By Neshmia Alam
DAVIS, CA — Last Thursday evening, the Davis Human Relations Commission (HRC) met with Sara Blair-Medeiros, associate director for the UC Davis Women’s Resources and Research Center (WRRC), to discuss the organization’s present involvement in the Davis community and future goals.
Ex officio HRC member Alistair Coate prefaced the presentation by stating that he “wanted to get groups like WRRC in touch with the city and the city staff” in order to “explain what groups on [the UC Davis] campus are planning, scheduling, and organizing,” and “further our understanding of different social issues.”
Commissioner Edgar Wong-Chen added that the meeting should serve to “exchange and build bridges” between UC Davis services and the city.
Blair-Medeiros began her presentation by sharing that she uses she/they pronouns, explaining that she uses both she/her and they/them pronouns interchangeably. Blair-Medeiros elaborated that she tries to “always introduce myself with my pronouns,” and that the WRRC also encourages sharing pronouns to “build an inclusive community.”
Blair-Medeiros discussed the origins of the WRRC, which was formed in 1971 and began to receive funding in 1972. She explained that the WRRC is “the first identity based center to be established and to be institutionalized at UC Davis.”
At present, the WRRC’s vision as stated on their website is that “people of all genders have the resources and support they need to not only be retained, but to thrive.”
Blair-Medeiros stressed that this vision does not just include cisgender men and women, “it also includes trans women, femmes, and non-binary individuals.”
Blair-Medeiros shared the variety of programs that WRRC hosts, whose goals range from “disrupting white feminism,” partnering “with Black Futures Month,” and hosting a “free hands-on STEM intensive all-day camp.”
However, the WRRC is presently facing issues providing services.
One of these issues cited by Blair-Medeiros is “continued resource access,” which specifically affects marginalized communities. These resources often take the form of student parent or family housing or transportation between housing and the UC Davis campus.
Blair-Medeiros stated that some people think that the issues the WRRC is intended to tackle have already been solved. However, she expressed that there are problems which require solving “relatively constantly,” and that members of the organization “continue to really see the importance of education work.”
Blair-Medeiros also explained that the WRRC is “quickly outgrowing [its] space” at North Hall at UC Davis, which the organization currently shares with Student Counseling and Health Services. As a result, the WRRC cannot properly accommodate the growing services and number of students being serviced.
One of these expanding services is the organization’s menstrual equity programs, which serve to provide period products to those who can’t afford them.
The WRRC is also working towards “lived name” policies, which help transgender students erase their “deadname” – an assigned name that a person no longer feels comfortable with.
Blair-Medeiros also announced the WRRC’s rebranding efforts, which serve to “honor our past” and “look forward to the future.”
The first phase of this rebranding is a logo change, which Blair-Medeiros informed the commission would be premiered “at the end of this [school] year, hopefully in the next few weeks.”
Blair-Medeiros also asked for the input of the HRC regarding the organization’s intended name change, as the WRRC’s goal is to service “not just [the] campus community, but also [the] larger Davis community.”
Blair-Medeiros concluded her presentation by offering suggestions for collaboration opportunities with the HRC, explaining that “the work of [the HRC] very closely aligns” with the WRRC, particularly “surrounding our student parents.”
She stated that the WRRC is currently “thinking about housing and childcare support,” which she emphasized was an issue for many student parents.
Following Blair-Medeiros’ presentation, the commission was given the opportunity for remaining questions and comments.
HRC Chair NJ Mvondo requested that Blair-Medeiros identify specific issues facing the community, asking “when you’re serving [UC Davis students off campus] what are some of the resources that you think are missing?”
Blair-Medeiros responded that “safety is always at the forefront of students’ minds” and suggested a collaboration with UC Davis Safety and City Safety so students know “where to go to get that support.”
She also mentioned the issue of queer student housing, which may include transgender students having incorrect names on paperwork or “getting harrassed for transitioning.” According to Blair-Medeiros, these factors may serve as an obstacle to housing for queer students, and she suggested that city intervention in these matters could be beneficial.
Commissioner Connor Gorman asked Blair-Medeiros if there were “any events or programs . . . coming up that [she wanted] the larger Davis public to be aware of.”
Blair-Medeiros mentioned the “STEM for Girls” event on May 14, as well as an annual collaborative Pride Month program for “queer folks to celebrate who they are” which will take place on May 20. She also referred to the Davis Feminist Film Festival to be held on May 20, which had “over 900 submissions from countries across the world.”
Commissioner Angela Wilson asked about the WRRC’s response to international students that “come from countries that might not be as receptive” to their identities.
Blair-Medeiros acknowledged that cultures which are non-receptive to the WRRC’s work may be an issue for both international students or first generation American students, but affirmed that “we do a lot of coaching, we do a lot of education work” to inform students about the organization.
Blair-Medeiros added that the WRRC also works “really closely with [their] retention centers” such as the Middle East, North African, and South Asian Student Resources, the AB540 and Undocumented Student Center, and the International Center.
At the meeting’s close, Mvondo suggested that the WRRC “reach out to the Social Services Commission” for even more closely aligned allies. Mvondo also advised that the WRRC reach out to the Open Space and Habitat Commission regarding housing for student parents.
The WRRC will continue its planned projects throughout the month of May and is looking to complete its rebranding in the near future.