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Women's Center adjusts to move from West to East

<p>Some have argued that the center’s location on West was easier to access than its new space on East.</p>

Some have argued that the center’s location on West was easier to access than its new space on East.

Despite criticism of an administrative decision to move the Women’s Center to East Campus, students and faculty said they are making the best of the new space.

The center—which was previously located next to the West Campus bus stop—relocated to the Crowell Building on East Campus this year. The center’s former location is now the new home of the Center for Leadership, Development and Social Action.

“The new Women’s Center location is absolutely beautiful,” wrote Stephanie Helms Pickett, director of the Women’s Center, in an email. “It is a warm and welcoming environment with vibrant colors and dynamic space for us to extend programming and services in the stellar capacity that we’ve always strived to.”

When plans for the move were announced, many students were frustrated with the decision, often arguing that the center’s new location would be more difficult to access. Some also questioned how the relocation would affect sexual assault victims. The Crowell Building contains the Office of Student Conduct, where hearings regarding sexual assault take place. 

However, Pickett noted attendance has actually improved compared to the start of last year. At the open house last week, she wrote, the center welcomed over 100 people—a new record.

The center has attracted attention by spreading word of the new location through its website, social media, flyers and newsletters, she explained. 

Tricia Ingram, a graduate student working in the Women’s Center, said a major advantage of the move is the larger space in Crowell—filled with comfortable chairs making for a nice gathering space. She added that there is also a classroom space to hold “Prevent. Act. Challenge. Teach” training, which aims to prevent gender violence on campus. 

“It’s a fun place to come home to everyday,” Ingram said.

Although the new location can initially be hard to find at first, Ingram said the center is now much more accessible for freshmen. This is especially important because freshmen typically experience the highest rate of sexual assault out of college students within the first few weeks of school starting, she said. 

The Women’s Center will also have several new resources such as a meeting space on the second floor of the Bryan Center and a new staff member in the Gender Violence Prevention and Intervention office.

Malena Price, a graduate student in the global health department, said the new space is comfortable and that she hopes freshmen can start and continue a relationship with the center throughout their Duke career. 

Sophomore Grace Cai, however, raised concerns about the center’s proximity to the Office of Student Conduct. She said she did not agree with the reasons given for the center’s move.

“In general, I don’t agree with why it was moved. The proximity to the Student Conduct office can be problematic,” she said. “It’s definitely more annoying, but it doesn’t take away the fact that it’s still an important place to visit, so I still am planning on going.”

Although the Women’s Center is technically in the Crowell Building, Ingram explained that it has its own entrance distinct from that of the Office of Student Conduct.

“For people who are concerned that it might be a trigger, I don’t see that,” she said.

Pickett wrote that the Women’s Center is not included in the new Student Health and Wellness Center—which is expected to be built by January 2017 on the intersection of Union Drive and Towerview Road—because it is a unit within Campus Life. Only offices that are under the umbrella of the Dean of Students will be located in the new Student Health and Wellness Center. 

Ingram said that everyone who has visited the new Women’s Center has had positive things to say about the new space.

“It’s still the same smiling faces that you know and still the same resources,” she said.

Likhitha Butchireddygari contributed reporting.

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