After a nearly two-year struggle to gain a health center on the Mills College campus, the students of Choice USA have finally achieved their goal of procuring a location, but whether the location is permanent is in question.
The Women’s Health Resource Center was granted funding and will be located in Cowell this semester.
“I think I speak for the whole college administration and certainly for myself in saying how important this student initiated health resource center is,” President Janet Holmgren said. She said she has been “very clear that we should provide funding for the center – and space.”
Yet the room the students were given might be shared, according to an e-mail Daniella Trigg said the group received from Dean of Student Life and Vice Provost Joi Lewis. Trigg, a senior, is co-president of Choice USA’s Mills chapter.
Fellow co-president and sophomore Bethan Lamb said the administration has told her that there is an issue of space on campus. “We have a hard time believing this,” she said. “I know of a lot of empty rooms on campus.”
Members were told that the administration will assess the space they have been given and decide whether or not the center will remain in Cowell. “No one owns a particular space,” said President Holmgren, even though “you’ll get different opinions about what space should be used for what purpose.”
There have been discussions between Lamb, fellow board members and Lewis in regards to the possibility of losing the room. Lamb said that she couldn’t yet disclose any information as to what was discussed at the most recent meeting, which was held on Friday Sept. 12.
Trigg said she believes they won’t lose the room because “the administration understands… how much students need and want it.”
“Dean Lewis and I are absolutely aligned, as I believe the provost is, in assuring that there is a physical space for the center, and that there is support for programming for the center,” Holmgren said.
According to Trigg, the center will remain open, “but what is in question is the permanence of the WHRC in Cowell.”
Choice USA’s former president Erin Mowlds began the campaign for a women’s health resource center in spring 2007.
Lamb remembers that Mowlds was very passionate about women’s health, reproduction and the power of choice. The students wrote a letter to the administration proposing their idea and wrote letters to clubs and staff members asking for their support. Then Dean of Student Life Joanna Iwata was one administrator Lamb said was in full support of the idea. Lamb says that after Iwata’s termination, it became more difficult to get support for their proposal.
According to Lamb, they were supposed to be given a location in the fall of 2007 but were told that the idea was not feasible. In spring 2008, Lamb and fellow board members demanded that the center be opened at a meeting with several key members of the Mills community. “We basically said ‘if you don’t give us this room, we’re going to get militant,'” Lamb said.
Trigg said the two groups are now separated and they hope to see the center develop on its own. “We’re really excited to see how it grows. We really want this to be a student-run center for all Mills students,” Trigg stated at Choice USA’s sexual health week booth.
Trigg says that the mission of the Women’s Health Resource Center is to create a safe space for Mills students where they can access information regarding women’s health. The center has information regarding nutrition, reproductive rights and justice, sex and contraception, abstinence, and more regarding overall well-being and sexual health.
There are resources available to women through Berkeley’s Tang Center but Lamb says “as a women’s campus, we feel that this is something that should be available to us at all times.” Lamb and Trigg agree that the Tang Center is too hard to get to. Trigg added that “it’s not keyed into the special needs the Mills community may need, an example is healthcare for trans or queer students.”
A grand opening of the center is scheduled for sometime in October, but no definite date has been set, according to Lamb.