KSUM Heats Up Struggle Against Gynocentrism

Dr. Bob Mattox is one of the Assistant Deans of Kennesaw State University, and an authority over the KSU Women’s Resource and Interpersonal Violence Prevention Center (WRC). I sat down with Dr. Mattox, Mrs. Wilson (the director of the WRC) and Dr. Gunn (The director of counseling) to discuss renaming the WRC. A record of the meeting is available for review, with KSUM (prospective) advisor names bleeped out for reasons related to preserving organizational stability. (EDIT: The meeting recording link is broken. Will re-upload when the KSUM YouTube channel is redeveloped).

Given my previous discussions with the Non-Normative Anti-Assimilationist Students of KSU and Dean of Student Success Dr. Sansiviro, my initial impression was that the WRC was simply an IPV counseling center with an arbitrary gynocentric sign slapped on the front. That impression was close, but not quite right. Turns out that the WRC is a neutral IPV center with aggregate services for women that distort the brand.

For those of you unaware of the story leading up to this meeting, I met Mrs. Wilson briefly when attending KSU’s Love Your Body week. In that chance discussion, I learned that the WRC had services available for men as well. Obviously, one of KSUM’s activist missions was set to changing the name of the WRC to reflect services rendered. As I state in the video above summarizing the meeting, the WRC combines two functions that can be found in the first two bullets of the WRC mission statement:

  • Advocacy and support for members of the KSU community who are survivors of sexual assault and other forms of interpersonal violence.
  • Training and education on a variety of topics that address women’s and gender issues.

The branding is in a catch-22. If the name stays how it is, campus men will be unaware of the support available to them according to the first bullet point. If the name changes to simply “Interpersonal Violence Prevention Center,” then women on campus would be unaware of the female-specific programs in the center. Mrs. Wilson mentioned these services included helping women transition to a career with a child at home, or things of that nature.

Dr. Mattox responded to my concerns about campus engagement with preliminary talk of reorganization by late 2015. New buildings are under construction all over campus since KSU has acquired tons of capital from its ongoing Southern Polytech State University (SPSU) acquisition. The merge is a game changer across the entire state of Georgia. SPSU is predominantly male university with strong engineering programs, but a small student population of about 6,000. In Fall 2011 (when SPSU did the last release of its fact book), 4590 of 5784 students were male (79%).  KSU is currently a predominantly female campus (~60%) with 24,604 students by Fall 2012.

The new KSU student body, assuming these numbers remain roughly the same by next year, is estimated to be 29,194 with a 50.7% male population. The estimation will simply have to be loose given the lack of up-to-date information from SPSU, but we can conclude that the gender population gap on campus is closing.

KSU’s adaption to the 50/50 split, according to Mattox, is to isolate the IPV Center from the women’s resource division. This would leave the IPV center as the gender neutral entity it was supposed to be in the first place, and put the WRC in its own location. Title IX was the next topic off my tongue. While I am personally unconvinced that a gender-centric center would accomplish anything other university services could not, I wanted to make sure that a men’s center had a presence if a women’s center was available.

Mattox told me that a men’s center is in KSU’s future.

But given that the IPV center has gynocentric aggregated functionality with no equivalent male aggregate, counsel will be contacted once more to discuss KSU’s current Title IX standing. Mattox defended the name as being useful for traditional reasons, and since every other campus in the University System of Georgia is doing the same thing. Erin Pizzey was kind enough to talk to me on the phone before my meeting. Considering that she was the person who started the tradition, her “LOL wut” was remarkably useful in blowing Maddox’s appeal to popularity and tradition out of the water.

But it turns out these IPV administrators never heard of Pizzey.

I have suggested that KSUM act as a future volunteer pool for the reorganization effort, because KSUM is meant to be a place for action, not commentary. In exchange, the administration will offer assistance in seeking tenured academic advisors who are not afraid of political ramifications. The search will extend to SPSU, where the faculty is certain to have more experience with men.

The meeting with Mattox, Gunn and Wilson has opened many incredible opportunities for KSUM to make KSU a more equitable community.

