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Women*s Center Struggles Without Boss

By Andrew Nguyen 

Haverford’s Women*s Center is currently entirely run by student workers—nine of them to be exact—who might not even be getting paid. Since former director and visiting faculty member Jaclyn Pryor left the position last spring, one of Haverford’s highly advertised student resources has been operating in a fashion more akin to a student club than an adequately staffed center.

“Once the semester finished we did not have a boss,” said Ernest Keefer ’21, a junior staff member at the center. “[The senior staff members] have been taking on the roles of co-heads for the center.”

The director of the center usually serves as a go-between for student staff members and the administration, meeting with deans, acquiring funding for center programs and events like Sexvember, a month-long series focusing on sex health, and HerStory, a speak-out type event where senior women recount personal, meaningful stories. This semester, many of these responsibilities have transferred over to senior student staff members, adding to their already busy schedules. One such responsibility involves working with the Title IX coordinator.

“There’s been a push for the Title IX coordinator to get in touch with a few of the members working on the sexual assault hotline,” said Keefer. “Normally, the coordinator would talk to our director, but we don’t have a director, so they’re talking to a member of our senior staff.”

The director also provides the center with on-campus decision-making authority not necessarily available to students. The director ensures that whatever the Women*s Center does holds institutional legitimacy. The new director would ideally be connected to organizations in Philadelphia and specialize in gender and health studies.

While administration is currently in search of a new director, with a search committee that includes the Office of Multicultural Affairs’ Ben Hughes, the Office of Academic Resources’ Raquel Esteves-Joyce, and Dean Theresa Tensuan, staff members don’t expect to have a boss before November. And whoever is hired probably won’t be acting at full capacity until the spring of 2019.

“This was a process that was supposed to start over the summer,” said Leif Parente ’19 , a senior staff member of the Women*s Center who is also part of the search committee. “But this process has been delayed until now.”

Founded and run by Marilou Allen in 1982 near the beginning of a 34-year tenure with the college, the center hoped to serve a school that had just become co-ed, looking to provide support and resources for the trailblazing women of Haverford. Allen retired from her position at Haverford four years ago and passed away on Dec. 9 last year, leaving behind considerably large shoes to fill.

“When she left, everyone kind of scrambled and realized ‘Oh crap, she was amazing!’,” said Parente.

When Allen retired, Qui Alexander stepped into the role of program coordinator for the Women*s Center in 2015, remaining in the position until the spring of 2017, when Jaclyn Pryor briefly assumed the title.

Now, with the search for a new director, there is an underlying concern among the student staff members about the general welfare of students on campus. Without college-hired staff, the necessary, and sometimes urgent, work of the Women*s Center, as it may be in cases regarding sexual assault or sexual health, falls on its student workers.

“I feel a lot of personal responsibility for the school,” said Parente. “That’s just something I’m constantly thinking about.”

For the time being, students remain at the forefront of the center and its work, regardless of whether or not they are compensated.

“I’ve had to go talk with Deans about how we get paid,” said Keefer. “So that was just like time put in outside of my time I put into the center.”

The Women*s Center held an open house on Sept. 20 from 4 to 7 p.m.

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