The Women’s Resource Center in Robinson Hall room 214 might be one of Rowan University’s best-kept secrets, despite attempts to promote the space for both lactation and general use.
Located in the office of Social Justice, Inclusion, and Conflict Resolution (SJICR), the center is a result of Project 3, the long-fought process of active student leaders, faculty and staff who pushed for the campus to have diverse atmospheres for students. The original proposal consisted of the need for multicultural, LGBTQ+ and women’s centers, and later, a spiritual exploration center as well.
During the spring semester of 2014, the committee extensively presented these needs to the Board of Trustees within a year of developing what would later become the SJICR. The office officially launched in fall 2014, and thus, the Women’s Resource Center came to be.
Women and Inclusion Programs Graduate Coordinator Alesha DeBose is spreading the word about the room, now under her supervision.
“I want this space to be welcoming. I want it to be a place where people feel safe not only to hold conversations, but also comfortable enough to cry in,” DeBose said. “I want it to be inclusive…like a family feeling.”
“AS LONG AS THE OFFICE IS OPEN, THE RESOURCE IS HERE FOR YOU.” – ALESHA DEBOSE
The small room holds a couch and a chair on one side, a nearly full bookcase against an adjacent wall, and art created by students hung up in the remaining wall space around the room. In one corner, a mini fridge is set aside so nursing women may store milk for the remainder of the day. In the corner diagonal from the fridge sit a couple drawers containing necessities like tampons, pads, bobby pins and even prayer rugs. A miniature water fountain sits atop a small table in the corner of the room where the window is located, providing a sense of calm and relaxation.
Much of what is now in the room was not there before DeBose took over as graduate coordinator this year. She has been adding different types of books to the bookshelf, such as graphic and fiction novels, to make the collection more inclusive.
“When I came up here, only the first two shelves were filled,” she said. “Mostly nonfiction stuff, scholarly stuff. It’s like reading Mark Twain for me.”
Even though SJICR set out to promote the space by advertising it in the Rowan Announcer, many people don’t know the space exists. It is almost always available to students and faculty throughout the year, even through winter and summer breaks.
The office is open Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
“As long as the office is open, the resource is here for you,” DeBose said.
Professors unaffiliated with Rowan are also permitted to use the room should they need it while attending conferences held on campus. Recently, one female professor on conference at Rowan took advantage of the Women’s Resource Center, as she had previously been using another professor’s office to lactate.
Unlike the REC Center and daycare facility, however, the lactation center is not available to the Glassboro community.
The Women’s Center may remain a myth to some, but at least nine women currently use the center for lactation alone, according to DeBose. The space takes lactating reservations between 12 and 3 p.m., but should a mother request in advance for a different time, DeBose would give her priority over the room.
As for the success of the Women’s Center, DeBose said, “It’s been successful, but it could be better.”
She noted that other universities have managed to provide students with full centers for women, not just a single room. The University of Pennsylvania, for instance, has an entire building for student use, and its lactation center consists of multiple rooms.
DeBose and SJICR directors are doing everything in their power to create a welcoming space for all women with the resources they have now. Any self-identifying woman is welcome to use the room for any purpose, including pumping milk.
For more information about the Women’s Resource Center, contact SJICR at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (856) 256-5495.
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