Reflections on Women’s History Month, a Conversation with Cassandra Partyka

Throughout this month, the Library has celebrated Women’s History Month with a book display. As the month comes to a close I thought it would be an appropriate time to sit down with Cassandra Partyka, who is the co-chair of the Women’s Law Group. We  had a conversation to reflect on the roles of women today. Our conversation wandered—we talked about women in the workplace; the power structure of VLS, why we don’t identify as “feminists,” and WLG’s work with Safeline to raise awareness of domestic violence.

Because the interview is lengthy, I will publish in two parts.

I hope you enjoy this edited version of the conversation and consider your role in advancing the place of women around the world, and here, at Vermont Law School.

HC: What is your involvement with the Women’s Law Group at Vermont Law School?
CP: I am the co-chair with Danielle Horgan.

HC: How did you get involved with the Women’s Law Group, and why?
CP: My first year, I came in not knowing anyone—so I went to the club fair. I started going to WLG, and a couple of my really good friends started going with me. I loved the people that were involved [with the group]. They were really nice, supportive, and I felt like I fit in with them. The great work WLG does got me hooked.

HC: What is the purpose of the Women’s Law Group?CP: WLG tries to accomplish a few different things: (1) we establish a support network for the women at the law school; (2) foster professional success for the members and promote equal participation of women in the legal profession; (3) advance equal application of the law to women; and, (4) support issues concerning women and the law.

HC: Can you comment on the work WLG has done to advance the place of women at the law school in particular?
CP: Every year, we have a Phenomenal Women’s Luncheon. We have the school nominate a student, faculty, and staff member to draw a spotlight on the people who have taken the initiative to do something valuable in the community, or the school, or who have just had a positive effect on women in the community. It is an important event because it showcases the valuable efforts that people are making.
We only have one “winner “in each category, but so many people are nominated. The comments about why this person in particular made a difference are amazing. Being nominated is really winning the award.
The luncheon is planned for April 19th this year.

HC: What other things have you done to increase awareness of “women’s issues”?
CP: We have a lot of events. In the Fall, we have a candy gram sale—[which is a fundraiser] to benefit Safeline.

In October, we have a Domestic Violence panel, usually with experts in the field. This event showcases that these are real issues, they are still happening [to real] people and it is not OK—we need to stop [domestic violence]. It is sad that [domestic violence] in 2012, still happen[s]—it needs to stop.
In the Spring, we have our WLG auction. We made over $14,000 this year and all of the money was donated to and divided between Safeline, Magic Mountain daycare, and the WLG Scholarship Fund. That is a huge event, it is fun, and everyone has a great time. All the groups that we donate to, support women and all the causes are worthy.

This year we did a new event, the Frugal Fashionista, which Meg Ryan coordinated in conjunction with Safeline. It was for our community and surrounding communities. People dropped off clothes, and could buy the clothes for bargain prices.

HC: One thing I have noticed about WLG, is the focus on domestic violence issues—which I think is really important. But at the same time women do face obstacles and discrimination every day. It is important to look at the structure here at VLS and what roles women and men play here. I think it would be interesting if WLG took a stronger role in advocating for female professors, empowering women to speak up, and to question authority. Even in a place like VLS, there are issues related to women that are not as visible as domestic violence, it is more of a systematic problem.

CP: As far as empowering people here at VLS, and [increasing] VLS’ faculty and staff power—it is a difficult problem. I am not sure how we would assist that. It would be great if WLG could have a stronger hand in affecting the roles at VLS and it is something for the future group to consider.

To Be Continued~

Casssandra Partyka graduates from VLS in May. She plans to join her father’s practice in Saratoga Springs NY. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania in Psychology in 2009.

Heidi Conner works at the library. She graduated from Grinnell College in 2009 with a degree in History and Global Development Studies.