Why a Male Community Center is not so outlandish

Originally published in the Stanford Daily as part of a column series known as Adventures in Academia that explored issues related to the Stanford University community.

They represent forty percent of today's college graduates (and only 44% of incoming students). They will soon hold a minority of the nation's jobs - a development that has already taken place in many urban cities. Future job growth is taking place in health care and education - not construction.

Men are living in a world far different from the one that existed just a few decades ago. The nation has finally moved toward a more equal coexistence of the genders, but in the process, it has transformed gender roles. From the breadwinner of the family to the parent who tucks in the kids at night, roles are amorphous like they have never been before.

Unfortunately, Stanford and most universities do not provide an outlet to ask questions from a male perspective. We have six community centers on campus, but none of them have the defined mission to address the issues that men are likely to face. In response, I urge Stanford to establish a male community center.

According to Stanford's Undergraduate Life page, "Stanford Community Centers provide a gateway to intellectual, cultural and leadership opportunities for all Stanford students." In pursuit of these missions, community centers hold programming events and provide advising resources to ask questions related to different identified groups.

These centers are not zero sum. The existence of another community center should only enhance current ones by covering another demographic group (and a large one at that). The beauty of the community centers is their synergistic nature, and a male community center will not undermine this system.

A male community center would enhance the university community first and foremost by planning programmatic initiatives. Society's perceptions of men are inconsistent with reality, yet society's image follows all men. How do men handle the situation and improve it?

Another set of topics would be relationships and their long-term issues. How should men approach dating, marriage, and parenting? What constitutes a wholesome relationship versus one that is exploitive? Similar to events held at the Women's and LGBT Center, a male community center could ask difficult but important questions that affect all of us.

In addition to programming, community centers provide a safe place for open dialogue on sensitive issues. At a male community center, such issues may range from mental health and sexuality to relationships and sexual relations. An open forum for these issues would be a strong asset for the Stanford community.

I understand that there are many who disagree with me about the need for this kind of center. It is easy to stereotype such a center as a football-watching, beer-drinking, burger-eating male kingdom. But such stereotypes can equally be applied to other community centers - does the Women's Community Center sponsor make-up days or the LGBT Center talk about the latest fashions? Such stereotypes are equally repugnant across all groups.

Another argument I have heard is that such a community center would really be a "White Male Community Center" as a recent Stanford Flipside article headlined. Such a case could also be used with the Women's Community Center - is it really a "White Women's Community Center?" No it is not, and such an argument is insensitive at best to minority males and females.

A strong argument against a male community center is that fraternities provide similar programming and community opportunities for males. Since there are already living spaces for those looking for male community, what is the point of having a dedicated center? If this were a concern, why do any of the community centers exist? Ujamaa, Casa Zapata, Okada, Muwekma-tah-ruk, Roth and (unofficially) Terra can certainly be the home of their respective communities.

The reason centers exist is to create a vehicle outside of student residences to find support on very personal and oftentimes uncomfortable situations. There has to be a place in between friends and CAPS for this, and community centers offer that environment. One should not have to live in a fraternity anymore than one should have to live in Roth to discuss gender issues.

Financing will be difficult. Community centers were certainly not spared from the budget cuts last spring, and there is little excess money lying around. I do not imply that a male community center can be built in the next few months - it is certainly a long-term goal. But to argue against equality because of money smacks of hypocrisy.

Stanford's Community Centers provide a wealth of resources for their respective groups. A male community center would be a tremendous addition to this already strong system, providing mental health resources through discussion and programmatic events that can enliven the lives of half of campus. It is time the university support equal access, and it is time the university supports the creation of a male community center.