Author: Lucy Feickert|Shawn Cremer
A new interdisciplinary minor — gender, women and sexuality studies (GWSS) — currently spearheaded by Diplomacy and World Affairs (DWA) Professor Laura Hebert could be available to students as soon as fall semester, pending approval by a full faculty vote May 10.
The minor will draw from existing classes taught by around 30 faculty members across 15 departments and will have a floating department chair, according to Hebert.
Students will be required to take five courses, including one core course, from at least three departments. Core courses, of which there are five, will create a conceptual framework, Hebert said, and address all three elements of the minor — women, gender and sexuality — while adopting an intersectional approach.
“[Core courses] look through an intersectional lens that recognizes multiple identities and systems of oppression,” Hebert said.
Currently offered in Critical Theory and Social Justice, DWA, history, sociology and politics, core courses will be taught at least every other year.
“With the diversity of the associated courses, [the GWSS minor] allows students to follow their own intellectual passion around questions about gender, women and sexuality studies,” Amy Lyford, assistant dean of arts and humanities and chair of the Academic Planning Committee (APC), said.
Layla Hamedi (first year), a student interested in the GWSS minor, cited the importance of the its interdisciplinary and intersectional qualities.
“It’s nice to know that it’s from classes already at Oxy, because I know that there are a lot of classes here that could address the intersectionality of feminism,” Hamedi said.
Because it will incorporate existing classes, the program will not require additional funding.
Lyford said that even without funding, the development of a cohesive program allows students to have a richer experience than taking related classes sporadically, as the minor will create a cohesive list of classes related to GWSS.
According to Hebert, students voiced interest in the topic to multiple professors, which prompted the creation of the minor.
“I think that creating a minor or even another major in any kind of topic draws attention to the fact that it’s a field that should be studied, that should be integrated into our college’s courses and that there are students who care about that,” Theresa Edwards (sophomore), who is interested in the minor, said. “So I think that even though [the GWSS minor] might be drawing from existing courses, just to formalize it and put it under that name is significant and means a lot.”
Hebert said she believed that the minor recognizes the discussions on campus around sexual assault, gender identity and differences in sexual orientation and will take an intersectional approach to these issues.
“I think students are feeling as though having a [GWSS] minor in one way signals an acknowledgement that this is a real interest of students, but it also is a way to encourage students to take the kinds of classes that encourage conversation around these issues,” Hebert said.
A few years ago, Sociology Professor Lisa Wade and student assistant Alanna Quan ‘15 began researching gender studies programs at Occidental’s peer institutions, most of which have either a major or minor related to gender, according to Lyford. The initial proposal originated in a faculty working group, Lyford said. As Wade is currently on leave, Hebert took up the proposal in the fall and submitted an initial draft to the APC.
APC then provided feedback on the proposal. According to Lyford, the APC’s role in the process was to analyze whether the minor would be staffable and coherent and if it would add significantly to the college’s curriculum.
The APC approved the proposal in March, and Hebert presented it to department chairs for feedback before presenting to the full faculty council April 7.
Hebert expressed optimism that the faculty will vote in favor of the GWSS minor May 10.
“The sense I got at the [April 7] faculty meeting is that people are quite supportive,” Hebert said.
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