New club connects students, GWS department with social justice issues


James Hoeck

A new RSO, the GWS Club, meets at the Gender & Women’s Studies building every other week to provide students interactions with social justice and gender equality activities on campus.

By Vivian La, Assistant News Editor

GWS Club, a new RSO, wants to connect students to the many social justice and gender equality activities on campus.

The club, whose name is an acronym for Gender & Women’s Studies, started in January after Michael Jacobson, sophomore in LAS and president of the club, realized a general group for the subject didn’t exist on campus.

Jacobson said there’s a lot of wonderful RSOs on campus dedicated to specific topics, such as sexual health or transgender activism, but nothing that was broad and could allow students to explore different interests.

“There is no one club which kind of integrated this intersectional approach, which we are told about over and over again in all of our different classes,” he said. “So a big part of this was basically applying what we’ve learned and making this into a reality.”

Unlike most new RSOs, which start in fall semesters to take advantage of Quad Day and an influx of new students, GWS Club has had to adapt to some challenges.

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Regularly updating their social media about events and advertising the RSO throughout the department has been important, said Claire Accardo, junior in LAS and the club’s secretary.

“It’s been kind of hard since we just started,” she said. “We meet every other week, as we’re just trying to bring people together.”

So far, the club has held discussions about careers and hosted guest speakers from the department. Accardo said they’ve done fun activities too, like getting together for hot chocolate.

Mimi Thi Nguyen, professor and chair of the Department of Gender & Women’s Studies, said in an email statement that she’s “absolutely thrilled” about the student initiative behind the club’s formation.

“I can’t wait to figure out together how the department can further collaborate with them to support feminist inquiry and community building,” Nguyen stated.

Tasha Robles, academic program coordinator for the Department of Gender & Women’s Studies and adviser for GWS Club, said she hopes to connect the department to the issues happening in the community.

Part of this involves collaboration with other related RSOs on campus, according to Jacobson.

“A big goal of ours is if we can grow strong enough to actually engage in activism, and we don’t just serve as this place for direct people toward activist groups,” he said.

Campus-related issues are also on GWS Club’s radar. Sexual assault and resources for victims comes to mind for Accardo.

“We were talking a couple weeks ago about a sexual assault on campus and that being a huge issue, and it going underreported or (reported) under assault, not taking it seriously or not holding perpetrators accountable,” she said.

The 2019 Campus Climate Report — the most recent one — conducted by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, surveyed students about experiences of sexual misconduct.

According to the report, one in five women and one in 24 men reported an experience of sexual assault since starting at the University.

Women, members of the LGBTQ+ community, Greek-affiliated students and people with a disability were more likely to report an experience of sexual misconduct, the report found.

Another issue that the club is concerned with is the lack of physical spaces for students in the department. In October, the College of LAS announced that they’re planning a new building for ethnic and gender & women’s studies.

The current department building, located on Nevada Street, requires lots of repairs, according to club members.

“Everything is always up in the air until they actually get started on construction,” Jacobson said. “If there aren’t repairs being done short term, then the goal is long-term destruction.”

Above all, Jacobson said the club should be a place to interact with others who have similar goals.

“If this is what you’re passionate about, and this is what you want to do, then we can connect with people who want to do that,” he said.

To Bhavana Khanna, junior in LAS who oversees academics for GWS Club, the RSO is both an application of her studies and a reminder that issues of gender and equity are important in all aspects of society.

“People are trying to undo the history of discrimination and oppression that’s been happening and in order to do that we need to educate ourselves about where to start, and I think gender studies is a great place to start,” she said. “It’s relevant everywhere you go.”


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