New commission addresses women’s issues on campus

by Ben Rodgers, managing editor

President Jay Simmons recently reinstated the Commission on the Status of Women, a committee focused to address issues women face in the college community.

Originally created in 1993 by President Stephen Jennings, the organization saw a brief absence from Simpson until they met on Jan. 30, the first time since 2003.

According to English professor and chair of the commission, Nancy St. Clair, the commission was reinstated after seeing gender-related issues in last fall’s staff layoffs.

“I think there was real concern, even anger, over the fact that of the 11 people whose jobs were altered,” St. Clair said. “The ones who seemed to bare the burden of either let go or having their positions reduced so that they wouldn’t qualify for benefits were women.”

The first meeting of the commission consisted of eight faculty and staff members and two students. The first meeting acted as a brainstorming session for ideas that can be brought before the campus council at their April 19 meeting.

While the commission was originally focused to address issues with faculty and staff, St. Clair said there has been a shift towards looking at issues among students and hopes the commission will continue to make them a focus point.

“It’s very important to me that what we do includes not just faculty, not just staff but students as well in this commission,” St. Clair said.

Issues that were brought up at the meeting included maternity and sick leave, possibility of a childcare area on the campus, how campus approaches sexual harassment and gender-related issues for students living on campus.

The major student-related issue was brought to light by assistant professor of sport science and health education Emily Hansen who said many of her students spoke up about the lack of health services available on campus.

Dean of Students Luke Behaunek said that currently, because of budget reasons, health services has been cut to eight hours Tuesday through Thursday.

Another major issue brought up came from students who are new parents and may need a location to nurse as well as childcare facilities.

“What do students do if they are parents here? Do they have anything?” freshman student Tristan Carmen asked the commission.

The answer he received, “nothing”.

“Even with the couple of years I’ve been here, it seems that I’m getting an increasing number of students that are parents,” psychology professor Heather Groban said in the meeting. “I think that’s going continue to increase.

The commission made their first concrete goal regarding childcare, offering a room where female students with a child would be able to nurse or pump.

“A pump room would seem like it would be so easy,” St. Clair said in the discussion. “We have so many empty rooms that aren’t being used and someplace a nursing mom could sit down and pump and relax.”

St. Clair told The Simpsonian after the commission’s meeting another goal for the group is to reach out to schools like Simpson and find their strategies regarding childcare.

While numerous issues were brought to the commission, St. Clair said they hope to bring more issues to light.

“We want to get a real sense of what it means to be a female working or studying or teaching at this campus,” St. Clair said. “What is the lived experience of women on this campus as students or employees and what their issues are.”

St. Clair said the next step to doing so is by using results of a survey that will be sent out later in the semester from the Office of Student Development.