24 College has been a part of the Bowdoin community for 37 years. The upcoming merger between the Women’s Resource Center (WRC) and the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity (RCSGD) marks a new, contested chapter of a rich history.

The house at 24 College was inaugurated as the WRC in the spring of 1980, about a decade after coeducation and almost immediately after the former Young family residence was acquired by the college. The Bowdoin Women’s Association, created by students in the early years of coeducation to advocate for more female faculty and equality in the infirmary, moved from its office in Coles Tower into the building and established a 300-volume library of books written by or about women.

LGBTQ students found a home at the center as well: they had a room at 24 College in the late 1980s and briefly in the mid-1990s prior to the creation of the Queer-Trans Resource Center in 2004, which later became the RCSGD. After 2004, both the WRC and RCSGD shared space within 24 College.   

According to a campus-wide email from Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster, the newly merged center will be a chance for the College to “think broadly about difference—including race, ethnicity, religion, class, first-generation status, gender, sexuality, disability, and political ideology.” Nonetheless, student workers in both centers expressed frustration with the change.

Bowdoin students are not without a history of thinking intersectionally—the very same semester that 24 College opened its doors, students created a new intersectional and progressive student publication called To The Root.

According to their first issue from February 6, 1980, To The Root was “a bi-monthly political newsletter sponsored collectively by the Afro-American Society, the Bowdoin Energy Research Group, the Bowdoin Women’s Association, and Struggle and Change.” By the second issue, the Gay-Straight Alliance had added their name to the publication.

To The Root tackled issues such as nuclear proliferation, feminism, lesbianism, the Persian Gulf and the draft in its first few issues. In its second issue, it praised the new WRC as a place for all Bowdoin students.

“The major goal of the center will be to serve the entire community, men as well as women,” the magazine wrote.

Bowdoin follows several peer schools in integrating its LGBTQ and women’s centers: Amherst has the Women’s and Gender Center, Carleton has the Gender and Sexuality center, and Macalester has the Gender & Sexuality Resource Center. Bowdoin will soon have its own Center for Gender and Sexuality. Current director of the Center for Sexual & Gender Diversity Kate Stern and Associate Dean of Students for Diversity and Inclusion Leana Amáez will lead the venture.

Still, other schools such as Swarthmore, Tufts and Middlebury, however, have all maintained distinct centers. At Texas A&M University, the LGBTQ and women’s centers were merged together in 2005 but split apart only two years later.  

"Though it was logical to merge the two departments to create a safe haven on campus for women and LGBTQ students, the visibility of the LGBTQ community as its own independent entity had been diminished, and there was a concern that the focus of the Women’s Center had been diluted as well,” reads the Texas A&M website.

In 1988, a minor in Women’s Studies was established, followed by a major in 1992. Prior to 2009, Women’s Studies faculty members had their offices in 24 College.   

In 2000, a minor in Gay and Lesbian Studies was added. When the Gender and Women’s Studies major became the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies major during the 2015-2016 academic year, the minor was folded into that program.

The WRC and RCSGD will officially merge on July 1. Next academic year, Stern and Amáez will take the positions of associate deans of students for diversity and will supervise 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.