The Gender and Diversity Center (GDC), located on the far right of Hamilton “Ham” Center, has become a staple for group meetings, movie showings, Wallternatives and study sessions. Filled with books, magazines and movies on gender and diversity related topics, comfy couches and open doors the space has always been welcoming to any and all wayward students. In a recent attempt to increase awareness on the importance and usefulness of the space, Student Affairs (SA) has created the position of the “GDC Student Coordinator” who will work as a liaison for the students and clubs involved with the GDC.
The GDC Student Coordinator stemmed from the need of both the students and the administrative staff of SA to have help with managing the GDC. After being given the budget to employ a new student in SA, Student Support Coordinator and Director of New Student Orientation Maura Scully-Murry and Special Assistant to the Dean of Students Samyntha “Sami” Francis, who help run the GDC, decided to hire someone who could not only help out in SA but also had a distinct interest in the GDC.
“We got a list of students who could be hired, and I looked through it to see if I recognized any who were involved in the GDC,” Scully-Murry told the Catalyst. “So I sent out e-mails to those students asking if they were interested in the job. We brought them in and Sami, [Student Affairs Office Manager] Lisa [Croy] and I interviewed them all. We chose [third-year] Ashley [Parks].
“Ashley is going to be basically working as an assistant to me,” Scully-Murry continued. “She will be [offering] support for social justice issues — students who are feeling marginalization or disenfranchisement. Ashley is not a counselor — she is not someone who can offer trained guidance or support, but she can help connect students with the resources on campus so that they do feel supported.”
Scully-Murry reiterated that this is not a new position — since Parks was hired, there has been a certain level of confusion among the New College Student Alliance (NCSA) and other social justice oriented groups on campus. Last year there were two students who worked in the GDC, but with the number of budget cuts that occurred over the summer, there was no budget to hire anyone new in the fall of 2011. Parks’s job — which is not that of a Teaching Assistant, who would have been hired by the NCSA — is a temporary position that might not be renewed in the fall, and was not appointed into the NCSA by Student Affairs.
“NCSA was kicking around this idea of social justice or diversity positions in the cabinet,” Parks explained. “But then Student Affairs got a work study position to work at the GDC specifically, and I ended up being hired for that. So, I’m not a TA, technically.”
Although short-term, Park’s job is already quite descriptive. Currently her duties include aiding students interested in social justice initiatives and helping them to locate appropriate resources, promoting communication and cooperation between the GDC related organizations and the larger community, planning and executing GDC programming, maintaining the GDC as a clean and welcoming environment, working in SA Office as needed, peer resource and mentor for issues of discrimination, maintaining a comprehensive GDC calendar and archiving the programming history of the GDC.
“One of the big things I want to do is revamp the library so it’s actually functional and people can actually find the resources they want,” Parks said. But her biggest goal for the semester is to present the GDC itself with a stronger identity as a student space.
“I just want it to be a legitimate space,” Parks reinforced. “Right now I think it’s like a transient space, going in and out of Ham, or a ‘crash in here to do my homework for a little while’ space, and that’s good, but I also want people to go there for gender- and diversity-related things.”
Parks’s office hours are Mondays and Wednesdays noon until 1:00 p.m., and Wednesdays from 3:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. as well as evenings upon request.