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Update: Is The Women’s Center Coming Back?

It’s been two months since the Lesley Public Post took a look at the Women’s Center, an on-campus resource center and affinity space primarily for female students. In December 2019, I reported that the Women’s Center, normally a vibrant and bustling spot, was abruptly closed during the Fall 2019 semester. After asking faculty members what would become of the Center, I was told that it would most likely be open by finals week.

Needless to say, the Center never made its return. Without concrete confirmation of why the Women’s Center closed, I began to pursue the idea that, maybe, it had been closed due to a lack of adequate funding. According to the Lesley website, the Center “is funded by the Lesley University Provost Office,” so I reached out to some faculty members there.

I first contacted Eileen Kronauer, a Grant Officer listed as working within the Provost Office on the Lesley website. Given her position title, I was hoping she’d be able to tell me a little about how and where Provost funds are allocated. However, via email, Eileen stated that she was “not familiar with the Women’s Center” at all. Instead, she referred me to Lisa O’Neill, Special Assistant to the Provost. I was able to reach Lisa, who immediately directed me to Dr. Diana Direiter, a Co-Director of the Women’s Center, saying she would “be able to address [my questions].”

While I was dismayed by the lack of knowledge of the Women’s Center, especially coming from the office that is supposed to be funding it, I was looking forward to speaking with Dr. Direiter. She was an excellent resource and a wealth of information when I was writing my first article on the Center last year.

Dr. Direiter was once again happy to respond to my request for information. She shared that the Women’s Center is tentatively scheduled to be “re-launching in a couple of weeks,” but there is no official opening date yet.

The reason for the closure of the Center last semester was simply, as she put it, “…an unfortunate combination of timing with shifting responsibilities at Lesley.” Hoping to prevent this from happening again, she’s looking for students to get involved in “…co-creating some initiatives and programming.” Dr. Direiter would like to expand the Center’s offerings this semester, as well as “re-institute the final exam self-care kits, the Craft and Chat craftivism sessions led by Lauren Leone in Art Therapy and perhaps a documentary screening to mark April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.”  She hopes to have more information regarding the status of the Women’s Center “in about a week” and urges students to stay tuned.

There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic, but as of February 9, 2020, the Center is still not operational. While it appears that things are moving in the right direction, the confusion that plagued the Center’s downtime last semester persists. In my search for a concrete reason as to why the Women’s Center closed, I inadvertently uncovered a different truth. The gray area surrounding it is indicative of a larger issue at Lesley: the lack of communication between different departments and between students and faculty.

Beyond individual confusion, there is misinformation at the university level. The Lesley website still proudly states that the Center is open, which is inaccurate. Anyone who wanders into White Hall can find the Center’s doors closed, as they have been since September.

The Women’s Center’s social media presence also complicates matters. While the Center is experiencing downtime, things look much more vibrant online. Its account on Instagram, @lesleywomenscenter, is still posting. Their Facebook account remains active as well.  This can be confusing for students, who may be led to believe that the Center is still operational. While it’s a nice reminder that, yes, there is still hope for the fate of the Women’s Center, it is currently a glimmer of false hope.

However, in the continued absence of the Women’s Center, a new support space looks to be on the horizon: Lynx Lounge. After launching a pop-up location in the Student Center on Thursday, February 6, the Lounge now has its own Instagram page, hinting at a permanent offering to come this semester.

Described as a “student run pop-up lounge” and a “communal space for #selfcare and making connections” on its Instagram account, @lynx.lounge, not much else is known about the space yet. A survey link on the Instagram page allows student to select which offerings they’d like to see in the near future from the on-campus stress-relief space. According to the survey, the Lynx Lounge will be a “pop-up lounge that will move locations on campus and take place on different days starting this Spring.”

Interestingly enough, the Lynx Lounge is presenting itself to directly “compete” with the self-care and self-reflection activities that were a staple of the Women’s Center. In many ways, the Lynx Lounge looks poised to be its all-inclusive successor. It’s too soon to know whether anyone involved in this project had past ties to the Women’s Center, but their missions are undoubtedly similar. The goal of both spaces seems to be to provide students with an area to sit down, decompress, and engage in some honest dialogue.

So much still remains up in the air. Only time will tell whether or not the Women’s Center actually makes its triumphant return. However, students should find comfort in knowing that if the Women’s Center doesn’t end up reopening, then at least there are individuals willing to step up and fill that void for a supportive space on campus.



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