But as always, KSUM remains an ongoing story. Every accomplishment contributes to a lasting presence on campus, and therefore a proven model for a grassroots activist organization.

Renaming the Women’s Resource Center

Both male and female victims of domestic violence not only deserve help, but deserve knowing full well that help is available.

Shameka Wilson, Director of the KSU Women’s Resource and Interpersonal Violence Prevention Center, has told me during the recent Love Your Body Week that renaming the center to something gender neutral was “one of her battles.” The gender studies coordinator Laura Davis and the Interdisciplinary studies chair Robbie Lieberman were aware of Wilson’s position toward the name when I approached them about the GWST program’s reading materials.

Male victims should not be led to believe that no services are available to them due to “Women” being in the name of the center. What good is offering support if half of the student population does not know you offer it?

Male victimization is by no means a negligible problem. In fact, on the top floor of the Social Science building, a directed study report on the often unreported IPV victimization of males can be found in the hall to the right of the elevators. I emailed the contact and got some references on male victimization for your review.

IPV study in Kennesaw State University Social Science building
IPV study in KSU Social Science building

Some may wonder: Should KSU Men’s name change under those same standards? No. KSUM specializes in men, and we allow other organizations that specialize in women to do what they wish to support women. But the WRC is a state-funded center with obligations to the public, not just to women.

Back on March 10th, I emailed Mrs. Wilson to follow up on what it would take to rename the center. She did not reply for two weeks, so I tried sending the email again on March 25th. The email read as follows:

Shameka,

This is Sage. I am the redhead you met at Southern Smash last Wednesday. We spoke briefly about a unisex name for the WRC, and you told me that it was “one of your fights.”
As someone who knows male victims that struggled (and sometimes still struggle) to find help as victims of IPV or rape, I know it is vitally important for these men to know help is available.
I am connected with a large network of human rights activists concerned about the issues facing men and boys, and I am sure we can help you rename the Women’s Resource & Interpersonal Violence Prevention Center to something gender neutral so that both men and women can have a place to go in their time of need.
Would you kindly tell me what exactly needs to be done to rename the center?
Regards,
Sage
On March 26th, Mrs. Wilson replied:

Hi Sage,

I don’t think the fight is renaming the Women’s Resource and Interpersonal Violence Prevention Center but creating a safe space for men to receive the resources and support they need to move from victims of interpersonal violence to survivors. The Women’s Resource Center at KSU aims to serve women in a holistic way by providing life skills, academic, and personal support in other areas other than interpersonal violence, so I think it’s safe to say the name won’t go anywhere.

However, you have made some very valid points as I too know males who have been victims of interpersonal violence. Let the men you come across know they get up to 10 free sessions at the Counseling Center here on campus and they are certainly welcome to set-up an appointment with me as well. Please let me know if there is something I can do to assist these students.

Best,
Shameka

Mrs. Wilson’s response, while well-meaning, does not solve the problem of male displacement. The WRC’s current name would be appropriate if Title IX was not being enforced and the center was truly specialized in women, but the name makes it harder for male victims to find help because they get a clear impression that the center is for women alone.

The failure to reach out to men is a failing of KSU. It is not our job to seek out individual men one by one and do free marketing for KSU, it is to see to it that symmetrical services and promotion are offered so that KSU does not have an excuse to ignore men.

Davis and Lieberman are unaware of who is capable of renaming the center, but Wilson has not responded to my last inquiry to find that decision maker:

Hi Mrs. Wilson,

While I would be happy to point victimized men your way, I still find a name change to be vitally important to creating a more informed and engaged student body.
I understand changing the name of a center can be a complicated process that involves lots of printing and publishing news stories, but the investment would be worth giving all victims the help they need.
There is no rush, of course, and my organization would be willing to help KSU see this through. Do you know who I can contact to petition changing the name of the center?
Thanks,
Sage

That email was sent on March 27th. It is now April 12th, and there is still no reply.

Shameka Wilson said that changing the name of the center was a “battle.”

Who is she fighting, and why would they fight her?