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Winding Down

It is the final week of classes and programming at WLRC. We are still buzzing from the fantastic Speaking/Writing/Being panel discussion that so many of you attended. Thank you for bearing witness and supporting our virtual programming this semester!

As we wind down for the semester and calendar year, I recall that, one year ago, I talked about many of the ways in which teaching, learning, and working at the university had been upended during the first full semester of the during the pandemic. We were finding out that the competing demands on our energies and time were having a negative effect on our collective mental health and wellbeing. Well into our second academic year of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is fair to say that our new hybrid existence has not eased many of those pressures. Some have even intensified as we move into final exam period. For example, I hear reports about courses that were offered online for the fall semester, and so students either scheduled work and family responsibilities into the slots that commuting used to take up or were located outside of Chicago. Unfortunately, some instructors are insisting on in-person final exams or students risk failing courses. For students living in multi-generational households, vaccination and mask mandates do not completely allay the anxiety and fears about contracting COVID-19 and exposing loved ones to the more contagious variants that are emerging as I write this.

Surely, we can do better in ensuring that our policies and practices are consistent and reasonable given the many challenges that still endure.

Today, Wednesday, December 1 is many things:

It is observed as World AIDS Day, where we remember the many ways in which HIV/AIDS continues to shape the present, and that millions of women live with the disease in ways that might be instructive for how we live with COVID-19.

It is also the day when anti-abortion vigils take place all around the U.S. as the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments concerning the constitutionality of the Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks, and seeks to overrule Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling in 1973. This is the most serious in a series of attacks on reproductive justice and has particular implications for young women of color. It bears remembering that access to abortion is as much a concern for our current and future students, as it is for faculty and staff, and can make a significant difference in whether survivors of rape and incest begin or complete a college education. Michelle Goodwin, legal scholar and faculty of law at University of California at Irvine and herself a survivor, tells us what is at stake. We should listen.

Barriers to access to education for young women of color come in many forms. We hope that you come to hear UIC’s Honors College student Clarissa Corral share her research on Latina college students and street harassment and help us think about how to advance more inclusive understandings of safety that center women of color students on the campus.

And on a different note, it is also the first full day of Robyn Rihanna Fenty being selected as a National Hero for the Republic of Barbados! Her home country became fully independent from Britain on November 30 and is led by President Sandra Mason and Prime Minister Mia Mottley. I think we should all listen to Rihanna for the rest of the week as a salute to her and the leadership these women have shown in building a more just and equitable society in the eastern Caribbean.

For everyone who is wrapping up courses, projects, reports for the semester, best of luck to you. Remember that WLRC is available as a space for you to get your work done. Just let us know when you plan to come by: (312) 413-1025.

Until then, take care of yourselves and each other,

Natalie Bennett