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Health & Wellness

Centering Intersectional Gender Justice and Resources: Cornell Women’s Resource Center

by Isa Meyers //

Cornell attempts to offer adequate financial, mental health, and wellness resources for its nearly 15,000 undergraduates students. From Cornell Health’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) to residence halls established to offer a place of community for students of color (such as Akwe:kon, Ujamaa, and the Latino Living Center), the university commends itself for the safe and welcoming atmosphere it provides for students of all backgrounds. 

While sexual harassment, abuse, and gender-based discrimination are not unique to our campus, the importance of highlighting the available support for students is at an all time high, especially amidst a global pandemic.

A 2019 Cornell survey reported that 50% of a random sample of 6,000 respondents said that “they have experienced one or more specific forms of harassing behaviors.” While sexual harassment, abuse, and gender-based discrimination are not unique to our campus, the importance of highlighting the available support for students is at an all time high, especially amidst a global pandemic. Although Cornell’s existing programs and resources are a great start for marginalized students, Cornell’s resources have become stretched too thin to the point that many students are unaware of what is available to them, including access to confidential reporters in the wake of sexual abuse or harassment.

Cornell’s Women’s Resource Center (WRC) remains a hidden gem with the potential to help many students provided they are aware of the resources it can offer them. Located on the second floor of Willard Straight Hall (WSH 209) in Ho Plaza, the WRC is a cozy and welcoming space for all. The mission of the WRC “​​is to foster a more vibrant campus community by supporting the full and active participation of women-identified students in both their personal and educational pursuits at Cornell. The WRC champions endeavors that support women’s education, empowerment, and advancement at Cornell and beyond.” The WRC especially caters to the needs of queer, BIPOC, low-income, first-generation, students and students with disabilities. 

The WRC contains resources and handouts with information on dating, sexual wellbeing and health, healthy relationships, sexual abuse and violence, and various local agencies in Tompkins county. In addition, staff members Greta and Shura both serve as confidential reporters for individuals who are looking for help, advice, or are unsure of next steps in the wake of sexual assault, violence, or harrassment. Confidential reporting is different from anonymous reporting in that “​​conversations with these confidential resources are kept private and, except in rare circumstances, will not be shared without your explicit permission. Even those university officials who cannot guarantee confidentiality, such as the Title IX office, will maintain a person’s privacy to the greatest extent possible.”

The mission of the WRC “​​is to foster a more vibrant campus community by supporting the full and active participation of women-identified students in both their personal and educational pursuits at Cornell.

The Center contains over a thousand intersectional feminist books such as Toni Morrison’s novels to theory by Angela Davis and personal essays by Roxane Gay. In addition to offering a safe physical space, the Center offers tangible resource such as menstrual products and safer sex supplies (condoms, lube, etc…). If you are in a midday lull, stop by to take a nap on the Center’s couches or snag a handful of candy and a cup of tea.  

The Center also offers different programs and events ranging from vision board making to spoken word workshops. A few programs that took place this fall included Sex in the Dark (an anonymous virtual event where professional sexperts answered any questions about sex and sexual wellbeing) and Build Wealth in College (a workshop during which BIPOC and first-generation college students learned the various ways that they can build their net worth through entrepreneurship, collective economics while living in their dorms). Check out @wrc.cornell on Instagram for updates and more information weekly about which programs are occurring. 

If you’re interested in getting involved with the WRC through our program Friends of the WRC. Any questions can be sent to: wrc@cornell.edu