Women’s Center Reopens Following Renovations, Hosts First Event

Director Au (left) with members of the Women's Center at their reopening./Luis A.P.M.

By Luis Angel Perez Martinez, Kate Dempsey, and Paulina Gajewski

 

   On Feb. 15, the Brooklyn College’s Women’s Center celebrated its grand reopening following renovations over the past two months. The Center hosted its first event of the semester this past Tuesday, Feb. 20, a Mix & Mingle hosted by the Muslim Women’s Leadership Development Project (MWLDP) which is housed in the Center. 

   The renovations at the Center, located in 227 Ingersoll Hall Extension, include rooms for one-on-one sessions between students and the Women’s Center staff. The computer lab has received upgrades with new desks and chairs, while the lounge area received new furniture. These improvements were made to provide students with a safe space to relax, get assistance, complete their assignments, and provide free hygiene products to students.    

   “We are excited to open our doors again to help students on a day-to-day basis. We look forward to seeing everyone back in our lounge and using the space as we continue to build it backup and better,” Iqura Naheed, project coordinator of MWLDP, told The Vanguard.

   The director of the Women’s Center, Say-fong Au, felt that the revamping of the space was a long time coming. “I think the main thing is that it’s not really just a renovation,” Au told The Vanguard. “It is the effort that you put in, getting money for the renovations. For the 27 years I’ve been here, there’s never been renovations.” 

   The renovation was a combination of two parts funded by both public and private donors. After facing multiple delays in the summer, progress was able to be made over the winter break. The first entailed the renovation of the back office space, and the second was the student usage area. 

   Au stated that the Center aimed to find a time for the renovations that would not displace students. When the Center closed, Au attested to students who had to find alternative spaces. “They [allowed] us to use one of their office spaces downstairs, and it is really not a community space for a lot of students, but students [did] come,” Au said. “They’re looking for us […] I think that people really need a community space.”

   For students who attended the Center’s first event, Mix & Mingle, it was an opportunity to feel connected to their friends and the larger BC community. It also offered a chance for students to vocalize any issues that they may be facing in their lives.

   “The Women’s Center and the Muslim Women’s Initiative offered a welcoming space to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones, fostering a sense of community,” Safia Abdullah, a sociology major and senior at BC, told The Vanguard. “It was a space where we could openly express our feelings and support each other.”

   The renovations also come after concerns over staffing in order to keep the Center open. In March, two staff positions underwent a hiring freeze by CUNY Central, leading to concerns that programming would be reduced, as previously reported by The Vanguard. This culminated in the Center holding a protest on Sept. 18, 2023 to advocate against the staffing freeze, along with organizing a petition which demanded two full-time staff positions to be filled. Since the protest, it has remained difficult to maintain the Center, according to the Center’s leaders. 

 “It has been extremely difficult […] we do have staffing cuts. When we have full team of staff to accomplish our task, it is already really difficult,” Au said. “If we don’t have a full team of staff, then it just makes everything very hard […] I think that the students feel that, and I think that a lot of students step up, but it is not their job to.”

   Sherome Stone, the Office Manager of the Women’s Center, told The Vanguard that despite the staffing difficulties, the staff is determined to continue to offer their services at The Center. 

   “I’m doing what I’m doing for the students, not for the administration,” Stone said. “Sometimes I’m here from 9am to 9pm […] and I’ll just try to help support them as best as I can.” 

   Leaders of the Center expressed that despite the difficulties with staffing, they hope to continue to make the Center a welcoming, community space for the study body. 

  “We need a community space, people can come in; we need individual services that particularly deal with specific crises,” Au said. “I take a lot of pride in creating a space like this, to make sure it can become a home to many students who need it.”

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