Approximately 20 women gathered Friday afternoon to discuss ways to save the Gender Education program.
After the 2008-2009 school year, the program will be cut if it is not put on the official Women’s Resources and Research Center budget – something that organizers are fighting to make happen.
One of the most popular programs through the GE program is the self-defense class, which will be reduced from nine classes per year to three.
“We are left to fend for ourselves with nothing,” said Stephanie Robinson, a junior political science and history major. “Are they going to let us keep getting raped and assaulted?”
Since classes are so popular, Robinson did not get into the self-defense class until this quarter after trying for two years.
“I’ve had experiences that I would like to have used what I know now from the classes,” Robinson said. “I’m pissed. No one is going to fight for us except ourselves. If we can’t fight for ourselves, who will?”
The GE program started 1999 through a Department of Justice grant and has offered 330 classes and workshops to approximately 12,300 students, staff and faculty.
The program’s main cost is the GE specialist position, which is a full-time job paying $49,698 per year. Operating expenses average $12,000 for a total of $61,698, according to Peg Swain, director of the WRRC in an e-mail interview. These costs were maintained through the Campus Violence Prevention Program, physical education department and WRRC for the 2008-2009 school year.
“One of the biggest resources of the GE program is having the full-time position,” said Sarah Raridon, a junior gender studies major. “Having someone there that all genders can go to, connect to, share stories and point them in the direction of resources, that’s really the heart of the Gender Education program.”
Swain emphasized that the current GE specialist, Julienne Ratansen, has her hands full when it comes to her position.
“The GE Specialist recruited, trained and supervised 17 volunteer staff self-defense instructors, 17 course TAs and four workshop co-facilitators, and presented 60 educational programs on self-defense, safety or violence against women,” Swain said. “The GE specialist also advised individual students around rape aggression issues and advised a new student self-defense club.“
UC Davis has the highest reporting rate of sexual assaults and violence on campus, a direct result of women feeling comfortable enough to report violence through such programs that encourage women empowerment, said Laura Brown, Gender and Sexuality Commission chair.
Organizers spoke about the next steps in the near future, including constant protests and rallies to demonstrate that they are not willing to give up the GE program easily.
“We’re trying to get as much student support as possible,” Brown said. “Eventually when we talk to administration and are able to show just how many students are concerned with keeping the program, then we will be escalating [our campaign].”
Petitions have been passed around throughout campus along with a letter writing campaign that organizers hope to present to Fred Wood, vice chancellor of student affairs later this week or early next week.
ANGELA RUGGIERO can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.