WRC volunteers fight school for their own space

Students are still upset after the newly established Centre for Community Engaged Learning absorbed the Women’s Resource Centre’s space and services.

A petition is circulating the University of Calgary asking for student support to return the Women’s Resource Centre to its original status as an independent operation.

The petition group includes students, faculty and alumni.

“There is quite a wide range of stakeholders in the WRC,” said women’s studies professor Fiona Nelson. “It took several years to get the WRC going in the first place. There are people who graduated four years ago but spent four years trying to get the WRC going.”

Nelson and nursing assistant professor Janice Kinch presented the petition to U of C president Elizabeth Cannon on Nov. 2.

“What we advocated was that an advisor on women’s issues be appointed and that the WRC be put under that person’s portfolio,” said Nelson.

According to Cannon, the amalgamation of the WRC and the CCEL happened unofficially last winter.

“I think the reason it was done, in part, was space challenges and in part some synergies between the goals of the WRC and the CCEL,” said Cannon.

Nelson would like to see the WRC restored to its prior level of function and service.

“It is important to have a dedicated space for women and a dedicated space where gender issues are dealt with,” said Nelson.

Melanie Carroll, a volunteer at the WRC and a graduate student in culture and society said there was a strong response from students and faculty in regards to the petition.

A total of 1,026 signatures had been collected when the petition was presented to Cannon.

Carroll believes the addition of the CCEL changed nature of the space.

“Eliminating the gender reserve time diminishes the sense of it being a safe space,” said Carroll. “There is not that sense of community the way there was before.”

Kinch thinks the WRC is an important campus service.

“We have sort of fallen back on a time when the importance of our Women’s Centre has been lost,” said Kinch. “We go through certain periods like this where everybody thinks we have everything and we don’t need a Women’s Centre.”

Cannon is taking the feedback she has received from students and faculty into consideration.

“We are looking at options at other space and other structures,” said Cannon. “It is on my agenda and we will move this forward and try to address the concerns out there.”

“They need to respect the space and not have it in combination with another service,” said second-year nursing student Kelly Holland.

Kinch said she has a lot of hope that Cannon will help them.

“I think she understands our situation and she will be forthcoming,” said Kinch.

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