After long battle, women’s center to open

Two Women’s Center founders gasped when they opened the wooden French doors and walked into the bright room decorated with colored bulletin boards and paintings.

“Wow! This is so cool.”

After months of planning and negotiations with the University, the founders were treated to a sneak peak of the long-awaited Women’s Center at their meeting Thursday. The center is scheduled to open Monday at the Mount Vernon campus.

But the fight for the Women’s Center at GW has been long and difficult.

About three years ago, Womyn’s Issues Now devoted half its Marvin Center office to a center, but the women in WIN and other on-campus groups yearned for a women’s center even before that, said Heather McKee Hurwitz, a center co-founder.

Hurwitz said WIN formed a committee to create the center, but it broke away from WIN this year.

The three founders, Hurwitz, Ruthie Vishlitzky and Marcie Beigel, looked for space on the Foggy Bottom campus to house the center.

Community Living and Learning Center administrators denied their proposal for a center on the Foggy Bottom campus last semester, leaving them searching for other venues.

The trio said Grae Baxter, executive dean of Mount Vernon, contacted them and offered space on the women’s campus earlier this semester.

“It’s so much more than we ever thought,” Hurwitz said. “I thought it would have taken years to get to this point. All of our needs were met right away at Mount Vernon. That never happens in life.”

“We didn’t expect to get such a large space initially,” Vishlitzky said. “Georgetown’s Women’s Center, while it’s really nice now, started in a space the size of a janitor’s closet. It took them 10 years before they got the nice space they have now.”

The opening March 1 will feature speeches by Diane Bell, Women’s Studies director at Foggy Bottom; Caroline Dexter, a Women and Power professor; and Baxter, among others.

The Women’s Center opening also will mark the beginning of a newsletter about women’s issues. Junior Megan Sullivan, a Women’s Center member, said she founded the newsletter to present women’s issues, artwork, poetry, and book and movie reviews.

Sullivan said the first edition of the newsletter will be available at Monday’s opening. She said she hopes to produce a monthly edition, but said the frequency will depend partly on the number of submissions.

Future Women’s Center events include speaker Rus Funk from D.C. Men Against Rape March 31 and April 14. Hurwitz said Funk also plans to drum up interest in a men’s committee for the Women’s Center. The Women’s Center is starting “Friday’s at Five,” an informal gathering featuring poetry, women’s-related movies, book readings and discussions March 5.

“Hopefully, people will not only come for the opening, but will keep coming back for our other programs and just to hang out,” Hurwitz said. “We plan on leaving the space open all the time so people will feel like they can go there whenever they want to.”

“There’s a lot of apathy on our campus, and we hope to use the Women’s Center as a tool to combat that and inform people about women’s issues,” Vishlitzky said.

Hurwitz said members will continue efforts to establish a center on the Foggy Bottom campus. They have applied to the Marvin Center Governing Board for space.

“Mount Vernon gave us space and money and Foggy Bottom gave us the runaround,” Hurwitz said. “We want to build up something strong at Mount Vernon and then branch out.”

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