The College is moving forward with a controversial plan to merge the Women’s Resource Center (WRC) and the Resource Center for Gender and Sexual Diversity (RCGSD) in spite of widespread opposition from student directors in both centers. 

The two centers—which currently share the space at 24 College Street—will become the Center for Gender and Sexuality starting on July 1. Its directors will be Kate Stern, associate director of student affairs and director of the RCGSD, as well as Leana Amaez, associate dean of students for diversity and inclusion. In their new positions as associate deans of students for diversity, the two will oversee several other centers as well. Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster announced the changes on Tuesday afternoon via a campus-wide email.

Current WRC student director Diamond Walker ’17 expressed concerns that the merger decision was made by administrators without student input.

“If they were really concerned about the needs of women on campus and the needs of LGBTQ students on campus, they would have come to us and asked us what would be best for us instead of talking to each other,” said Walker. 

Last fall, administrators held a meeting with student directors from the WRC and the RCGSD to solicit input on the issue. Associate Dean of Student Affairs and Director of the David Saul Smith Union Allen Delong was present along with Stern. 

“It became really clear that students were committed to maintaining the model that we have and that’s really hard—that’s hard for everyone because we’re moving towards a new model,” said Delong. 

In his email, Foster expressed hope that the merger would be an opportunity for the College to better address issues of gender and sexuality in an intersectional manner. 

“Leana and Kate have distinguished themselves as leaders on the topic of diversity and inclusion, as educators, advocates, trainers, role models, and mentors. This realignment of responsibilities allows them to work with a talented team of professionals to think broadly about difference—including race, ethnicity, religion, class, first-generation status, gender, sexuality, disability, and political ideology,” he wrote.  

Pat Toomey ’17, a former RCGSD student director, expressed concern that the merger was wrongfully conflating two separate issues. 

“There’s a problem with assuming that women’s issues and issues of gender should automatically be lumped into a box with queer issues,” Toomey said. 

Walker also expressed concern that the merger posed a threat to student identities.

“The identities of all the students involved would be at risk,” said Walker. “It’s sort of like if we were just going to merge LASO [the Latin American Student Organization] and the Af-Am [African American Society]. You can’t do that.”

Delong said that the merger will increase the availability of administrators to students as Stern moves from a part time position to a more full-time one. 

“There will be more staff time committed to the center than was available [before],” he said. 

As part of the new merger, Stern and Amaez with be supervising the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, the Student Center for Multicultural Life, and Upward Bound in addition to the newly reconceptualized Center for Gender and Sexuality. Those offices will retain their current directors, while Stern and Amaez will serve as the directors for the Center for Gender and Sexuality. 

Amanda Spiller ’17, a current WRC student staff member, expressed concern about how the center will be run. 

“Dean Amaez and Kate Stern will be leading all the centers on campus and reconceptualizing a whole new center? It seems like too much work,” she said. “It’s hard to get an appointment with Dean Amaez now … she has so much to do already.”

Amaez, however, is enthusiastic to take on her new role. 

“We have this really exciting moment in time,” she said. “To look at the Women’s March and the message of solidarity—it was incredibly intersectional. And the recognition that in order to move forward on an agenda that respects the rights of women, you have to also respect the rights of other [minority] groups.” 

With the WRC currently receiving around twice as much money as the RCGSD, there are questions about what funding will look like going forward. 

Stern unequivocally affirmed that there will be no loss in funds.

“Is there going to be less money? No,” she said. 

Spiller was also displeased by the lack of transparency throughout this process. 

“We had no idea what the structure was going to look like until Dean Foster sent out that email—and we’d been asking. That’s a problem,” said WRC staff member Amanda Spiller. “The administration just moves forward with things at Bowdoin that students aren’t a part of when students are the most integral aspect of these corners of campus. The administration has not given us answers.”

Toomey, who had expressed concern that the integration of the two centers would alienate gay men on campus, felt ignored during and after the meeting with the administration last fall. 

“I felt that our student concerns were being totally ignored by the administration and—especially as a gay male—I felt really not listened to and marginalized,” he said. 

Other students disagreed. Adam Glynn ’17, a student director at the RCGSD, sees the more intersectional approach as a step in the right direction. 

“It’s a given that there are just so many different subgroups of what queer is. It’s famously been said that there are as many genders as there are people,” said Glynn. “And if we were to have a student group for every different sexual and gender identity and if we had every student group for every nuance we would have a lot of student groups.”

While Glynn still expressed disapproval with the manner in which administrators went about making the decision, he sees name changes as ultimately not that important.

“I feel sometimes that the queer community at Bowdoin is lacking [but] I don’t feel like it’s up to a room or a title of a center or one administrative staff to change that—I really think it’s up to the students,” he said. 

Meg Robbins contributed to this report.