Making Room

When Western College for Women became part of Miami University in 1973 it became clear that it was not only the sprawling Western campus that would now become integrated into Miami’s main campus, but women as well. Within the Office of Student Affairs a position was created for the “Dean of Women” who would oversee a division of student affairs related to women’s concerns. This position was later changed to a position in the Provost’s office entitled “Women and Minority Affairs.” The year that Western College became part of Miami University, an informal committee was created under University President Phillip Shriver to observe the roles and needs of women and minority students on campus. The resulting study, entitled the “Engel Report” after the project’s director Alan Engel, documented the need for a space for women to find solidarity and plan their activism. In 1966 space was offered in Peabody Hall on Western Campus for the first Women’s Resource Center. Those who staffed the Center eventually became Miami’s first trained rape crisis counselors. They collaborated on projects like Take Back the Night with the Miami-Oxford NOW chapter and facilitated meetings for feminist student organizations like the Association of Women Students.

Copy of 1979_60
Poster for a consciousness raising group for women, hosted by the Women’s Resource Center. Both Klosterman and McQueen have said one of their biggest challenges was educating women on the ways gender inequality affected their daily lives, 1979.

Then in 1981 President Paul Pearson replaced President Shriver, and with him came a series of governmentally enforced budget cuts to the university. He eliminated the Women’s Resource Center as well as the McGuffey Laboratory School and Montessori School. Neither institution was able to find the proper aid to remain open, even though prominent universities like Yale and Brown were known for having lab schools. Universities across the country were developing Women’s Studies and women’s centers. However, “He [President Pearson] had significant money cuts he had to make that were required by the state legislature, and he could preserve much of the other things at the university untouched…” said Klosterman. “So what, so you have children and women…It was a fast and seemingly easy way to make the cuts he had to make without everybody throughout the university up in arms.”

Almost immediately began talk of revitalizing the center. Dr. Klosterman was integral in throwing the weight of the Oxford and Butler County NOWs behind the reestablishment of a Women’s Resource Center on campus. “I wrote multiple letters to the President,” Klosterman said of her response to the closing of the Women’s Resource Center. However, letters were the least of her efforts. Klosterman helped begin, and eventually presided over a Women’s Resource Advisory Committee whose goal it was to resurrect and provide continual financial support from the University for a Women’s Resource Center. Klosterman proposed the creation of a council or advisory committee presided over by each of the Vice Presidents of the University, as well as other faculty and representatives from NOW. Klosterman herself was President of the committee. “What we wanted was for every Vice President… to have to put up the money to pay for the director and the center itself—the budget,” said Klosterman. “Our thinking was that it would not be a big enough budget in each vice president’s bailiwick to chop it when budget cuts came again, and they would have to have the approval of the other four Vice Presidents. They couldn’t do it singularly.” In essence, the council operated like a board of trustees. They set the directive for the Center as well as protected it from budget cuts.

It was a novel way to operate within a larger institution. The whole purpose of communal administration, “…was to avoid the patriarchal, hierarchical notion of, ‘Whose in charge here?’” Naturally, it incurred resistance. The President following Dr. Pearson, President

Copy of 1979_17
A list of the original members of the Women’s Resource Center Advisory Committee, which included representatives from the office of each of the Vice Presidents, minority student representatives, as well as McQueen, who represented the Miami-Oxford and Butler County NOW chapters, 1979. 

Paul Risser, was extremely reluctant to accept administration by committee. According to Klosterman, “At one point he said…to me ‘I don’t like this arrangement. In fact, I think it’s terrible because you’ve got this council that sets the agenda…and if something goes really badly wrong here, whose head comes off?’” Of course, this was exactly the purpose; shared responsibility and shared consequences. One of the benefits of involving each of the Vice Presidents was it would ensure their continual support. Having equal stake would encourage them and their staff to utilize and offer exposure for the Center and its programs. The efficiency of the Women’s Resource Center Advisory Committee became too apparent to discredit. “At the end of the year at our last meeting, it was summer time, he said, ‘You know how I felt about this, but now that I see how it functions I really, really admire the way it works and I wish more places in the institution would consider a structure like this,’” Said Klosterman of President Risser. “Which was a lot for him to say, as President.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s