Center Point: Women’s Center

Picture a funky little room in the old Student Center: a run-down yet comfy couch to crash on and a binder at the front desk providing guidance on issues ranging from sexual harassment to mental health.

The Women’s Center at UC San Diego has come a long way in the decades from its roots as a student collective in 1972. It was the first place Patti Orozco-Cronin ’89 visited as a new freshman hoping to be a peer counselor. She soon took leadership of the group, inviting activists like Angela Davis, MA ’69, and Sonya Johnson to speak, and making even that modest space welcoming to the campus community.

“Women would come in who had never been to a Women’s Resource Center, unsure of what they were seeking,” explains Orozco-Cronin. “Next thing you know they would want to integrate into the group. It gave us fortitude to achieve all that we did.”

Student demonstrations in the ’90s called attention to the lack of a formal Women’s Center on campus and gave way to a thriving resource today.

Despite the collective’s popularity, for many years UC San Diego remained the only campus in the UC system without an official, university-funded Women’s Center. In 1990, students—along with the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on the Status of Women—began jointly advocating for a formal space. Molly McKay Williams ’92 remembers creating a large “invisible” Women’s Center tent out of a plastic tarp on Sun God lawn. Students camped out to bring attention and support for the critical resource.

“We will not be denied,” McKay Williams wrote in The New Indicator, then a campus newspaper. “Women demand our needs to be met. The ten-year battle must end now! The budget will always be tight; it comes down to priorities.”

The proposal for a Women’s Center was approved in 1995 and the space opened a year later. Today it is a thriving hub for education and community building, with an expansive resource library, a community kitchen and meeting space, a private lactation room and baby changing stations, as well as a single- occupancy gender-neutral restroom with a shower.

“My favorite part of the Women’s Center is the feeling of calmness and community when you walk in—I never feel like an outsider,” says Dominique Strickland ’18, a former Center intern. “It is a place for knowledge, friendship, community or just studying. So many powerful people find space here, and those interactions are invaluable.”

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