In one of the most heavily-trafficked parts of USF campus, next to the Market Cafe in the University Center, the new Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Resource Center (GSWRC) has opened its doors. The resource center is the brainchild of a group of students and administrators in response to several incidents of sexual violence reported last semester (for more information see “Caskey” on page 3).
Senior Samantha Sheppard-Gonzales saw the center take shape from the beginning as the co-director of the club Students Taking Action Against Sexual Violence (STAASV)
When these concerned students started meeting to address the issue of sexual violence on campus, they broke into specific action-oriented committees. Sheppard-Gonzales’ committee was focused on the need for a resource center on campus, a safe and inclusive space.
“The hardest part was convincing the administration that it was really necessary,” Sheppard-Gonzales said. With the support of Dean of Students Mary Wardell, the center was approved and open by summer. “It was nice to see student action lead to such tangible results so quickly,” Sheppard-Gonzales said.
The GSWRC is a multipurpose facility according to Megan Gallagher, assistant director of Health Promotion Services, who helps oversee the center. “We want to bring together the themes of gender and sexuality issues, working on prevention [of sexual violence] and guidance and referrals [for victims].”
To reach these goals, the center provides a library of thought-provoking literature and DVDs, fiction and non-fiction, about gender and sexuality issues, all of which can be checked out at no charge. There is also a wealth of information compiled by graduate students in the School of Nursing advising young people what to do if they are in an abusive relationship or have been sexually assaulted.
Graduate nursing students are the staff that keeps the GSWRC going. Joellyn Morris, one such staff member who has been working in the center since June, said the center can help people establish healthy relationships, can educate people how to prevent sexual assault, and can provide support for survivors of sexual assault.
Most importantly, she said, “It is nice to see a safe space on campus for women, and for the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning) community.”
The center is not limited to just those groups though. “It’s for everyone, men and women,” Morris said. After all, “Issues having to do with women have to do with men too.”
In the upcoming semester the GSWRC plans to host events such as film screenings, guest lecturers and self-defense classes. The center will also be the meeting space of the STAASV club, and Sheppard-Gonzales hopes it can be a place for everyone to gather information and even just hang out.
Freshman Stephanie Bruguera had already visited the center by the first week of classes. Relaxing on a comfortable couch, a rainbow-colored mural brightening the wall behind her, she perused the library of reading material and movies.
Not necessarily expecting to see a gender resource center on campus when she chose to attend this University, she said, “I was really happy to see this.” Gender issues interest Bruguera; she is considering adding a minor in gender and sexuality studies to her biology major. Of the center, she said, “I will for sure be coming back.”
The GSWRC in UC 200 is open from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Monday through Friday with evening hours from 5 – 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday.