Director Of The WRC Creates A Safe Haven In McElroy
Published: Sunday, November 11, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
Entering McElroy Commons from the front doors, students are bombarded with many sights: the campus Apple store to the immediate right, the staircase and its well-covered walls, the lounge area, the small hallway leading to the ATMs, and other students bumping into them from all sides during busy hours. With so much to take in, the average student’s vision prescribes a path directly toward the staircase so he or she can get in and get out without feeling overwhelmed. Amidst the hectic atmosphere, it is easy to overlook some of the important rooms on the first floor. One such room is the office of the Women’s Resource Center (WRC). Located behind the Apple store, the WRC is a place that offers quite a lot to those who seek to learn more about gender issues and participate in shaping Boston College’s culture. Even if you are too busy to become involved with the WRC, the office is a friendly and open place to visit when you are in the mood for a chat about social justice or even just for free cookies every Monday.
Besides the friendly chats and the Monday cookies, the WRC fills a real and present need at BC by addressing issues that both men and women face on a day-to-day basis. Many students at BC value conversations regarding body image, sexual harassment, disordered eating habits, "the cult of perfection," and self-esteem. There is a subtle but sure pressure underlying BC’s culture to be, look, and act a certain way, and this pressure often brings about negative consequences. Many young women and men confess that their own reflections do not match with the ideal image they see in their mental "Mirror of Erised," and fall into certain patterns of eating and exercising to produce an image of self that others expect from them. One famous example of this issue is "getting food by association." When a medium to large-sized group of girls go eat at a dining hall and one or two girls take the straight path to the salad bar, you can see the other girls linger around the other food lines before eventually walking over to the salad bar. The culture of body image dissatisfaction is only one of many gender-related issues. Standard statistics reveal that one in four women during their college years, and one in 33 men, are victims of an attempted or actual rape. Other issues, though there are many more, include over-exercising, lack of self-esteem, and resulting feelings of isolation when the invisible standards are not met. Needless to say, most students can probably relate to some of these issues, and the WRC is a common ground where students can meet to have the much-needed conversations about their personal struggles and work to create awareness about these issues.
Katie Dalton has been the WRC’s director and guiding force since 2010. Coming from a family of all BC graduates, Dalton herself attended BC and made her home here. She described BC as not only a "place where I developed my identity and sense of self" but also a "mission driven institution" where strong beliefs in social justice, solidarity, and equality are encouraged and instilled within the hearts of the students. She found that her role as the WRC’s director and her actions to address women’s issues is her specific calling in the context of the school’s mission. Dalton has a strong passion for women’s rights and gender issues that stems from her own experience with gender discrimination in athletics, a still male-dominated playing field in which a woman has to strive harder for equal recognition.
Under Dalton’s guidance, the WRC has stepped up to create greater awareness of gender issues all around campus. In her words, one of the greatest accomplishments of the WRC since her time here is that it has been able to "elevate the issue of sexual violence on campus." She believes that "the large attendance at Take Back the Night in April was affirmation that BC understands the importance of this issue and is willing to unite to address it." For those who did not attend, Take Back the Night was an event held in O’Neill Plaza that brought to light the issue of sexual abuse. The night was especially centered on three women who took the stage to share their personal testimonies about the violence that women face. The event succeeded in creating a safe place where people could share stories, celebrate survivors, and begin to end violence against women. Not only that, Dalton has also shaped the Bystander Intervention Education program into a pervasive presence on campus. Through this program, students are trained to deliver an hour-long presentation to various BC groups (residence halls, club sports groups, volunteer organizations, etc.), inspiring the student body to be responsible and active when they witness violent or unsafe situations that can result in sexual harassment. "The Bystander Intervention Education team has done an unbelievable job educating the student body of the ways in which they can create a community of care on campus," Dalton stated.
Despite her great accomplishments, Dalton is extremely humble and always seeks to pay the highest compliment to the WRC’s staff. She is also accessible to the student body and admits that the best part about working at the WRC is being "allowed to walk with the students in their journeys at BC."