Faculty & Staff News

Video: Women’s Resource Center director leaves position, legacy

Two to three times a semester, a group of UH fraternity members sit in a small room, often eating pizza and drinking sodas, and listen to issues related to sexual consent culture and sexual misconduct.

Former Director of the Women’s Resource Center Beverly McPhail conducts the 45-minute presentation, which is titled “A Question of Consent.” During her discussion, McPhail provides the men with hypothetical situations and educates them on affirmative sexual consent — an important topic — so men know when it’s okay to pursue a woman for sex.

“Students’ success is predicated on student safety,” she said. “So if students can’t be safe, then they can’t be successful.”

Beverly McPhail plans to remain an adjunct professor in the Graduate School of Social Work after stepping down as director of the Women’s Resource Center. | Jimmy Moreland/The Daily Cougar

According to the UH Department of Public Safety’s Annual Crime Report, released every October, there were 11 reported sex offenses on the UH campus or in residential facilities between 2010 and 2012.

“I don’t know what effect I’ve had, but I’m hoping that I gave the young men some knowledge that maybe prevented sexual assault and brought some awareness to them,” McPhail said.

McPhail said that one of her favorite experiences during her time at the WRC has been talking to these fraternity men. She considers “A Question of Consent” to be one of her greatest achievements.

McPhail stepped down from her position as director of the WRC on June 1, 2014 to pursue and focus on her primary love: social work. During her eight years as director, McPhail said she strived to maximize the support for both genders at UH as well as to encourage and unify the feminist community.

“Feminism is kind of complicated,” McPhail said. “Some people now say ‘feminisms.’ They add an S, because there are all sorts of different perspectives.”

She said that she would like to change society’s view of what it means to be a feminist and remove the negative connotation that the word feminism carries.

“A lot of times people think that feminism is a lot of angry, hairy-legged women who hate men, and that’s really far from the truth,” McPhail said. “Feminists love men more than anybody; our goal in feminism is to break us out of that little tiny box that constricted us and said that this is what it means to be a woman.”

McPhail said she thinks society often puts both women and men into specific gender roles that inhibit them from accepting responsibilities for things associated with the opposite sex.

“One thing I feel strongly about is that the public has these really strong negative ideas about feminism,” McPhail said. “So I’d like to try to educate people outside in these circles.”

McPhail said that one of things that she was committed to at the WRC was balancing equal rights for both genders. McPhail said her goal is to educate people about the meaning of feminism. She said that both men and women should be concerned about gender issues and equality.

“(Feminists) are also trying to liberate men from their little box,” said McPhail. “You have to be tough, you can’t cry, you have to be dominating, you have to always be the breadwinner. And that’s a tough gender role too.”

McPhail began her career as the interim director of the WRC in July 2006. Shortly after, McPhail officially took over the leadership position at the WRC and all the responsibilities that came with the job.

WRC Program Coordinator Malkia Hutchinson worked closely with McPhail at the Center. Since McPhail’s departure, Hutchinson has taken over many of McPhail’s responsibilities. She said that McPhail had certain character traits that made her great at her job.

“She is an amazing listener,” Hutchinson said. “She is one of those people who is able to listen and let you say what you want and doesn’t offer her own perspective. She is a lot more patient than I am.”

Former Women’s Resource Center Director Beverly McPhail: “I think I’ll die with a protest sign in my hand and my phone calling my senator.”

LGBT Resource Center Director Lorraine Schroeder said that McPhail’s open-mindedness made her ideal for the WRC.

“She is compassionate and understanding,” Schroeder said of her long-time colleague. “She is also engaging, humorous and direct when talking to students about safe sex.”

McPhail will continue at UH as an adjunct teacher at the Graduate School of Social Work, but she will dedicate a lot of her time focusing on women’s issues by writing articles, books and presenting at conferences.

“I think I’ll die with a protest sign in my hand and my phone calling my senator,” McPhail said.

Before leaving the WRC, McPhail, together with her husband, donated a $25,000 endowment to UH stipulating that it be used for scholarships through the WRC. She said that she would like the scholarships to go to students who are interested in gender equality.

McPhail said that “UH is ahead of the game” when it comes to identifying sexual assaults, because UH’s Sexual Misconduct Policy defines both consensual and non-consensual forms of sexual activity. However, McPhail said UH should be doing more regarding sexual education.

“That would be my hope for the future,” said McPhail. “UH is doing such wonderful things with the new buildings and new stadiums and programs and research, but one area I would love to see more focus on is sexual assault prevention.”

McPhail will continue to educate fraternity men with the presentation “A Question of Consent” and she said that collaborating with the WRC in the future is not out of the question.

Hutchinson said that she is “excited to see what McPhail will be producing” in her coming endeavors.

“She made this place what it is,” Hutchinson said. “It’s going to be really hard to find someone who will fill those shoes.”

McPhail said leaving the WRC is bittersweet, but she is also excited about the future. She said her legacy at the WRC is yet to be seen.

“You don’t always see the effects of your work, but I look at it like planting seeds,” she said. “You never know what effect you had on people.”

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