GRAC Grant to run out in 2022, new funding needed
The Gender Resource and Advocacy Center (GRAC) is a resource center here on Willamette's campus designed to help students with a variety of support and services. The federal grant that was used to create the GRAC and further fund it, will be running out in the Fall of 2022.
The GRAC, located in the Montag building, was created in the Spring of 2018 after Willamette was awarded the Victims of Crime Act grant from the Oregon Department of Justice: Crime Victims and Survivors Services division. This grant stemmed from a pilot project to fund victim response services on college campuses in Oregon. The first round of funding was distributed April 2018 and the funds were to last through Sept. 30 2020. The school reapplied to receive the secondary round of funding in the Summer of 2020 and started the second phase of the grant in October with those funds to last until Sept. 302022.
The Director of the GRAC, Andrea Hugmeyer, says that the grant money was able to enhance the Sexual Assault Response Advocates (SARA) program, which is a student organization that staffs the GRAC. They are trained in victim response and trauma informed advocacy. However, in order to keep that grant money, the funds had to go directly towards victim response support. Hugmeyer says they “acknowledged that there was no pride center or any affinity-based center for LGBTQ+ students on campus” and so in order to create a support space for those students, in the Fall of 2019 the GRAC was able to create a general ledger budget, which includes the annual operating budget as well as any restricted donor or endowed accounts. Through these two funding avenues, the GRAC is able to provide the variety of services it has to students at Willamette. Some of these services include support and advocacy for LGBTQ+ students, such as connecting students with gender affirming healthcare in the Salem area, explaining what resources Bishop can offer, as well as responding to concerns regarding homophobia and transphobia. There is also the WU Safe Zone program, which is a program designed to help students understand allyship for the LGBTQ+ members of the community as well as create a deeper understanding of heteronormativity. Lily Clancy (‘22) works for the GRAC as a Sexual Health Resource Specialist, as well as being the president of Choice Action Team. Clancy says that she along with one other student, Surya Lee (‘22), hold the position and they work with the rest of the GRAC team on outreach around sexual health. They organize workshops on campus for first-year students, as well as help design programs for their Community-building, Health, Academic Success Experience (CHASE) sessions. Clancy helps build awareness around sexual health and describes it as a proactive position, “it’s figuring out how we can make Willamette's campus community not experience harmful situations in the first place.”
When asked what she felt the GRAC’s impact on campus was, Clancy responded with, “I think the GRAC has a huge impact on campus. I’m a senior and the GRAC’s first year here was my first year, so I’ve never known a Willamette without the GRAC. I just can’t imagine it being missing. I know that the space itself in Montag is a haven for so many students who can just feel comfortable going up there for any reason. I also know that for students who have unfortunately experienced harm at Willamette, it’s even more of a refuge for them. When people go up there they know that they can feel safe and that there’s people to talk to who can keep things confidential.” Overall the GRAC’s ability to provide so many services to students is important in creating a safe campus.
In regards to what might happen to the GRAC once the grant runs out, Hugmeyer said “It’s not as though the GRAC will be going away. There is a need in the division for a lot of different things and the priorities need to be established by our senior leadership. There’s been conversations with Dean Abbas Hill and VP Lisa Landreman to understand how we can maintain a lot of the work that has been done here, and figure out what the restructuring might need to look like based on the finances available.” As of now, there is no clarity on what exactly will be restructured in the GRAC and how that will affect students and the people who work there.