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Gender Relations Center debuts

Angela Saoud | Wednesday, September 15, 2004

While the phrase “gender relations” has long provoked eye-rolls and skepticism across the Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s community, the Notre Dame Gender Relations Center opens its doors this week hoping to provide an attitude adjustment and an adult approach.Director of the GRC Heather Rakoczy said she hopes the GRC will be committed to the emotional, intellectual, spiritual and social development of men and women alike. “The GRC is a place where students can engage in respectful dialogue and explore issues,” Rakoczy said. “The slogan we have here is ‘Discover FIRE’ (finding identity, relationships and equality). We are just hoping this can be a place for students to get information, have discussions and just hang out.”And while the GRC remains housed under the Student Affairs offices, both the GRC and the gender studies major hope to be able to collaborate on projects.Assistant Director to the program in gender studies Sophie White said she’s looking forward to the new GRC.”The program in gender studies welcomes the establishment of a Gender Relations Center at Notre Dame, and we expect to be consulted at some point in its first year as the GRC works to conceptualize and establish its program on campus,” White said. “Many of our students were involved in starting the GRC and we fully support them, and Student Activities, in these endeavors.”A plan for the center has been in the works since 2001, but became seriously considered last year when research showed that 19 of the country’s top 20 schools had some sort of women’s or gender-related center. After being proposed to the Campus Life Council, the project was unanimously passed.Rakoczy said being behind the trend may actually prove to be an asset to the center.”A lot of these centers were developed years ago when other colleges went co-ed, and most of them have a focus only on women’s issues,” Rakoczy said. “But by opening the center now, we have the ability to put together an updated center that can include men and women. This is very intentionally meant to be a center for women and men.”And due to Notre Dame’s enrollment of 52 percent men and 48 percent women, Rakoczy said it “would have been ridiculous to cater only to the women students.”The center has four rooms – a lobby area, a conference room, an office and what will eventually be a lending library and resource center. Because of budgetary concerns, the library currently houses a limited selection of reading material but is hoping to expand soon through fundraisers and donations, Rakoczy said. This week, students can partake in a variety of events being offered by the center. There will be a presentation in LaFortune’s Montgomery Theater entitled “What’s Love Got To Do With It? Sexual Ethics at ND” tonight at 7 p.m. The GRC has teamed up with the comedy group HA for Thursday night LIVE, “Love Notre Dame Style: The Hook-Up vs. Ring-By-Spring,” also in Montgomery Theater at 7 p.m.On Friday, anyone who is interested in volunteering at or working in the center can drop in the office, located at 217 LaFortune, from 12 p.m. until 3 p.m. “This week will be just a sampling of what we have to offer,” Rakoczy said. “Other presentations we have planned will focus on girls’ and guys’ nights out forums, lectures on getting outside the bubble and a “Fine By Me: Queer Eye for the Straight Campus” forum, which are all scheduled for the near future.” For now, the hours of the GRC will vary, until volunteers are put in place to staff the front desk. By the end of September, Rakoczy is hoping the hours will be Monday through Friday from noon until 5 p.m., with the possibility of additional evening hours. As the year progresses, and the center gains participants, Rakoczy said she will take inventory to see what changes are needed. “We have no time line as of right now,” Rakoczy said. “We just want to work on meeting student needs and continue growing in our resources.”