ID card scanner improves accessibility in Women’s Center

The Tufts Women's Center pictured on Feb. 3, 2018. Julia McDowell / The Tufts Daily

The Women’s Center announced in its Feb. 12 newsletter that it had installed an ID card scanner to expand student access to the center.

K. Martinez, the director of the Women’s Center, said they led the initiative in an effort to make the Women’s Center more accessible to students who use the space. They explained that during their time at the center, they have seen that students have wanted to use the center when staff were not available to open it.

“My intention was to have a system where more people could access the Women’s Center when my staff wouldn’t be available, so that’s why I thought the key card system would allow more people to be in and use the space,” they said.

According to Martinez, the Women’s Center is now accessible to those who have signed up for key card access between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. Monday through Friday, with flexible weekend hours.

Women’s Center Publicity and Community Liaison Intern Heresa Laforce welcomed the increased access, explaining that in the past, the center had to be closed when there was no staff member in the building.

“Last year I went to the Women’s Center a lot and I would’ve appreciated it if I could’ve gone on weekends and heard this too last semester as a staff member,” Laforce, a sophomore, said. “If … [staff members] weren’t here for our shifts, then the center had to be closed. So now with key card access, more people can use the space and get a feel for the Women’s Center.”

Martinez said increased access to the Women’s Center, like that to other spaces on campus, came about in response to the wants and needs of students.

“What I’m seeing is students thinking about the spaces, what they want, and if the spaces match their needs,” Martinez said. “So for the Women’s Center, that has meant key card access so more people can use the space, and similarly that reflection has happened with Start House, where students felt that they needed the space to be more accessible.”

Martinez said that initiatives such as key card access need to be part of an ongoing conversation between students and the Tufts administration.

“I think it’s really important that us at the center and us at the university keep just thinking about the current needs of students and re-evaluating what we’re doing constantly,” Martinez said.

Martinez said the center has already seen increased use since the implementation of key card access earlier this semester.

“I have already seen a growth in use and huge response from students. We have a lot of student groups that use the space, formally and informally,” Martinez said. “I’m really happy that we’re able to partner with [Tufts University Police Department] to get this system working, they’ve been really helpful in streamlining key card access.”

Michelle Delk, a leader in Students Acting for Gender Equality (SAGE), a discussion group that meets at the Women’s Center on Tuesday nights, said she has also noticed an increase in activity within the space.

“The night of [SAGE’s] last meeting, there was also a group celebrating Rosh Chodesh, [United for Immigrant Justice] was having their meeting and there were students there just talking and doing work as well,” Delk, a sophomore, said.

Delk, who also serves as a Women’s Community Senator for the Tufts Community Union Senate, said the greater accessibility has helped create a stronger sense of community within the Women’s Center.

“We had a mini Super Bowl party [on Feb. 4], with a big potluck, and that was so much fun and helped to foster more of a sense of community that I don’t think we had previously to the degree we now have,” she said.

Delk explained that key card access is a welcome change for the students who use the Women’s Center. 

“Being able to have a place to study, nap, whatever you need, is invaluable,” Delk said. “The Women’s Center breathes warmth, it’s a space people want to be in; it looks great, it feels great. Key card access definitely makes the center more accessible, and both individuals and groups reap those benefits.”

First-year Trina Sanyal also welcomed the change.

“Key card access makes the Women’s Center a more open place for people to congregate outside of what were the traditional hours,” Sanyal said. “It’s nice that it becomes a more communal space that people can hang out and do homework in.”

Key card access is just one way the Women’s Center is working to increase accessibility for the student body and further develop a community space at Tufts, according to Laforce.

“We’re constantly looking to make change and progress,” Laforce said. “I think the expanded hours, as a result of key card access, will encourage anyone who identifies with womanhood, in any capacity, to come and use the space. Hopefully, this is a step in the right direction to welcoming more people into our space.”