Students Take Action: Project A.W.A.R.E.
Project Accepting Women As Recognized Equals (A.W.A.R.E.), was established in the 1988-1989 academic school year by co-chairpersons Kelleen Kennedy and Michelle Latourelle. Project A.W.A.R.E. evolved from the previous Women’s Week due to dissatisfaction with the event. Along with the name change, the five-day Project A.W.A.R.E. sought to build a balance between genders and discuss how women and men can collectively work towards that goal. They wanted to shift away from lectures and make it more interactive, recognizing that the success of the program depended on the attitudes of the student body.
The first Project A.W.A.R.E. week began on February 20, 1989, with the theme of “Seeking a Balance.” In 1990, the theme was “Sharing a common Ground,” with new chairperson Kelly Tobin. In 1991, the theme was, “The Reflected Image: From the Past, in the Present, to the Future.” One early critique of Project A.W.A.R.E. in 1988 and 1991 was that it was not well advertised, especially at SJU.
Project A.W.A.R.E. Grows
In 1992, Project A.W.A.R.E. became a two-week event that ran March 1-15. The theme was, “Stereotyping Prevents Achievement.” The premier speaker was Betty Friedan, the founder and first President of the National Organization for Women (NOW), who called on women to "become leaders and problem solvers for issues that concern all people, including health care and education." Eileen O’Toole was the Student Administrative Board (SAB) secretary, chair of Project A.W.A.R.E., and student representative of the Sexual Assault Task Force. Earlier that academic year, students held a rally against sexual violence at SJU. O’Toole coordinated it so that almost 500 women wore black on Monday March 2, representing the 1 in 3 women who would be raped in their lifetime. O’Toole also worked to improve advertising, working with the SJU Senate.
1993 had two weeks of programming, with the events being geared both to women and men, including keynote speaker Dr. Jean Kilbourne on women in media. In 1994, another two-week A.W.A.R.E. project was held. The theme was “Unity without uniformity,” with the goal being to build up women, especially since women of color and lesbians had felt excluded from the previous years’ programming. 1995 had two weeks of programming, the theme being, “Scales of Justice: Finding the Balance.” The goal was gender communication in the workplace and partnerships.
1996 was a huge year for Project A.W.A.R.E., as it ran the entire month of April with the theme, “Exploring the Spectrum." It attempted to bridge the gender gap and come to an understanding. In 1997, Project A.W.A.R.E. ran from March 1-13 and focused on empowering women. In 1998, the program ran for two weeks. The focus that year was on gay and lesbian rights. Rebecca Walker also spoke on the “Changing the Face of Feminism.” Walker founded the Third Wave Direct Corp, which promotes young women’s leadership. She also won the Feminist of the Year Award from the Fund for the Feminist Majority in 1992. 1999 was the last mention of Project A.W.A.R.E. with the events running from March 22-25. The Saint Ben's Senate, which sponsored the events, changed its focus away from programming such as this. At the same time, proposals on campus were emerging to initiate a Women's Center to develop support and awareness of women's wellbeing.