Stephanie Nielson, "Recapturing Beauty", and the WSR: BYU's Social Deficit

Tonight’s presentation of Stephanie Nielson’s story by the Women’s Services and Resources provided a perfect example of what constantly plagues social services at BYU, and the WSR in particular: underestimation.

The Wilkinson Center ballroom was filled to capacity (both wings), with the aisle-ways and hallways behind the ballroom packed. That's over 1,700 people. Fire marshals and plain-clothes officers, as well as Wilkinson Center staff members, were constantly asking people to relocate or to make a path to follow fire codes. Forty-five minutes into the presentation, a significant portion of the standing audience was asked to move to the Garden Court where audio was being piped in through a speaker system.

The projector screen constantly shut on and off, leaving half of the Mormon Messages video, played before Nielson’s presentation, totally without video. The actual presentation itself began about a half an hour late, due to problems with overcrowding and technical issues. The video was not ready to go, the power point presentation was not ready to go, the projector screen kicked on and off, the audio needed to be fixed and tested, the printed program was almost completely wrong, etc., etc. I could go on, but I do not wish to.

Tonight’s presentation kick starts an events series called “Recapturing Beauty”. This is a great, great message. The series focuses on freeing women from conventional standards set by wholesale media. It focuses on encouraging women to come to terms with their bodies and to not identify themselves solely through their image.

This message is progressive for BYU. In 2009, the Women’s Research Institute was shuttered, which left the University with no social services tailored to its vast population of women (I could not locate any set female student population for BYU online; if anyone knows this number, please inform us). The WSR acted as successor and it’s clear to see that it has no clue what the demand and need for women’s services on campus are. Services listed through the office are support groups dealing with pornography, and eating disorders. There is also information regarding reproductive health, date rape, educational workshops, and relief society messages. At the event there were posters for private consultations to help students deal with sexual abuse and body image issues. These are not advertised on the website.

A comprehensive women's resource center is a vital part of a University's dichotomy. BYU provides its students with an incredible education. However, its social services are more than lacking. One of its most obvious failures is its inability to render invaluable social services to its female student population. I do not understand how to state this more clearly.

Hopefully in the future, the WSR will prepare a little better. Hopefully in the future they’ll be a little more sure of what services they can offer women on campus. Really, hopefully in the future they’ll be a little more sure of what services female students on campus NEED rendered.

Will this push to provide BYU women with support groups, yoga, zumba, a “10-Day Challenge” (of unstated intention), and lecture series be as hastily prepared as tonight’s presentation? I hope not. That would only further impoverish the already meager resources for female students here at Brigham Young University.

I do not wish to criticize the efforts being made too harshly. This really is an amazing push on behalf of the WSR. It's only the beginning though. There exists a deficit and I think the people sitting in the Wilkinson Garden Court, listening to the audio of Stephanie Nielson, felt that they were only getting half of the service they expected.

For more information on Women's Services and Resources, visit their website or their blog.
For more information about Stephanie Nielson and her message of inspiration, visit her blog.

-A Dude At BYU

3 comments:

Austin said...

It's amazing to me that BYU wouldn't even pull in a few more people than normal for such a big event. This was their chance to really make the WSR better known among the community and student population.

If they don't put much towards an occasion like this I can't imagine what it's like for other lesser known, but equally important WSR events.

Carly Larsen said...

I must say that I'm very disappointed about how uninformed this article is. It sounds like the author took a quick glance at the WSR website and wrote an article based on that short look and campus rumor. First off, WSR existed long before the Women's Research Institute was disbanded and had no affiliation to that organization. To say that Women's Services has "no clue what the demand and need for women's services on campus are," is ridiculous and offensive to the women at that office that work incredibly hard to understand and meet those needs every day.

Second, yes, WSR underestimated the number of people that would attend the Stephanie Nielsen event, but that's something no one expected, not even Stephanie herself! Currently, women services is funded for one full time employee. One. Dr. Valentine, who is an amazing woman who has dedicated her life to women's issues. The other employees are students. In all, there are currently 8 employees at WSR and all of them were working hard the night of the Stephanie Nielsen event, including three former employees that returned to help. That's 11 people to handle well over 2,000 attendees. No wonder WSR was overwhelmed!

Third, if the author had thoroughly researched WSR's website, they would have seen that private consultations are indeed advertised on the website...on the main page.

Fourth, again, if the author had done any research at all about social services offered at BYU, he/she would have found that there are wonderful services offered on campus, completely free of charge to students and their families. Not only does WSR offer private consultations geared specifically towards women struggling with any issue, there are two other offices that offer social services: The Counseling and Career Center in WSC 1500 and the BYU Comprehensive Clinic in the Taylor building. Again, all three of these places are free for students!

I know, firsthand, how much effort and preparation WSR puts into all of its events. Unfortunately, WSR doesn't get the same level of funding and support from the University that other offices on campus get (like BYUSA, for example). Perhaps the deficit lies there.

I urge people to be more informed and respectful before writing an article like this about campus organizations, especially an office of amazing women that has helped, and continues to help, countless women on campus.

Bare Bones Magazine said...

Carly,

We appreciate your reading the article. We must say that you missed the point where we said that the WSR is great but needs more funding/advertising/support from the University.

We are merely attempting to call to account the University for providing less than comprehensive services for women at BYU. Surely the WSR existed before the WRI, however when the WRI closed, all services directed towards women in specific were then given to the WSR, which means that, yes, all of the women at BYU who would like a center must rely on one paid staff member of the University. It's quite a stretch to say that the University isn't underestimating the needs of women on campus.

Thank you again for reading.

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