In a quaint little room on the second floor of the Memorial Union, a quiet oasis from the chaos of college life can be found. Posters line the wall, displaying mantras of intersectional feminist activism, framed nicely by seasonal flowers and decorative wooden block letters spelling WRC. This is the newly ordained Women’s Resource Center (WRC), but it is not quite so new. It has a long history on this campus, but not in this room, because the WRC’s history was interrupted during the summer of 2015 by defunding the center.
That is where Sam Saucier and Lori Loftin come in. The removal of the WRC did not sit quite right with these fourth-year students. During their time at the University of Maine, both women became well-versed in student activism through their work in clubs such as the Student Women’s Association (SWA) and the Student Alliance for Sexual Health (SASH). Through much work of their own and a lot of collaboration with SWA, SASH, Student Government and UMaine administration, the duo successfully reinstated the WRC, this time in the centrally-located room 227 of the Memorial Union.
The process of reestablishment was undoubtedly easier said than done. The pair first had to re-convince students and faculty alike of the need for the center. Petitions, flyers and a tremendous amount of help and support from fellow students eventually won them their case.
This past Thursday, Aug. 31, the WRC re-opened its doors. Saucier and Loftin were both present, along with a handful of SWA members that also championed the cause. Dr. Robert Dana, vice president for Student Affairs and dean of students made an appearance to mark the momentous occasion.
Now that the WRC is up and running again, Saucier and Loftin have stocked the center with resources to aid any UMaine students looking for a safe space. Saucier noted all of the resources, saying, “basic contraceptives like condoms, menstrual hygiene products like pads, tampons and sanitary cups, emergency contraceptives, tons and tons of brochures on various topics affecting women, volunteer staff who have been trained in both safe zone training and mandatory reporting policies so they are better equipped to talk to students about sensitive topics. All of these will be available to students. We are trying to ensure a safe space.”
In addition, the WRC will host different programming every month, including an upcoming talk on contraceptives information that is not covered in most high schools, aiming to target first-year students with questions about sex.
Saucier and Loftin are preparing for the center to remain permanently, already making long-term plans. “Ideally we will have a director later on down the line, with a full time staff that includes paid student workers,” Saucier said. “We are really looking to ensure the longevity of the center.”
Part of that includes collaborating with other departments and clubs, something Loftin is on top of. “We are already partnering with the Office of Multicultural Student Life and we hope to reach out to the Women and Gender Studies Department for advice and collaboration in the future,” Loftin said.
Casey Rogers, a fourth-year social work student, was present at the re-opening and said she learned about the WRC towards the end of her first year, when it was defunded.
“I wish I could have utilized it before it was gone, so now I’m excited to have it back and in such a central location on campus, right across from the Rainbow Resource Center in the Union,” Rogers said. Rogers was supportive of the efforts to return the center to campus, and signed various petitions to show that.
Ashlee Atchinson, a third-year child development and family relations student, also appeared at the opening and was eager to see the WRC re-instated.
“I’m really excited about the WRC opening again on campus. So many people put in so much work to make it happen,” Atchinson said. “I’m glad freshmen will have a safe place to go; I remember being a freshman and being so nervous about so many things. I knew I was into feminism but was kind of unsure, so I’m really glad there is a physical space for freshman and really everyone to go.”
So if you happen to be passing through the Union this week and hear a Rihanna or a Beyoncé song, just follow it over to the new Women’s Resource Center. It took a lot of work to get it there, but as Loftin adds “It was more than worth it. I am overjoyed to see the WRC re-open.”
For anyone interested in reaching Loftin or Saucier and learning more about the center, the WRC is located in Room 227 of the Union across from the Rainbow Resource Center and is open every weekday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The first of the Women’s Resource Center Living and Learning Series titled “Sex in College” will take place on Wednesday, Sept. 20 at 6 p.m. in the WRC. The talk will cover Sex 101, contraceptives, consent and condoms.