Students gathered Monday to express concerns about the relocation of the Women’s Center from West to East Campus.
As part of the event, which was called “Show the Love to Stop the Move,” students filled the center’s current location near the West Campus bus stop to voice their support for the center to stay put. It is currently set to move to the Crowell Building on East Campus at the end of the semester. Sophomore Annie Lo, who spoke at the event, noted that a survey created by a group of concerned students has generated more than 400 responses and that a Change.org petition asking Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs, not to move the center had more than 617 signatures as of Monday evening.
“[The petition] is going to be really important going forward to show administration that there are so many people who care,” Lo said.
Students have expressed a number of concerns on the petition regarding the center’s visibility as well as having support services for survivors of sexual assault moved to the same building where student conduct hearings—including sexual misconduct cases—take place.
Several student speakers echoed these concerns at the Monday night event. Attendees were encouraged to sign a banner and cards in support of keeping the Women’s Center on West Campus, which Lo said will be presented to administrators.
Sophomore Alice Reed, who spoke at the event, noted that the new East Campus location would feel less like home because it is a more academic setting and less accessible.
“We want the support services for survivors of gender violence to be very visible,” she said. “To me moving the Women’s Center to a back building on East Campus feels like the University is trying to sweep its problems under the rug.”
Reed added that the center’s current location in Few dormitory provides visibility for freshmen yet also maintains a certain level of confidentiality, because it is difficult to tell whether someone is going to the center or to the dorms.
Senior Julia Dunn, who helped organize the “Breaking Out” photo exhibit featuring stories from sexual assault survivors, explained that the Women Center’s current space has fostered positive relationships—bonds that she wants to continue for future students.
“I hope we can continue to be here and that I can come back as an alumni and come back to this space,” Dunn said.
Zoila Airall, assistant vice president of student affairs for campus life, told students prior to the event that only Women’s Center interns would be allowed into the space. However, after students explained that they were not planning to remain indefinitely, Airall and Sue Wasiolek, assistant vice president for student affairs and dean of students, allowed students to enter the space and proceed with the event as planned.
Wasiolek noted that the initial confusion was due to a tweet from sophomore Dipro Bhowmik's Twitter account encouraging students to “pack” the Women’s Center. Bhowmik is a member of Duke Students and Workers in Solidarity, the group that organized the recent Allen Building sit-in and protests on campus. The Women's Center protest is unrelated to DSWS, Bhowmik noted in an email Tuesday.
“There was a tweet that went out that said ‘pack the Women’s Center,’ and I think that certainly lends itself to a number of different interpretations,” Wasiolek said Tuesday. “In an abundance of caution, we were here to make sure that everything was safe.”
Update: This article was updated to note that the tweet Wasiolek was referencing was from Bhowmik's personal Twitter account, not the account of Duke Students and Workers in Solidarity as she originally said.