Few schools have a Center for Gender Equality (CGE) quite as unique and active as Pacific University’s. Junior Kaira Bird, the co-chair of the center, explains that despite broad similarities among other centers, Pacific’s CGE is different in emphasizing events and spaces that promote a sense of appreciation and support of all gender expressions.
Kaira has been part of CGE since spring of 2017 and says that working there has been a incredibly meaningful experience.
“I am not satisfied just with busy work,” Bird said. “Working to help others find things they need or affirming their identity is really important to me.”
The center promotes different types of events, ranging from Human Body Canvas and National Masculinity Conference, to Mental Health Day. The work of staff members and project coordinators then varies from “contacting very important speakers, to going to Walmart to buy latex free balloons and filling them with flour to create stress balls,” Bird noted with a laugh.
One of CGE’s main missions is to help students have information and access to all the resources available to them on campus. This includes free STI testing, free condoms and free sexual health care through the Student Health Center.
CGE is currently entering a new phase as their founder, Professor Martha Rampton, is retiring at the end of this academic year. She established CGE in 2001 and has said this transitional period now feels like “a mother sending her kid off to college.”
Bird points out that CGE values having a variety of perspectives in all of their programs, but there are some obstacles. “Unfortunately men on campus don’t reach out to CGE very often,” Bird said.
This semester, the center was looking to hire at least one man for a staff position, but they received no applications.
“People often think the center is for everyone except men,” Bird said. “But we want to have their input in everything we do as well.”
In one of the current gender studies classes, Bird reports that of 28 students, 26 of them are women. The center also seeks more cultural diversity among their staff members. Because of the demographics of Pacific students, most of the applicants for CGE are white.
“Your experience of gender and society is so different in different cultures and we want our programming to recognize that and be supportive of people who have these different experiences,” Bird explained.
Bird said that universities across the country have been experiencing a “sense of apathy” among students, and a “culture of complaining” without engagement. This makes the creation of events difficult, because not many students are participating or show interest. However, CGE wants Pacific students to know they have resources, and all they need to do is reach out. “Anybody, truly anybody, is welcome on our spaces,” Bird said.