With grant’s end, EmPOWER Center will lose programming position

A white and green building fills the image and features a sign that says "EmPOWER Center."
One of the Empower Center’s three staff positions will be eliminated following the upcoming expiration of a federal grant. (Meghan Joyce • The Student Life)

Faced with the upcoming expiration of a federal grant that funds some of the EmPOWER Center’s services and staff, the 7C presidents have decided to cover part of the financial shortfall, but not all — resulting in the elimination of one of the center’s three staff positions. 

EmPOWER — a 7C student resource for sexual violence prevention and advocacy — received a $749,998 grant from the Department of Justice in 2016. The grant, which expires May 31, fully funded a project coordinator position and partly funded a full-time counselor position, EmPOWER Center Director Rima Shah said via email.

The 7C presidents have decided to increase the amount of funding they’re providing to EmPOWER to ensure that the counselor position will remain at the center full-time for the 2020-2021 school year, Shah said. However, she said the project coordinator position will be eliminated with the grant’s expiration.

“Not only do we love her as a person, but her job is really important.” –Lilly Sterenberg PZ ’20 on project coordinator Lauren Lockwood 

The center appealed to the presidents to step in to also fund the coordinator position, but they decided against it, according to EmPOWER Center intern Lilly Sterenberg PZ ’20, ASPC President Miguel Delgado-Garcia PO ’20 and SAS President Niyati Narang SC ’20, all of whom had knowledge of the center’s situation.

When asked repeatedly to comment about the presidents’ funding decision, Scripps spokesperson Rachael Warecki said “The Claremont Colleges do not comment on personnel matters.”

Harvey Mudd College has also agreed to take on the lead role in applying for new grant funding, according to Shah.

Lauren Lockwood, the current project coordinator whose position is being eliminated, has a broad portfolio of responsibilities — she trains 5C student advocates for survivors of sexual assault, facilitates Teal Dot bystander engagement trainings and does various administrative work, according to Sterenberg. 

Lockwood didn’t respond to a request for comment.

“Transition planning is underway to ensure that the impact of the change is minimized,” Shah said. 

Sterenberg said she’ll be sad to see Lockwood go.

“Not only do we love her as a person, but her job is really important,” Sterenberg said.

Over 300 students have signed an open letter to the 7C presidents requesting that the colleges permanently fund the project coordinator and counselor position, and also meet with student organizers to discuss the presidents’ funding decisions.

Sterenberg, who wrote the letter with input from advocates at the 5Cs, said Pitzer advocate Abigail Biddle PZ ’20 sent it to the presidents, who have not yet replied.

Moving forward with one fewer staff member, EmPOWER will be employing various technologies, including video presentations according to Shah. She characterized the changes as an “enhancement.”

The new technologies will allow EmPOWER to “reach more students, clubs and classes on topics such as consent, healthy relationships, how to support a survivor, bystander intervention, EmPOWER’s services and more,” she said. 

However, some students find the new video technology concerning. 

Biddle, who has been an advocate for four years, urged against video training, calling it less effective than in-person training and “not an adequate substitute.” 

“You need to be with someone who can answer questions, and just be a human being,” Biddle said. 

The EmPOWER center declined to respond directly to claims concerning video training.

Students expressed support of the colleges maintaining the full-time counselor position, which provides professional counseling to survivors of sexual assault and child abuse, according to the Project Sister website.

Biddle said that EmPOWER counseling is a crucial resource because appointments are free and unlimited, unlike at Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services.

Narang said she remains hopeful that the colleges will find a way to preserve all of EmPOWER’s current services.

“I am very hopeful that the grant process is going to work out,” she said. “And if it doesn’t, [I’m hopeful] that at that point, the 7Cs Presidents’ Council will step in and ensure that the resources themselves are not impacted.”

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