Exponent Explains: Women’s Center promotes inclusion, equality at MSU

Nestled in the third floor of the SUB, the presence of the Women’s Center on campus is more prominent than their office space might indicate. The Women’s Center, housed in the Division of Student Success, was initially created to better assist university women as they navigated MSU. The center is open to all students, staff, faculty and community members—both male and female. Director Elizabeth Danforth said the purpose of the Women’s Center is “to support students who want to explore issues of equality, gender equity and gender identity among a range of other issues.”

The mission of the Women’s Center has changed since it opened its doors in 1982. “It was originally created to support women students because MSU was male-dominated, especially within the Colleges of Engineering and Agriculture,” Danforth said. “In 1976, tenured female faculty sued the university for pay inequity because male tenured faculty were getting paid more than the women. The lawsuit was successful and that is one of the reasons for the creation of the Women’s Center.” Since then, the Women’s Center has grown to cater to a wider range of issues and needs and is open to everyone.

The staff is composed of Danforth and three student workers who “wear many hats,” doing everything from organizing large events to disseminating press releases. Danforth and the student workers are equipped with the knowledge to answer any questions and assist individuals dealing with academics, career choices, child care, counseling, crisis, employment, legal rights, re-entry into MSU and scholarship opportunities.

The Women’s Center has a large focus on events and outreach. Sack Lunch Seminars take place every Wednesday from noon – 1:00 p.m. in the SUB, and the lunches host a variety of influential speakers from the local to the national level. The informational seminars are free and open to everyone and are in place to better educate the MSU community on issues regarding gender and equality.

The Shannon Weatherly Memorial Lecture Series is another recurring event hosted by the Women’s Center. The annual event is in honor of past Women’s Center board member and MSU student, Shannon Weatherly. After her passing, her family created an endowment to bring feminist speakers to campus. Anita Sarkeesian was the most recent installment of the lecture series, her lecture, “I’ll Make a Man Out of You: Redefining Strong Female Characters,” took place on March 2. Additionally, because March is National Women’s History Month the Women’s Center is celebrating with a mix of guest speakers, displays, films and articles to feature remarkable women in history.

The Women’s Center is also home to “The Geraldine Fenn Memorial Library” which contains a wide variety of reference materials. In addition, the Women’s Center subscribes to a handful of feminist periodicals and press publications. The aforementioned resources can be checked out by students, staff, faculty and community members.

Danforth said that the favorite part about her position is the ability to “spread knowledge and helping people experience the ‘aha’ moments when they realize gender inequity is a problem. It’s great to motivate students to get involved with gender inequity in whatever form it takes for them.” She encourages all students, regardless of their interests, to stop by the Women’s Center, if only just to chat or browse their library.

The Women’s Center provides opportunities for work-study, volunteer and internship positions. Their office is open Monday – Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. during the academic year.

Upcoming Events: Hysteria: Dance Party for Women & All Who Love them.

Friday, March 25 from 8 p.m. – midnight.

The dance is in honor of Women’s History Month and is sponsored by Chicks with Sticks, MSU Women’s Center and Bozeman PFLAG.

Tickets are $15 single, $25 couple, $12 with Student ID