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GRC expands programs

Tori Roeck | Wednesday, September 4, 2013


To augment the work of student government’s Gender Issues Committee and the new Prism ND, the Gender Relations Center (GRC) is initiating new programming this year to drum up conversation about sexuality, identity and relationships at Notre Dame.

Dr. Christine Caron-Gebhardt, director of the GRC, said expanded offerings include roundtable discussions, presentations from experts and dorm workshops.

The first notable event is a three-part series of speeches from Terry Nelson Johnson, a professional speaker and mentor at Old St. Patrick’s Church in Chicago, on sexuality and Catholicism, men and masculinity and LGBTQ and Catholicism and it will take place Sept. 16 and 17. 

“We’re continuing our conversations on sexuality and relationships, but really broadening the conversation to include things around men and masculinity, LGBTQ, understanding of gender and identities [and] the intersectionality of identities,” Caron-Gebhardt said. 

Amanda Downey, assistant director for educational initiatives at the GRC, said Johnson first spoke at Notre Dame last year, at the request of a group of students from Keough Hall.

“Terry Nelson Johnson came to us as a result of a student interest. A group of men from Keough came over one day and said they wanted to talk about intimacy,” Downey said. “They wanted to bring him, and they wanted him to talk about intimacy.”

To better connect with the needs of the student body, Caron-Gebhardt said the GRC is starting a dorm commissioner program.

“We are piloting dorm commissioners as a resource for students within their residence halls as well as a conduit for students to let us know what kinds of conversations, what kinds of questions they want to talk about here on campus about gender, sexuality and relationships,” she said. 

For those who want to continue these conversations, Caron-Gebhardt said the GRC is sponsoring the Sr. Jean Round Table, where students can discuss gender issues together. Each meeting will have a different theme ranging from “sports and gender,” to “gender and Catholicism,” with the first taking placed Oct. 2.

The GRC will also sponsor “Man Talk” and “Women’s Wisdom” sessions, Caron-Gebhardt said.

“Those conversation talks are student-generated,” she said. “We provide the venue, we provide the structure, but students provide the things that are important and they want to discuss.”

To begin the discussion freshman year, Caron-Gebhardt said the GRC has amended its Contemporary Topics curriculum so one day covers healthy relationships and the other addresses prevention of sexual violence on campus through bystander intervention. 

“We took up that charge from [the Committee on Sexual Assault Prevention] saying, ‘How can we understand that sexual violence on our campus is not just about two people involved but actually impacts our community?'” Caron-Gebhardt said. 

In another effort to raise awareness of sexual violence in the spring, Downey said the GRC will sponsor an exhibition of “Unheard Voices,” a show by artist Jason Dilley that tells the stories of individual survivors of sexual assault.

“[Dilley] has bronzed face casts – imagine a plaster cast of a face and then it’s dipped into a bronze and on a black background,” she said. “Students can walk around and there are little headphones attached to each face, and you can actually hear this person tell their story, which is a really powerful program.”

Caron-Gebhardt said the GRC also plans to supplement Prism ND’s LGBTQ-focused programs, including special events for National Coming Out Day in October and Transgender Awareness Month and Stand Against Hate in November. 

“We see collaborating on events and co-sponsoring events together [with Prism ND],” Caron-Gebhardt said. “We also see that there are things that they may offer that we would then complement and offer individually. I see us doing things collaboratively and individually.” 

Caron-Gebhardt said the GRC encourages students to get involved with their programing and express what they want the GRC function. 

“[We want to] respond to student needs as we continue the dialogue around certain issues,” she said.