staff is willing to say how these concerns are somehow less important.

Of course, a privately funded women's center would not be objection-able. It is the right of any student organization to pool their own resources for their own purposes. As far as the University is concerned, women's and gender concerns should be incorporated into all aspects of the Harvard experience; for example, as part of the curriculum or in an inclusive student center. They should not be given their own tuition-funded and Harvard sanctioned fiefdom.

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