Resolution Regarding New “Center for Gender and Cultures”
Resolved: That the Sonoma State University Academic Senate request senior campus administration to restore two full time positions of equal status devoted to Women’s Resources/Servicesand Multicultural Student Services, to be located within the new Center for Gender and Cultures.
Resolved: That the Sonoma State University Academic Senate request senior campus administration to identify funds to support a position for the provision of GLBTQ Programs/ Services equal in status to those of the supporting gender and multicultural programs/services.
Resolved: That the Sonoma State University Academic Senate request that senior administration ensure that separate physical spaces be provided for Multicultural Student Services, Women’s Resources/Services, and GLBTQ Programs/Services within the Center for Gender and Cultures.
Resolved: That the Sonoma State University Academic Senate request that senior administration ensure that services based upon gender are not fragmented across several employees and departments across campus.
In the Fall of 2006, the Office of Campus Life, housed in the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, began implementation of a Campus Life Redesign Initiative, referred to as the “Centers Concept.” The purpose of the reorganization was “to increase efficiency, deliver high-quality programs and services, increase intentional collaborations and reduce redundancy within the division.” (Campus Life Redesign Initiative: The Centers Concept, handout 4/10/06). The Initiative reorganizes the Office of Campus Life into six Centers: the Center for Gender and Cultures, the Center for Leadership and Service, the Center for Recreation and Wellness, the Center for Campus Activities and Programming, the Center for Student Government and Representation, and the Center for Student Life Operations. The reorganization was conceived and designed by staff in the Office of Campus Life. Consultation involved the Associated Students, the Student Union Board and student staff in the Intercultural Center. Recruitment is currently under way for a single director of the Center for Gender and Cultures.
The primary concern reflected in this resolution is that the new Center for Gender and Cultures diminishes Sonoma State University’s commitment to diversity by amalgamating women’s, multicultural, and gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer (GLBTQ) programs and services into one office. Effective implementation of the Sonoma State University Diversity Mission Statement requires a separate and distinct commitment to each of these constituencies. Indeed, the seriousness of such a commitment is reflected not only in the University Diversity Mission Statement, but in the ranking of diversity as a campus-wide priority in the Core Academic Priorities document recently passed by the Academic Senate, the University Strategic Plan Macro Issues document, and the Academic Affairs Strategic Plan.
The Intercultural Center (ICC) and the Women’s Resource Center (WRC) have served a critical function in supporting a positive campus climate for students, and the directors of the centers have had several key functions: supporting programming much of which is co-curricular, leadership development, and support services. The directors and faculty worked collaboratively in support of the students and both prior directors were actively involved in departmental meetings to ensure support for both the academic programs and student programming.
The incumbents in these positions have also been instrumental to supporting students with significant personal challenges including potential complaints of discrimination and/or unequal treatment and referring them to key University personnel or community agencies that could assist in resolving these problems. The prior directors proposed that a third center be created to address the concerns of GLBTQ students, as campus climate surveys conducted over the past ten years have consistently shown concerns from these students in terms of their experience at SSU.
When the WRC was developed in its present format in 1987 by a working group of faculty, staff, student service professionals, administrators and students, half of the funding was provided by Academic Affairs and transferred into the Student Affairs budget. There were two full-time professional staff whose primary responsibilities were to serve multicultural students or to serve students dealing with a variety of gender based issues. The current plan is to have one full-time Director of the CGC in lieu of both a full-time ICC Director and a full-time WRC Director. The current model reduces the number of professional staff addressing these issues by 100% at a time when these services are critical, especially in light of the increase in the number of incoming freshman students.
There is also a serious concern about how issues related to gender will be addressed in this new configuration. The current position description for the Director for the CGC does not include the provision of any services for students based on gender nor does the job description require any background or training in issues related to either gender or GLBTQ issues. In addition, as currently configured, there is no primary person on campus dealing with issues related to gender. The responsibility previously held by the Director of the WRC for sexual assault education support—including support for victims and alleged violators—is now being assumed by two Residential Life Advisors, student services professionals who are normally employed for not more than three years. These advisors are not easily accessible to non-residential students. The peer education program (SAFE) will be housed as a leadership program under the new Center for Leadership and Service (a program previously based in the Office of Campus Life as was the WRC), further fragmenting gender-based campus services. Based on prior experiences, when it is not clear to students who can help them in resolving a problem, they tend to seek external rather than internal resolutions.
Submitted for Consideration by Professor Myrna Goodman, Professor Rick Luttmann, Professor Barbara Lesch McCaffry, and Professor Catherine Nelson
Approved by the Senate May 11, 2006