by Maddy Dillon, staff writer
First year programs supervisor and area coordinator, Katie Buehner, recently took on an additional role as supervisor of EMPOWER. According to crew member Deandrea Lottier, former supervisor of one year Joyce Milling was only filling the position temporarily.
“[Milling] felt that she wasn’t able to commit the time and energy she felt EMPOWER needed from a supervisor,” Lottier said.
Buehner was elected after expressing interest in the crew.
“My job has been changing and evolving every year, it isn’t any more than I think I can handle,” Buehner said.
Buehner has experience in working with the issues EMPOWER aims to address. She currently serves on the Diversity Programming Committee, which focuses mostly on planning MLK day and black history month. She also started a rainbow alliance and hosted diversity film series in college.
“I’m really excited about [the position], it’s work that I’m passionate about and have been doing since my days in college,” Buehner added.
While most crew members are happy to work with Buehner and continue their role on the crew, not everyone is content with the leadership transition.
Third year crew member Rex Leonowicz thinks there has been a consistent lack of institutional support for EMPOWER, evident in the fluctuating supervising of the crew.
“I feel like there has been a lot of communicated support, but with so many transitions in leadership its been hard to maintain our resources and space, and keep the crew going in a consistent and effective way,” Leonowicz said.
Leonowicz wants clear institutional support for EMPOWER in order for it to run the way it wants to.
“The only way it will function is if they hired someone who had certain qualifications in those fields,” Leonowicz added.
Although Leonowicz recognizes that it might not be feasible for qualified [faculty] on campus to supervise the crew in addition to teaching and that hiring someone from outside the community wouldn’t be realistic in the eyes of the college either. Laura Vance, department chair of Gender and Women’s Studies, was the original crew supervisor but was forced to step down after struggling to find the time she wanted to dedicate to the crew.
Leonowicz simply wants EMPOWER’s mission to be maintained, that is to challenge inequalities on campus and within a larger community, especially racism, sexism, and ableism, through programming.
Buehner and the crew are currently working to uphold that mission through identity discussion circles, planning events surrounding a specific issue or identity every month, providing resources to the community through zines and book libraries, and facilitating student initiatives like the Transgender Task Force, which will tackle issues that transgender students face on campus.
“EMPOWER deals with social justice and equality issues on campus, raises awareness of prevalent privilege and inequality issues, and seeks to open students’ minds in terms of not just acceptance of those things that make us different, but rejoicing in the different things everyone brings to the table,” crew member Beau Ohlgren wrote in an e-mail to The Echo.
The crew encourages use of the EMPOWER space during open hours.
“Anyone can come study or watch a movie, it’s a space on campus where you can be anyone, and represent yourself however you want,” Lottier said.
The crew also wants to encourage students to participate in events and identity discussion circles.
“There’s probably a circle for everyone,” Buehner said.
The EMPOWER space is located in the basement of Schafer C and open from 4-6 everyday except Tuesday.