In the absence of a women’s centre, women on campus currently use the Student Wellness Centre, among other student services.

The newly established Ad-Hoc Committee for the Women and Trans* Centre met for the first time on Nov. 6. The committee, which was created through a motion at the Oct. 14 SRA meeting, is focused on establishing whether or not there is a need for such a centre on campus. Elise Milani, SRA Services Commissioner and the committee chair, was pleased with the first meeting.

“It was a great turnout,” she said of the twenty-plus people who attended. The attendees came from a number of different areas of the university, including the MSU and the Graduate Students’ Association, as well external organizations, such as the YWCA and SACHA, a women’s centre located in downtown Hamilton.

There is currently no service of this kind that exists on or near the McMaster campus. Mac did have a women’s centre from 1979 to 1985, but it was closed because it had allegedly ceased to be an open and inclusive space.

At their inaugural meeting, the committee established an action plan to follow in the coming weeks and months. In the midst of increasing reports of sexual assault on university campuses, including Ryerson and York, Milani and others feel that a women and trans* centre would fill a need not currently addressed by other health-related services on campus.

In order to assess the need, the committee will seek input and information from a variety of groups. Affiliates of both the YWCA and SACHA will be compiling information about violence on campus, while student groups, including I am Woman and Feminist Alliance McMaster, will be invited to provide different perspectives.

“We’ll basically just find out if there’s anyone that has anything to say to it, because we shouldn’t just target certain groups because we think they’d be interested,” Milani explained. “You don’t know what people’s different stories are and what they hear in different environments.”

The committee hopes to work with the Office of Human Rights and Equity Services in order to get further information from advocates of trans issues on campus as well.

“It’s not just focused on women,” Milani noted. “We need to get that part of the story as well.”

The plan is to complete the assessment by the end of January, at which point the committee will report back to the SRA.

“And if we establish a need,” she said, “we’ll move forward from there.”

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