University officials ask why a Women's Center hasn't been built - News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

University officials ask why a Women's Center hasn't been built at YSU

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There's a controversy brewing on the Youngstown State University campus and it has caused one group to refer to the administration's attitude as sexist.

21 News received a copy of a letter that was sent to YSU President Jim Tressel and Provost Joseph Mosca from the Women and Gender Center Initiative Board and it's director.

What's at issue is why YSU still has no women's center after being promised ample funding and a central space in August of 2017.

YSU Professor Michael Jerryson is on the board for the Women and Gender Center Initiative, "We had a rape on campus last month. The front page of today's newspaper talks about the fact of a faculty member being charged with sexual harassment of students.  This has become an epidemic countrywide in which students are being attacked on campus, being sexually assaulted.  But the concern I think, sometimes with the university and the administration, is that we have to hide the dirt, don't talk about it too much, don't publicize it, but by doing that you're helping it spread."

According to the board, one of the most important ways to combat this problem is through creating safe spaces for women and increasing education on college campuses.

Dr. Megan List, a professor at YSU and the Director of the Women and Gender Center Initiative, said, "We're starting to see in response to the Kavanaugh hearing female students, faculty and staff come forward with allegations of sexual assault on campus.  We need something on campus that addresses the needs of women and gender minorities on campus."

The idea of creating a women's center first began when Ohio native Gloria Steinem visited the campus two years ago and pledged to help YSU with funding of the project after noticing the university did not have one. 

21 News found that if you search online the most universities do have women's centers on campus.

YSU freshman Jean Orlosky thinks it would be a valuable resource. "I think it's an incredibly important resource to have on a campus.  Especially one of this size, even smaller, any range of that would be important.  Because certain things happen to women and especially in this day and age I think it's important for them to have a place where they feel safe," Orlosky said.

But Professor Jerryson says the project began to stall in January of 2018 and then was tabled until further notice.

According to the Women and Gender Center Initiative, the university currently only provides $2,000 a year to help promote awareness of women and gender studies.  

A dollar amount that they say falls far short of the $84,000 minimum that college campuses across Ohio have provided to their Women's Centers.

The group goes on to say that as sexual assaults continue to occur on campuses nationwide, it is important to provide this much-needed resource.  But they're not sure that President Tressel and his administration are willing to continue to move forward with the plan.

"I'm not entirely sure he's going to be responsive.  He asked me for a list of activities and I sent him a three-page, four-page overview of activities we could do, bylaws, all the things we could do," Dr. List said.

In the letter Dr. List sent to the administration she makes herself clear:  "We kindly request that you provide us with a safe central location for a Women's Center and the agreed upon funding arranged last August by October 12, 2018.  If we do not receive such help, we will understand that your administration does not wish to make half it's student population's safety a priority."

The letter is signed by the director of the Women and Gender Center Initiative, Dr. Megan List, and its board members including Professor Michael Jerryson.

In a statement issued by YSU, interim provost Joe Mosca said:  "Senior leadership is in the process of discussing the Women and Gender Resource Center Initiative (WGRCI) to determine a direction and a consequent plan.  Part of that discussion includes determining how the WGRCI aligns with other diversity and inclusion initiatives such as the Culture of Community.  I have asked Dr. List for a copy of the proposal for the center in order to further inform our discussions."

YSU did hired a full-time Title 1X Director position to expand oversight and outreach regarding student complaints of sex/gender based discrimination and harassment, including complaints involving dating violence, domestic violence and stalking and sexual assault.

But many question if the appropriate number of counselors are on the campus around the clock to address the needs of the students 24/7 and if student leaders, including resident assistants are trained to deal with a crisis involving a sexual nature or a gender related issue.

The entire letter can be read below. 


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