Do you know what or even where the Women’s Resource Center is?
Located in Fox Hall, the Women’s Resource Center was founded in 1965 by former Eckerd Professor and contributing founder of the Visual Arts program, Margaret Rigg, who passed away in July 2011. The center’s original purpose was to create a community for women to discuss and advocate for equality amongst the college by sponsoring events that spread awareness throughout the campus.
Today, the Women’s Resource Center proudly lives up to Rigg’s vision of serving as a safe space for any and all individuals on Eckerd’s campus under the faculty leadership of Carolyn Johnston, professor of American Studies and History, as well as the work scholars who have worked hard to promote the center. The center sponsors events and is open five days a week for any student to stop in and hang out. They have free snacks, books, games, condoms, art, movies and a student staff always looking to meet new people.
“The students have brought tremendous enthusiasm and dedication to the programming regarding women’s issues and also have enabled the Center to be open on a regular basis,” Johnston said.
In the early 2000s, the resource center organized marches and rallies each year in advocacy for equality. They supervised many events that contributed to the push for justice around the Eckerd campus and the St. Petersburg community. Some popular events the Women’s Resource Center has sponsored or hosted were in collaboration with EC Feminists, such as alumni award ceremonies, various College Program Series’, and Bodies and Bagels, an event created to promote body positivity.
The Women’s Resource Center has made significant progress in their goal of outreach within the Eckerd community. Their strong presence a few years back is what grabbed the attention of one of the two current work scholars, junior Talia Lima.
“In my senior year of high school when I came to visit Eckerd, I walked past the Women's Resource Center,” Lima said. “I came in and I felt like it was my space and I knew that I was going to be a part of it.”
The pandemic made an unfortunate impact on the Women’s Resource Center. They lost their knowledgeable senior leaders leaving the newer, less experienced staff to establish the future of the center without an idea of how.
More recently, the center has not been able to arrange or host nearly as many events due to a lack of funding.
“I was supposed to be training the entire spring of my first year but we all got kicked off so I was unable to be trained or work with [the seniors],” Lima said. “The new staff committee that was involved, the new faculty, and advisors were also new so we were all going into the center brand new.”
Currently, with the center reopened, Lima and her co-worker, senior Jenna Woodall, are now trained and have gained experience working. The center is an advocacy of equality and anyone who feels they have been a victim of or witnessed injustices can go to the safe space and discuss whatever they want or need.
“[We’re learning] a lot about how to be a support system for people in these situations. There are people struggling with aspects of their gender or sexuality and I am a really helpful peer for others to talk through their concerns,” Lima said.
Now that the center is reopened, there is not nearly as much foot traffic as there used to be. The center’s work orders are being continuously ignored, according to the student staff, making it less interesting to the student body because they are stuck in a remodeling phase. Their goal is to remodel so students can feel more comfortable and safe in a modern way.
“We want to be able to say ‘Women’s Resource Center’ without people asking what and where it is,” Lima said. “We are open five days a week and want this to be known around campus.”
The Women’s Resource Center is now in need of love and support from the student body. This support is included but not limited to; attention, volunteers, word of mouth, and hopefully a budget next semester that will allow their infamous events to once again take place.
“Help me, come hang out with me, and make this center more known by giving it attention. The center needs it and needs maintenance,” Lima said.