Students Push for Expanded Women’s and Gender Studies Program

October 14, 2017

Recently, a push to expand the scope of the Women’s and Gender Studies program has gained momentum. Sierra Campbell (COL’18) is spearheading a campaign to expand the program’s available resources.

The campaign is twofold. First, Campbell explained they want to increase the faculty size. She and others in the movement want the university to hire two full-time, tenured professors, and two or three full time, non-tenured positions. Additionally, Campbell is pushing for a graduate program. “We’re asking for a BA/MA dual program, so the five year accelerated program. Right now we have no graduate opportunities, and without graduate opportunities, we also do not have teaching fellows or teaching assistants,” she said.  

Campbell drew her motivation from the forum on sexual assault several weeks ago, in which the Task Force named the professors of the Women’s and Gender Studies program as a resource for those impacted by sexual misconduct. Realizing that, given its size, the program could not take on another project, Campbell and others inquired about its expansion.

“We were told that expanding the program isn’t under the purview of the Task Force, related to their response on sexual assault, that it is in earnest of the students as consumers. So we took that as a call to action,” she said.  

Campbell added that this issue has inspired many to act, saying “I have a group of students that are all interested and ready to take on this campaign.” She reports that 35 to 40 students support this push for increased funding.

Now, the appeal is in GUSA’s hands. Sara Clark (COL’19), leader of GUSA’s academic affairs policy team, met with the provost and presented the proposal on behalf of Campbell and her supporters. According to Clark, the first meeting went well. “We’re really excited about the potential this proposal has for both the College as a whole and the program itself, and we think that it would be extremely beneficial for students,” she wrote in an email to the Voice.  

However, there is still another round of proposals to go before the provost can grant final approval. Campbell and her supporters have also begun to reach out to alumni, who they hope will contribute to funding their goal.  

This movement comes at a time when the Women’s and Gender Studies department has observed an influx in interest in the classes offered. Notably, the university’s new emphasis on domestic diversity  perpetuates this overflow because Women’s and Gender Studies classes satisfy the requirement. Although there is huge demand for the program, it faces the reality of a limited teaching staff and a lack of funding to expand the program beyond its means. Currently, there are only two full-time professors in the Women’s and Gender Studies Department. The rest of the faculty serve as adjunct professors or part time lecturers. Campbell explained that these professors may have other jobs or obligations, causing them to leave campus more frequently.

There are also no Women’s and Gender Studies professors on the tenure track. This reality causes heavy turn-over within the faculty, something which department director You-Me Park notes as a challenge for students and their relationship building within the department.

As it stands, Park serves as the sole adviser for 25 major and 21 minor students. These students report to her, and when senior thesis time rolls around, Park takes on a heavy workload.

Another result of the small staff is that students cannot register for the classes. Park said that hundreds of people remain on the waitlist each semester.

Nonetheless, Park is optimistic for the future of the program.

“This is our 30th anniversary,” said Park. “As a program we take pride in what we have been able to achieve. But now we would like to go even further so we can serve our students better.”

Image Credit: Jackson Perry

Rachel Cohen
Rachel Cohen is a contributing editor and a senior in the college. She is a huge fan of the Boston Red Sox, student journalism, and anything from Trader Joe's.

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