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MIT Women's Collective Promotes Issue Awareness

Gabor Csanyi -- The Tech
The MIT Women's Collective stretched clotheslines across Lobby 7 earlier this week. Each T-shirt on the line represented a victim of violence, printed with words of their own anguish.

By Jennifer Lane
Editor in Chief

Walking through Lobby 7 Tuesday and Wednesday beneath clotheslines full of painted T-shirts, many students first came into contact with the MIT Women's Collective, a new organization on campus formed to promote awareness of women's issues.

Each T-shirt in Lobby 7 represented a female victim of violence, and the shirts were color-coded by type of incident. Each shirt was made by victims of violence, or their close relatives.

The Clothesline Project was "a great success," said Michelle L. Evans '99, one of the group's original founders. The display increased awareness and prompted meaningful discussions, she said.

Shirts were supplied by the Boston Chapter of the National Organization for Women, one of several groups sponsoring over 300 clothesline projects a year, nationally and internationally. All told, the effort has amassed over 35,000 T-shirts.

Collective promotes awareness

The Women's Collective was formed this summer by a core group of seven female founders, and has since expanded to roughly 25-30 people, including several men. The collective became an Association of Student Activities-recognized group two weeks ago.

"I find it very exciting that women are coming together to make the Institute an even better place for women," said Dean for Students Margaret R. Bates.

One of the primary purposes of the group is simply to promote awareness of gender issues which are often not dealt with at MIT, Evans said.

To that end, the collective will review the report of the Student Advisory Committee to the Task Force on Student Life and Learning and formulate a response and recommendations to give to the Task Force.

Evans pointed to several issues of gender on campus that needed attention. For instance, results of the 1994 Senior Survey conducted by the Educational Services Working Group reported several gender discrepancies in the results.

In the survey, women were less satisfied with their experience at the Institute and were less likely to see an improvement in their self-confidence, self-esteem, and creativity while at the Institute.

Group seeks Women's Center

The collective has many other goals for the MIT community. Among them is the desire to provide a supportive community for MIT women on campus. Therefore, the group will be seeking the establishment of a Women's Center on campus.

Bates thought that the collective's proposed center might work in conjunction with the existing Margaret Cheney Lounge in room 3-310. The lounge serves as a haven in which women can study or work.

The collective also seeks to open an avenue for women's voices on campus, including those of students, faculty, and administration members.

Another goal of the group is to provide an intellectual atmosphere for critical thought and open discussion on topics relating to women through lectures, film screening, and analysis of literature.

To this end, the group's Wednesday meeting highlighted a talk by Professor Margery Resnick entitled "Katherine Dexter McCormick: Autonomy and Collectivity."

Resnick had the group consider how collective action is often necessary to effect change. A collective that unites autonomous individuals from different perspectives is a powerful means of accomplishing shared goals, she said.