Open Forum for campus gender issues

By Colette-Janae Buck, Contributing Writer

EWU students, staff and faculty members concerned with campus gender issues are invited to share their thoughts with EWU’s Women’s Commission during a forum on April 1.

The forum is a two-hour long open event where students and other campus community members can stop in and share their concerns regarding campus gender issues and gender inequality with members of the commission.

According to Pui-Yan Lam, Ph.D., chair of the EWU Women’s Committee, the committee is an advisory body to the president of EWU that acts as a liaison between the campus community and the president. Lam is a professor in the sociology department.

Founded by former university President Alexander F. Schilt in 1988, the committee meets and consults EWU students, staff and faculty three times a year in their quarterly meetings. It reports the most prevalent concerns regarding gender equality to the president where action is then taken to resolve the concerns.

“We want to make sure the ideas the committee has represents the ideas of the community,” said Lam. “We don’t want to assume we know what’s going on or what gender issues are happening.”

Although regular quarterly committee meetings are open to the public, Lam said the reasoning behind holding an open, publicized forum was because the committee feels many people might be uncomfortable approaching the committee in that formal setting.

“We believe by having our open forum it makes it clear to the campus community that everyone can come,” said Lam.

EWU senior and student committee member Estephany Fuentes said being part of the women’s commission empowers her and allows her to make a difference.

“As a Latina I feel like a lot of my needs are not met,” Fuentes said. “Just being a part of this committee has made me feel like I’m changing something, because I’m putting my perspective out instead of just the staff or faculty’s.”

The forum is structured with a casual and relaxed atmosphere in mind. “We tried to do the forum in a way that was less intimidating and is most convenient for everyone,” Lam said.

During the two hour period, some of the twelve student, staff and faculty committee members will sit at multiple tables in the PUB multipurpose room where forum attendees can join them to discuss their ideas for EWU policy changes that will be covered at later committee meetings.

Specific topics will not be held during the forum because Lam said providing a structure would limit the ideas shared. “We are trying not to impose topics,” said Lam. “If we did we would run the risk of not hearing all the issues people wanted to bring up, because they thought it didn’t fit the topic.”

Instead Lam said the committee placed topics on their event posters hoping to help spark ideas for students to bring and discuss at the forum. Topics can range from women’s campus safety to general gender equality. “It could be anything,” Lam said.

Topics will also be posted at tables for students to speak on, however, students are not limited to the topics stated on the flyers or the tables.

If students are still not comfortable with speaking directly to a committee member, Lam said feedback forms will be available for students to fill out at the forum.

Fuentes said she hopes her fellow students will attend the commission forum and become more involved, even if they do not share their ideas at the forum. “I just want [students] to gain involvement, especially women,” Fuentes said. “It doesn’t matter your background or ethnicity, just be more involved.”

All genders are welcome to the forum and are encouraged to share their thoughts, experiences and ideas to help make EWU a more welcoming place.

“It’s not just about women, more broadly it’s about gender equality,” said Lam. “We want the campus community as a whole to know that they have a voice, and that they have a committee to represent their concerns.”