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Penn Women’s Center offers new opportunities for freshmen and students looking to get involved in feminism and equality on campus. 

Credit: File Photo

This fall, the Penn Women’s Center hopes to continue promoting gender equity within a dynamic and changing campus community.

The Office of Sexual Violence Prevention and Education, an independent department housed in the Division of the Vice Provost of University Life and supported by the Penn Women's Center, has expanded from one to three full-time staff members. Director Jessica Mertz has served in her role in the office since 2014, while Malik Washington and Katie Chockley have recently joined as associate director and program coordinator respectively.

While the Women’s Center previously handed responsibilities for violence prevention over to this office, the center still remains as a site for immediate crisis response.

Apart from the changes in the educational office, the Women’s Center has also been working with its flagship group, Penn Association for Gender Equity, to roll out new initiatives. This includes the Freshman Fellows program which invites five freshmen to build their own understanding of feminism by joining the communities at PAGE and the Penn Women’s Center. The program includes participation in general board meetings, as well as in more specialized cohort sessions where attendees will discuss issues such as transnational feminism and allyship.

“Every year we have underclassmen and freshmen in particular who want to get involved with the feminist community on campus,” said PAGE Chair and Wharton senior Megan Yan, the former business manager of The Daily Pennsylvanian. However, it can be difficult for freshmen to immerse themselves fully in these communities where high involvement can be limited to members of a steering board.

“We want to make sure there is an organization and space for underclassmen to explore feminism and be involved with campus efforts,” Yan said.

Applications for the program are due on Sept. 9 and open to all students. PAGE emphasizes the openness of their invitation – a message which the Women’s Center reiterated to the incoming batch of 2020.

“The Penn Women’s Center, despite its name, is a center for students of all genders, including those for whom gender is fluid,” Director Felicity Paxton said. “We welcome anyone interested in gender equity.”

Students can learn more about gender equity at the Women’s Center Open House, scheduled on Sept. 30, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. They can also attend events at Penn Spectrum Weekend, a conference scheduled from Sept. 23-25.

The conference, which is held once every three years, focuses on issues important to minority alumni and student communities. This is the first time that the Women’s Center was fully engaged with the planning of the conference, organizing events such as the opening luncheon on “Diverse Women and Leadership.” Students can attend all events at the conference by registering online for $10.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the Office of Sexual Violence Prevention and Education became an independent department over the summer. It actually became its own department in 2014. The article previously misstated the time of the Penn Women's Center open house. The actual time of the open house is 2 to 4 p.m. on Sept. 30. The DP regrets the errors.

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