Half the population

By Liz Blackwood

Editor, the Gauntlet,

Re: “SU debates women’s centre,” Oct. 23, 2003,

I don’t know which to find more appalling: that the University of Calgary does not already have a women’s centre, or that Students’ Union President Jayna Gilchrist does not feel the security, comfort and empowerment of what she describes as “only half” of the university’s population should be a priority.

According to Gilchrist, Counseling Services is now able to provide women with a space to organize, meet and discuss issues of common concern. While Gilchrist’s revelation might provide great comfort to the U of C’s female and trans-gendered population, it likely comes as a surprise to already overworked counselors, unaware they are supposed to provide expertise on researching issues such as male-biased curriculum, sexism in the classroom, reproductive choice, sexual violence on campus and peer misogyny to name but a few, not to mention providing a space for meeting and organizing around such issues.

Counselors perform the very important task of providing individuals with assistance concerning myriad personal issues, but women’s centres provide a safe collective space for women to discuss and share common experiences. They are also an essential avenue for the empowerment of women and for bringing women’s issues to the fore–both on campus and within the wider community.

I can’t help but wonder if the friends, families, and colleagues of the 14 women killed on their campus in the December 6 Montreal Massacre would agree that the services provided by a university women’s centre “assist only half the population?” In deciding whether to join the scores of other Canadian universities with women’s centres, perhaps our SU and its president would do well to ask the same question.


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