Preston sees alternative to women’s centre

By Markus Andersson

On Tue., Nov. 23, Students’ Union Vice-President Operations and Finance Gavin Preston said there would not be space for a women’s center in MacEwan Student Centre, but it would not mean the proposed resources could not be offered elsewhere.

“Basically, it’s an issue of how we dedicate space,” said Preston. “After having not given space to the [Muslim Student’s Association], it is difficult to justify which group gets space and which doesn’t. The Students’ Union has to make money off of non-student groups in order to reduce the fees and levies on students. We can’t give out space to any group that comes along.”

Another major problem area for the SU is sustainability.

“There have been women’s centres established twice before this new proposed one,” said Preston in his report to the Students’ Legislative Council.

Both of the previous centres reportedly failed due to lack of interest.

Preston is currently exploring the idea of using existing facilities to fulfil the various services demanded. This would include presenting the educational aspects of a women’s centre through the Department of Women’s Studies, counselling with Health Services, and peer support at the soon-to-be opened feminist club’s (Feminist Initiative Recognizing Equality) office.

In the eyes of the Calgary Women’s Resource Centre Group, the student organization which started the push for a women’s centre, offering the services is not enough.

“I still don’t think [the SU] understand what we need,” said CWRC spokesperson Karoline Kemp. “We are looking for more than a physical space. We need a ‘safe space’ where women can go without facing bureaucracy and intimidation.”

With regards to using the Department of Women’s Studies to meet educational requirements of the female student body, Kemp noted all the senior level courses in the department are currently full.

“The problem with using existing counselling services is that sometimes women need peer support rather than professional help,” said Kemp of the other proposed solutions. “And if [the SU] thinks that the FIRE office will be a safe space, it’s not, because that is a shared space.”

Kemp will still pursue the creation of a women’s centre despite the new development.

“Unless the creation of the women’s centre becomes an election issue and a candidate is elected on the platform of doing that, then I don’t see the SU giving space for a women’s centre anytime soon,” said Preston.

FIRE could not be reached for comment.


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