Freshly-painted orange walls in the Yale Women’s Center are the first signs of what the organization’s board hopes will soon be a more popular spot on campus.
In an effort to broaden its campus appeal this year, the Yale Women’s Center board is revamping its physical space at 198 Elm Street. The renovations include painting the walls, buying new furniture and decorating the site with memorabilia from the Center’s previous events and former members — updates aimed at transforming the Center from a meeting spot to a welcoming hangout location.
Melanie Boyd ’90, advisor to the Women’s Center and assistant dean of student affairs, said this year’s board is committed to building strong relationships with other campus groups and working on a broad range of social justice, gender and sexuality issues. The Center has also added operating hours during weekday afternoons this fall, Boyd said.
The Center was only open 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. Monday through Thursday during 2010-’11, according to last year’s constituency coordinator Laura Blake ’12.
Boyd said she is excited for the Center’s renovations and hopes more students will visit once the redecoration is completed.
“When I was an undergraduate, people — men as well as women — spent much more casual time there,” Boyd said in a Thursday email. “It was a great place to go between classes to get a little work done or just to catch up with friends. It’s a shame to use the space only for meetings.”
Women’s Center public relations coordinator Alexsis Johnson ’12 said in an email that the board is hoping to finish the renovations by the end of November, adding that they will “definitely” be completed by the end of the fall semester. The project is funded by the Women’s Center endowment budget, she added.
Although the Center has spent most of its energy in the recent past handling issues of sexual misconduct, Boyd said this fall’s introduction of Communication and Consent Educators — undergraduates who facilitate discussion about sexual culture on campus — has given the Center more time to pursue other projects. In addition to refurbishing the Center with newspaper clippings, photos and diary entries from past board members, Johnson said the board plans to purchase rugs, amenities such as magazine subscriptions, a coffee and tea maker, and a “ton of snacks.”
“We’ve been working this year to invite all Yale students into the Women’s Center and we want to make sure that the physical space echoes our open invitation,” Johnson said. “We’re working to make the Center a warm place that can be easily utilized as a meeting space but also a space to hang out, study and take a break.”
Julie Zhu ’12, an art major who was commissioned by the Center to organize the new decorations, said she hopes redesigning the space will make it more accessible to most Yalies. Though Zhu said few students currently frequent the Center as a hangout, she added that the renovations could give the space a “unique and quirky” feel.
“I think [that feel] would be fitting for the Women’s Center,” she said.
Aside from implementing its physical renovations, Johnson said the Center is also aiming to expand its relationships with different cultural centers this year. The Center plans to hold community dinners with Yale’s various cultural houses, which will function as forums for discussing issues relevant to both minority communities and women on campus.
Karmen Cheung ’13, head coordinator for the Asian American Cultural Center at Yale, said she would “definitely” consider attending these dinners. Issues the Women’s Center has chosen to address in the past have often aligned with issues relevant to Yale’s minority communities, she added, and both groups would benefit from increased collaboration.
The Women’s Center is open from 2–8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 1–4 p.m. Sunday.