Content Warning: The following story contains references to sexual assault and domestic violence.
There were about 2,500 women’s centers on higher education campuses in the 1980s. By 2019, there were only about 400 left.
Indigo Hinojos, a third-year undergraduate student in gender, race, and identity, casually learned that the University of Nevada, Reno had at one point, not too long ago, a resource center for women, and their interest was immediately piqued. The elusive and defunct WRC would continue to shape their undergraduate careers, leading them to pursue the study of women’s centers locally and nationally and the creation of an exhibit on the WRC as part of their undergraduate thesis. .
The Hinojos Research Exhibit will be held April 5 at 11 a.m. in the Joe Crowley Student Union, Room 402. Remarks will be given by Hinojos at the start of the event, but the exhibit will be open to the public until at 18 o’clock. evening. WRC T-shirts, diaries and newsletters from the center’s history will be on display.
Hinojos officially began conducting its research in February 2021, but has been interested in the subject since June 2020. The research was partially funded by the Nevada Undergraduate Research Award, which Hinojos has received annually during its research. Their status as a Ronald E. McNair Scholar has also helped Hinojos along the way with additional funding and resources.
“I’m very lucky to have the resources I have,” Hinojos said. “I love McNair. When I was accepted as a McNair Scholar, I don’t think I was so proud of myself.
As they began to explore the subject, one question quickly led to another, beginning with “what was the WRC?” and leading to “why was the WRC closed?” Hinojos turned to special collections and university archives to begin his research. Finding the first box of documents with a historical imprint or information about the center’s origins proved difficult. They interviewed former WRC directors and other members of the campus community who have a memory of the WRC.
“Only a handful of people remember the Women’s Resource Center, and finding any kind of evidence of its existence took over two months,” Hinojos said.
The History of the Women’s Resource Center on Campus
The WRC began as a dormitory, Artemesia Hall, which was exclusively for women attending college. Built in 1926, the dorm originally housed 80 women and remained a female dorm until the spring of 1967 when it became vacant. It remained vacant until it was demolished in September 1968. It was during this time, in the late 1960s, that the female resources of the University campus had to be housed elsewhere.
On September 5, 1980, the WRC opened its doors to the university community where Argenta Hall stands today, under the leadership of the first director, Jo Powell. This location made the WRC accessible and well known to students, as it was adjacent to the then student union, now the Jot Travis Building. Because the WRC now had its own dedicated property, it was able to provide a wealth of information, resources, services and support groups for university students and community members.
The WRC has provided resources for everyone, not just women, from every walk of life imaginable, including queer women, older women, mothers, queer men, women student leaders, women from all walks of life. socio-economic and racial backgrounds and pregnant people. He provided truly helpful and empowering resources to women who were part of the University community. It served as a place where women could meet and access information and resources on housing, childcare, gender discrimination, and sexual and domestic violence.
“They were bringing a female mechanic to campus to teach women how to fix cars,” says Hinojos.
The logs were maintained for approximately the first four years of the WRC’s existence as a dedicated campus resource. In these diaries, an entry was made each day, explaining what had happened in the WRC. They revealed to Hinojos that women weren’t the only people accepted into the WRC or taking advantage of its resources. She found that people of diverse gender and sexual identities were encouraged to use the WRC.
“There are a lot of entries saying men would come asking for resources and information on how to be a better partner or husband, especially if their wife was struggling through pregnancy, miscarriage or other difficult time” , said Hinojos.
The first closing of the WRC
When the need for more student accommodation became apparent on campus, the building that housed the WRC was demolished. Although the exact date of this demolition is unknown, Hinojos estimates the date to be between 2000 and 2001. It was around this time that the location of the WRC was moved to the basement of the Clark administration, although there is no exact date when the WRC entered and exited the building.
Over time, the WRC moved away from its former central campus location and moved to a house on Center Street, which is no longer on campus at all. According to Hinojos’ best estimates, in 2002 the WRC was closed for good.
The main reason for the permanent closure can be attributed to the lack of funding and many students not being aware of the existence of the WRC. After the location was moved off campus, students were not exposed to the WRC in the same way as they had been previously.
“It was a question of budget,” explains Hinojos, “and once the location was moved to the Center Street house, the students didn’t really know the WRC existed. The location was not as easily accessible as when it was in a building adjacent to the Student Union.
One of the last events held by the WRC before its closure in the early 2000s was a “Take Back the Night” event. Take Back the Night rallies were among the first events held, beginning in the 1970s, to bring attention to and combat sexual assault and domestic violence. This event was a rally for women on the University campus to protest the violence and fear they encountered and felt while walking alone at night.
Failed WRC reinstatements
Since the WRC’s permanent closure in the early 2000s, reintegration efforts were made roughly once every two years until 2017, according to Hinojos estimates. In 2010, the reintegration effort went further than it had ever done.
“The budget had been approved. A promising donor had pledged funds. The only step left to re-establish the WRC was to find a permanent space on campus that could house the new WRC,” Hinojos said.
In 2012, a statewide effort began that included other institutions in the Nevada higher education system to reestablish the WRC on the university’s campus and create women’s centers on other NSHE campuses. Similarly, in 2013, the people leading the effort to re-establish the WRC requested a permanent location to house the centre. The new name for the center would have been “Women’s Resource Center: Fostering Equity and Diversity.” In 2014, a salaried position was created for a WRC director.
None of these efforts ever came to fruition, and the most recent attempt uncovered by Hinojos was in 2017. Since then, convincing the University to prioritize funding for a women’s center has failed. Funding and finding a physical location on the university campus remain the biggest barriers to reintegration these days, says Hinojos.
Hinojos’ mentor, Lydia Huerta, was one of the most impactful and formative resources they had in conducting their research. Huerta, an interdisciplinary researcher and assistant professor at the University, guided Hinojos in their research methodologies and access to on-campus resources.
“I have always emphasized humanity and emotions when conducting research,” says Hinojos. “The people who made the WRC work and who worked so hard for the reintegration efforts were all individual people who experienced triumphs and defeats.”
While combing through existing archived records, documents and items related to the WRC, Hinojos compiled a list of people who have been mentioned, including university administrators, faculty, staff and students who are believed to be familiar. with the WRC and former WRC directors and employees. They then went through the list, interviewed and gained insight into the experiences of those who have worked or used the WRC.
In their research, the Hinojos have often tackled emotionally charged and exhausting subjects. The nature of Hinojos’ research presented them with heavy topics. The shirts that were made for the 1998 Take Back the Night rally are an example of what women faced while studying on the University campus, as they illustrate how the effects of violence sexual violence against women are deep and deep.
“Reading 32 different accounts of survivor stories is sobering,” says Hinojos. “It was one of the most exhausting parts of my research.”
The reality of women’s issues is often linked to the reality of violence. Survivors deserve on-campus resources. Hinojos research shows that these causes need advocates and that Women’s Resource Centers on college campuses are needed to address women’s specific issues.