November 22, 2001

Women's Resource Center Pressures Administration

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Kelly Connison, director of the Cornell Women’s Resource Center, is accustomed to moving from place to place. While growing up, her parents served in the Navy, and since graduating from Louisiana State University, Connison had been through Louisiana, Oregon and South Carolina before settling at Cornell this semester.

Connison will learn on Monday whether her stay in Ithaca lasts beyond June 2002, when Susan H. Murphy ’73, vice president for student and academic services issues a decision on funding Connison’s position with the Women’s Resource Center (CWRC).

“You will hear from me Monday,” Murphy said yesterday during an impromptu meeting with Connison and three members of the CWRC advisory board.

A month-long campaign to raise awareness about and cultivate support for CWRC culminated yesterday in Murphy’s office when advisory board members Rose Kwok ’02, Olivia Ramirez ’02, Connie Wong ’03 and Connison handed over more than 1,500 cards — signed by students urging the administration to fund the position — to Murphy.

The group from the advisory board had tried to contact Murphy earlier in order to meet with her prior to the Monday deadline (and before students would begin leaving from the Thanksgiving break today), but a meeting could not be arranged.

Leaving a meeting with Kent Hubbell, dean of students, yesterday to see the group, Murphy commended the organization.

“[They] have been busy,” Murphy said. “I give them credit for doing a broad-based advocacy campaign.”

“We are going to take [the decision] very seriously,” she said.

Since 1998, the CWRC director has had to petition the Student Assembly (S.A.) to retain the position, which some say is integral to the Center’s long-term survival. University administrators are now reviewing the role of the CWRC — which has been operating since the 1970s — to determine whether to fund the director’s salary.

Some have been openly critical of that decision-making process for being too closed off from the public. For instance, S.A. President Uzo Asonye ’02 requested a release of the budgets for the Offices of Student and Academic Services and the Dean of Students last week.

“None of us has ever met with her (Murphy) before, [and] I think that our input is very important,” Wong said yesterday.

Administrators have met with Connison and S.A. representatives, who effectively set the Monday deadline when they recommended that the University cover the CWRC director’s salary. But Wong asserted that Murphy and Hubbell could not make an accurate and informed decision without hearing the perspective of the students who have served on the CWRC advisory board.

“We have grown with the Center, and the Center has grown with us,” Wong said. “We give a unique perspective.”

After delivering the cards to Murphy, the students expressed optimism that they will ultimately achieve their objectives for CWRC, but they are preparing for either outcome after Monday’s decision.

“I’m kind of disappointed that they haven’t contacted us during the time that they had to think about it,” Kwok said, though pleased with the meeting yesterday morning.

The effort to convince the University to assume the CWRC director’s salary began with an e-mail campaign targeting Murphy and Hubbell. The group then moved to gathering letters of support from 33 different student organizations, and supporters across campus started collecting cards from individual students around Nov. 4.

The CWRC advisory board will determine what step to take next at its meeting scheduled subsequent to Murphy’s announcement.

“Depending on her response Monday, we might have to come up with a fourth step,” Connison said.

The board is set to begin planning for spring semester programming, but until they hear from the administration board members are keeping the meeting’s agenda clear.

Archived article by Matthew Hirsch