On March 24, Student Development sent out a campus-wide email, informing students about the changes coming to the Anna Howard Center for Gender Equity in the following weeks.
Students were informed that, by the end of April, the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) campus grant will have reached its end, and that Haley Hill, ‘14 alumna, the sole staff member and victim advocate for the center, would also be departing her position at Albion on March 31.
“We always knew that the grant was ending, and so we have our plan to finish out the grant by the end of April,” Hill said. “Our goal was to create a victim advocacy position to sort of bolster our support on campus, create more resources for survivors and to just put the program in place basically.”
The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) Grant and the Green Dot Program
According to Assistant Dean for Campus Life Sharese Mathis, who is currently serving as the interim Program Coordinator of the OVW grant, the Center for Gender Equity relies on grant funds that will soon be unavailable.
“The grant primarily focuses against gender-based violence initiatives,” Mathis said. “A lot of the initiative that comes out of the gender equity center has to do with the Green Dot program, which is bystander intervention.”
Through the Green Dot Bystander Intervention Program, 89 students and 38 employees have been trained on how to handle power-based personal violence, according to the Albion College website.
The program also helped the center train more Green Dot facilitators on campus, Hill said.
“Now, we have enough people that we don’t necessarily need funding for that right now,” Hill said. “I think right now, thankfully, we have all the resources we need to continue on with that programming.”
Hill said that the center has been able to realize the goal of the grant, and it is now focused on remodeling its mission, services and resources to reflect the current needs of the Albion College community.
“We met our goal and are working on a plan of what our institution can do, what will be more sustainable,” Hill said.
Other Available Services and Resources
The center assists students who have experienced sex-based discrimination, including sexual harassment and gender-based violence – Title IX-related complaints. Luke Rivard, a junior from Bark River, worked as a student advocate last spring semester. He said his main job was to advocate for Albion students.
“We provided advocacy,” Rivard said. “Students will come in when they need something and we give them the necessary forms that we need to get the ball rolling.”
Rivard said the center helped students to obtain classroom and housing accommodations as well as guide students through the Title IX process.
The center has also worked to provide services and resources for clients with children or expecting parents. According to Mathis, the Center offers free donated clothes, diapers and wipes. It also provides contraception and lactation stations on campus.
“We have a couple of lactation stations that actually will be updated on our campus map,” said Mathis.
One of the lactation stations is located on the third floor of Robinson Hall.
The center also assists students in accessing healthcare services and resources, like sexual assault examinations.
On its website, the center lists numerous on-campus and off-campus resources for students, like sexual health, mental health, sexual assault and harassment services – all free of charge for those with or without insurance.
“Anything that we refer students to is also free,” Hill said. “We just make sure that across the board that it’s always going to be free, and we only partner with people who have free services and services for people who are undocumented or DACAmented.”
The Future of the Center
As the college’s OVW campus grant comes to end, Hill said that the next chapter of the center is one that does not rely on grant funding.
“Our hope is that, eventually, we will be able to institutionalize some of that work and pay for it with the college – instead of with a grant – in order to keep it long term,” Hill said.
Transitioning away from the OVW campus grant, and moving towards a direction where the college funds the center, would create more flexibility for those who work there.
Hill said “the grant has some limitations,” regarding the services it can provide.
“Funds aren’t reserved for queer and trans students who are facing discrimination based on their gender or who just need resources in the community that are gender-affirming,” Hill said. Also, she said the grant also does not allocate funding for victims of sexual harassment.
Both the center and college are continuing conversations about how the center will look after April – especially regarding the future staffing, programming, services and resources of the center.
However, the “goal would be to have someone in by the fall because that’s when we do a lot of the programming with our first-year students,” Hill said.
First-year student programs include hosting sessions that introduce them to the center, discussions on consent and healthy relationships on campus and Green Dot programming, according to Hill.
Hill explained the services and resources that the center provides to students who experience gender-based violence.
“A lot of students think that in order to receive those accommodations you have to report who did something to you, which is not true,” Hill said. “We don’t have to know that person’s name and we do not have to necessarily know what it is that they did.”
The center assists students regardless of if they report the perpetrator(s).
“As long as we know that it’s under the category of gender-based violence, there’s actually a lot of discretion for us to help them,” Hill said, adding that the goal is to, “ensure that the victim is safe and able to succeed on campus.”
Hill said that students often have misconceptions about who can get the services the center provides. She said students often think that they can’t receive the center’s services if they were assaulted while inebriated or underage, but that is not true.
The college’s Amnesty for Survivors and Witnesses clause, part of its Title IX Policy, typically protects complainants and witnesses who are under the influence of a substance during the time of the incident, according to the college’s website.
Hill said if a survivor comes forward to report an incident, but they were under the influence, that shouldn’t be a barrier. They don’t put victims who were intoxicated through the conduct review process, “because what’s more important is that they get serviced as a victim and that we help them get what they need,” she said.
Hill said there are also many misconceptions related to the center’s old name, the “Anna Howard Shaw Women’s Center.”
“I think one of the biggest misconceptions is that we only serve women or people who identify as women,” said Hill.
Informing students that the center not only serves women is something that the center has emphasized when meeting with different fraternities, student organizations and athletics groups on campus, according to Hill.
“Is not only women who experience this kind of violence. Men experience it, trans folk experience it and non-binary experience it,” Hill said. “We have been trying to refocus away from the fact that it used to be called the Women’s Center.”
The Former Title and History of the Center
Prior to becoming an independent entity, the Anna Howard Center for Gender Equity was a joint center with the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program or, as it was previously titled, the “Woman’s Studies” program.
The joint center was known as the “Anna Howard Shaw Center for Women’s Studies and Programs.” Dr. Trisha Franzen, professor of women’s and gender studies, was initially hired as the director of the programs in 1992.
According to Franzen, the joint center was staffed with its own full-time administrative assistant, different work-study students and other part-time staff throughout this period. Franzen said the center even had its own conference room library.
The Women’s Center was able to collaborate with students to host the first drag queen show and performances of the “Vagina Monologues” on campus, Franzen said.
The joint center was focused on “supporting the students and finding out what they wanted,” Franzen said.
Franzen said that the old Women’s Center had an incredible impact on the communities surrounding campus.
“There was a time when our advocates, our sexual assault advocates were the only advocates in the county,” Franzen said.
During a period when Calhoun County did not offer sexual assault advocacy services, Franzen said the joint center offered its services to residents across the county.
A Message from Haley Hill to Students
Hill graduated from Albion College in 2014 and initially returned to the campus as a counselor while finishing her Master’s of Social Work from Michigan State University.
“I got to work therapy with students and, then, I didn’t want to leave,” said Haley.
Hill said her experience as a counselor reminded her that many students were suffering with sexual violence-related trauma. She cited her experience as a counselor as a motivation to take on the victim advocacy role on campus.
“I think it made sense for me to reroute into an advocacy position, as much as I loved therapy,” she said adding that her clinical background helped her support victims who came to her office.
Hill said she valued her time at Albion.
“I think that we have been able to start doing the work to set a standard of practice and a standard of care for small schools and what that could look like,” she said. “And I’m really honored to have been part of that team.”
Bella Bakeman also contributed reporting to this story.