Women’s Center finds a home at Mount Vernon

The GW Women’s Center has found a home on the Mount Vernon campus after being denied space on the Foggy Bottom campus last semester.

The center is scheduled to open in early March with a women’s history month celebration. In addition to providing the students with a suite and outdoor covered porch, Grae Baxter, executive dean of Mount Vernon, said she will pay for start-up expenses and provide furnishings for the center.

“I assured (the women’s center) that I will supply support enthusiastically to the extent of my ability,” Baxter said.

Mount Vernon seniors also voiced their support for the new center.

“It’s something that we can have here as a lasting legacy,” said Renee Harris, president of the Student Government Association at Mount Vernon.

Initially, members of the center said they were reluctant to call Mount Vernon home, but after meetings with Mount Vernon students and administrators, the group decided to accept their offer.

“There’s so much energy and excitement (at Mount Vernon),” said Heather McKee Hurwitz, one of the Women’s Center co-founders. “We couldn’t say no to their help and space and positive reinforcement.”

“We’ve really had no support at (GW), and we felt like we were drowning,” said Ruthie Vishlitzky, a co-founder of the center. “The fact that there were 20 people in a room (at Mount Vernon) saying, `please come here,’ was so supportive and encouraging, and we haven’t seen support for women’s issues on (the GW Foggy Bottom campus) thus far.”

But Hurwitz and Vishlitzky said they plan to advertise and host the center’s programs on both campuses.

“I just want people to get involved in student-life building and community-building activities,” Hurwitz said. “It’s great that there are girls as unique and impassioned as these are and that . they want to get involved. I’m optimistic.”

Silvia Henriquez and Helen Reid, field representatives at the Feminist Majority, a national feminist organization, are giving the center’s leaders a helping hand.

“(Getting a women’s center started at GW) has been a personal thing of mine since I was at GW,” said Henriquez, a GW alumna. “We tried when I was at GW, but we were not successful.”

Henriquez and Hurwitz said the ultimate success of the center stems from the support they received from Mount Vernon students and faculty.

“We were always really dedicated but what put us over the top was (Mount Vernon) and Grae Baxter,” Hurwitz said.

Vishlitzky, Hurwitz and Baxter said they would eventually like to see a branch of the women’s center open at GW but are focusing on developing the center at Mount Vernon.

“We’d like to start here strong and then open one at Foggy Bottom,” Hurwitz said. “We’ve put in a space request with the Marvin Center Governing Board but until renovations are done I don’t see us opening a center at Foggy Bottom because there isn’t space.”

While Baxter said she envisions a women’s center at GW, she said the more immediate challenge is using the new space at Mount Vernon efficiently.

“The light will shine out and the energy will shine out and we’ll see what will happen down the line,” she said.

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