After the sexual assault allegations against Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein came to light, a wave of allegations of sexual assault and harassment in Hollywood and politics brought renewed attention nationwide on the prevalence and issues of sexual assault and harassment through society. But Santa Monica College Professor Eileen Rabach says she is not surprised, saying they are symptoms of “issues that are always present. Right now they’re in the headlines with Harvey Weinstein and Sacramento, but for all of us, we know they’re always there. It’s just a matter of the headlines.”
Professor Eileen Rabach is an economics professor at SMC and has been advocating for the Gender Equity Center, now officially called GEN-C (Gender Equity Network Center), since 2014. The Associated Students approved a proposal this Monday to provide $500,000 in funding and some space from the Cayton Center to create the Social Justice & Gender Equity Center. And although Raybach is grateful to the AS, and the center is planned to be completed by the Fall 2018 semester, she feels that the school’s administration has not prioritized the center enough.
Rabach explains that this center would be a resource for the LGBT community to safely discuss difficult topics including sexual harassment and assault in an environment of toxic masculinity.
“We have no space,” Rabach says. “We have veteran’s centers, environmental center, Black Collegians, Adelante, Latina Center. But we don’t have a gender center. And gender is [an] essential issue right now.”
According to the official implementation plan that was proposed by the Gender Equity Center committee, GEN-C “is an intersectional student service and educational resource hub that will provide a safe and brave space for SMC students and the wider campus community in regard to gender, sexuality, identity, and inclusion."
Rabach notes that the current political developments have clearly illustrated how important the role that the GEN-C would fulfill. “One, we have a predator-in-chief, I mean here’s a guy [President Trump] who says he’s grabbing women’s private parts. And we have all of this [allegations] in LA, Hollywood exploding,” Rabach says.
She also brings up the Corsair having previously contributed to this environment, when the newspaper published an article in 2014 about the sport of pole dancing front and center during Women’s History Month. Although she says this was a minor incident, she explains these incidents are symptomatic of an environment where it is difficult to discuss issues.
“We have no venue on campus to respond, we have no tools to respond,” Rabach says. “This should be a huge teaching moment.”
Professor Gail Livings, who teaches sociology at SMC and also a member of the Gender Equity Committee, agrees with Rabach that the administration have not been prioritizing the center enough.
“It’s painfully obvious when I’m teaching about gender and race in my classes... You get the kids interested and they’re like - well, where do we go from here, what can we do, how can I find out more?” Livings says. “And there’s no place to send them, not on campus. So it’s really frustrating, because the little bit we do to inform them doesn’t really go anywhere.
For Rabach, having three staff members dedicated to the GEN-C would be ideal – one to provide services to students who have been sexually harassed or assaulted but doesn’t wish to go to the police, a director to organize educational workshops and functions, and a clerical staff member.
“We need staff – I wasn’t hired to do this,” Rabach says. “I love working, but we need someone that says gender right here, showing up at administration meetings, representing, inviting speakers.”
But Rabach has expressed approval of the performance of SMC President Kathryn Jeffery, who has committed to forming a task force to create the center. "She's worked with women returning to college, she's aware of the issues," Rabach says. "She's expressed support, but she goes by chain of command, and right now I'm co-chairing the Gender Equity Group with Nancy Grass in the AS. Everything is lined up, what’s lacking is the administration executive arm to actually allocate a staffing position."
And while the center is planned to soon come to reality, Rabach believes the lack of staffing still needs to be addressed. “We’d say this is an urgent issue. It’s like there’s a fire raging, and we’re going, ok well next year, next fall we’ll get some hoses,” Rabach says.
Students who advocated for the center declined comment.