“My impressions of BYU’s decision to discontinue its WRI? In a word: denial. In a picture or icon: head in the sand,” said Peggy Pasin, coordinator of UVU’s Women’s Resource Center.
There has been a good deal of criticism circulating with regard to the discontinuation of BYU’s Women’s Research Institute (WRI). Skepticism prevails, considering that the only given explanation for its dissolution is that by streamlining the current program, it will miraculously be strengthened.
Those directly and negatively affected by this decision have many valid concerns, such as how this move will affect the outside perception of LDS attitudes about women, seeing as how no U.S. university has closed its women’s research center in over 20 years.
“The explanation of streamlining is a non-answer; whether or not it is intentional, it sends a message and leads people to an inevitable conclusion,” said Shannon Mussett, associate professor of Philosophy and Gender Studies coordinator at UVU.
BYU students and friends circulated a petition with hopes of replacing the WRI with a “women’s research council,” which would be a more unified and collaborative entity, although they are still waiting for a response.
But what is the status of women’s research on our own campus?
UVU has the Women’s Resource Center, maintained by the devoted Peggy Pasin, and this year the university and other sources have sponsored the Women and Education Project (WEP) headed by Dr. Susan R. Madsen, associate professor of management.
With only one small resource center, and a two-year women’s research project, will we be able to create an environment in which real work on women’s studies can be done? It is only natural to be suspicious of the long-term effectiveness of these meager, though noble, undertakings. Although the WEP will be undoubtedly effective, sustained women’s research is needed for optimal results, and since it seems BYU is now far less concerned with these endeavors, where does that leave the women of Utah?
Coincidentally, a few days prior to BYU’s controversial announcement, a proposal for the UCWEL (Utah Center for Women’s Education and Leadership) began developing at UVU to extend the concept of the WEP further than two years.
If funded, the center would begin performing research on women’s issues in Utah next fall, acting as an educational resource by developing intervention strategies including peer mentoring, career exploration and summer bridge programs, and encouraging leadership development through offering exposure to established leaders in many fields.
“Everyone we’ve talked to supports the idea, but when everything is laid out, is there enough funding to support it?”
Madsen said. “This is a really challenging time since the institution’s funding has been cut and because of the economy. If UVU decides to support the proposal, it will be a major statement from our institution.”
“Whether or not something like this could grow effectively into a center with a broader mission remains to be seen but it is certainly worthy of consideration,” said President Holland about the proposal.
Funding aside, the UCWEL could provide a significant resource that would fill the hole left by the “streamlining” of BYU’s WRI.