Untold Stories Guide

Women's Center & Women of Color Coalition

The Women’s Center (WC) is housed in a little blue house in the center of campus, serving as a focal point for “addressing women’s issues on campus, in the community- at-large, and globally” and working to be an “open community of feminist leaders inspiring change through advocacy, support and education toward the growth and success of all.” (1) The WC provides support and mentoring services, as well as a safe, welcoming, and comfortable atmosphere where inclusivity, diversity, collaboration, and accountability are valued. The WC has an impressive library, with books and periodicals on women’s rights, multicultural and global affairs, women’s history, queer and gender issues, legal information, politics, sexual violence, and women’s health. (2)

The Women’s Center began in the 1972-1973 academic year when various faculty members led by Jeanne Dost formed a group to teach the course “American Women Today.” They needed a physical space for women and men to discuss feminist issues, listen to speakers, and study women’s literature. The Physical Plant manager suggested the old “Paleontology Building,” which was scheduled for demolition the following summer. Demolition crews never arrived and the building was declared historic in 1974. That same year the WC received financial support from the university, and four years later OSU established a Women’s Studies Program, initially housed and administered through the Center. Though the Program relocated in 1981, the WC continued to serve as a resource for women on campus and in the community. (3)

With increased enrollment of women in the 1980s, the Women’s Center wanted to eliminate discrimination on campus by focusing on support services and educational programming for students and the university community. They set up task forces, an advisory board, and committees of faculty, students, and people in the OSU community. Unfortunately, this time was not without conflict; the WC staff faced harassment and the building was vandalized. The staff persevered, focusing on creating a safe and empowering space. (4) Over the past four decades, outreach and activism opportunities for students have been central throughout the Center’s history, and while the programs, guest speakers, and activities sponsored by the Women’s Center have been varied, the focus has been on women’s achievements, the status of women, the roles and needs of both genders in a changing society, and the importance of being a catalyst for equity and social justice. (5)

In the 2010s, women of color at OSU began to formally gather to acknowledge the intersectionality between race and gender and to more powerfully vocalize their needs. In 2014, students of color, especially women of color, were leaders in organizing the Solidarity March and #ITooAmOSU campaign. It was during this time that they formed the Women of Color Coalition (WOCC). (6) While there is also a Women of Color Student Support Group, the WOCC is an intergenerational group, open to students, faculty, and staff who self-identify as women of color. The WOCC aims to provide opportunities for professional development, networking, mentoring, and a sense of community for women of color at a predominantly white institution. (7)

Both the WC and the WOCC are committed to empowering women and by doing so creating a safer more welcoming campus for the entire OSU community. Their shared gathering space is physically and symbolically meaningful. When asked why she decided to work at the Women’s Center, staff member Shelby Baisden said:

I felt like it was a safe space where I could really, just, feel myself. I hadn’t really felt that many other places on campus, and I felt like it was an inclusive space where anyone who walked in could feel comfortable... I agreed with their mission ... their outlook on feminism and ... [the] social justice theory that we apply to our work. (8)

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