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GRC celebrates 10th anniversary with panel discussion

| Monday, March 23, 2015

Last night, the Gender Relations Center (GRC), along with Shades of Ebony, hosted an alumni panel to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the GRC. The five panelists were crucial to the founding of the GRC and included Kaitlyn Redfield Ortiz ‘06, Zach Ortiz ‘06, John Corker ‘07, Lizzi Shappell ‘07 and Heather Rakoczy Russell ‘93. Christine Gebhardt, director of the GRC, served as the moderator.

The panel began with a discussion of what prompted the panelists to realize an organization such as the GRC was necessary. Redfield Ortiz said the behavior of a male classmate made her realize what a problem gender relations were at Notre Dame.

“I was sitting in my freshmen writing class, and this guy had a shirt on like one of those old Snickers commercials, except it said ‘Hungry? Grab a SMCer,” she said. “I was shocked that this was acceptable, so it seemed kind of natural that this is what we would work for.”

The panelists then talked about the issues they faced when building up the GRC. Rakoczy Russell said it was hard to collaborate with other groups because they had preconceived notions about what they were standing for.

“The Gender Relation Center, and probably me specifically, were regarded with suspicion by pretty much everyone,” she said. “Gender was a really loaded term at the time and it was really hard to get anyone to sign on as a panel.”

Panel of alumni discuss issues they faced as members of the GRC during their time at Notre Dame in Geddes Hall on Monday.Rosie LoVoi

Panel of alumni discuss issues they faced as members of the GRC during their time at Notre Dame in Geddes Hall on Monday.

They also talked about their early goals for the GRC and the primary issues they were trying to combat. Shappell said they tried to emphasize reaching as broad an audience as possible.

“One thing that I found was really important was trying to bring the Gender Relations Center, for all of its impressions and and people’s stereotypes about whether we were left or we were right, or what we were doing, was to make the GRC more mainstream,” she said.

Ortiz, one of the founders of Men Against Violence (MAV), said another goal was to get men more involved in issues that males did not associate as “men’s issues.”

“We were still at a time where sexual assault was still considered to be a women’s issue,” he said. “It was very interesting to see how different groups within campus would try to work together with these different ideologies.”

Corker, another founder of MAV, said there was a problem with men simply ignoring issues pertaining to gender.

“There was a tacit, cop-out view of ‘that sort of stuff doesn’t happen at Notre Dame’ and ‘I don’t do that kind of stuff so I don’t need to take a stand against it,’” he said.

To close, Corker encouraged students to be proactive about finding and creating dialogue about gender issues. He said students need to challenge their own ideas.

“Don’t just be open to, but seek out conversations with other people for the express purpose of challenging the beliefs that you may have, that you may feel are right or are valuable,” he said.

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About Megan Valley

Megan Valley is one of the Associate News Editors for The Observer. A junior majoring in English and the Program of Liberal Studies, she hails from Flushing, MI and lives in Flaherty Hall.

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