Students Submit Proposal for Women’s and Gender Studies Department

Originally published Oct. 13, 2017, in The Hoya.

A proposal advocating that the women’s and gender studies program gain department status by fall 2018 was submitted Tuesday by students hoping to expand the program’s resources.

The student-led proposal, presented to Georgetown College Dean Chris Celenza, has the support of program faculty, the Georgetown University Student Association and 40 students and alumni as of press time.

Becoming a department would allow members of the program’s faculty to pursue tenure, which could also provide opportunities for student research. Advocates also hope the program would obtain more funding and resources as a department.

In addition to the establishment of the department, the proposal requests two full-time tenure-track positions, two to three additional full-time, nontenure-track faculty positions and a five-year dual enrollment Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts program.

Currently, none of the professors in the women’s and gender studies program, founded in 1987, are tenured or on the tenure track. Two of the 12 faculty members are full-time, including the program director, You Me Park. The remaining 10 professors in the department are part-time.

Students, including some majoring and minoring in the program, submitted the proposal, which highlighted recent difficulties faced by the program because of its non-department status, including providing resources for women’s and gender studies major students and meeting the demand for lower-level introductory courses. The students also argued they have a significant interest in the creation of a more robust academic space to explore the dynamics of gender and sexuality.

Celenza met Tuesday with Sierra Campbell (COL ’18), who has led the development of the proposal over the past month, to discuss the proposal and next steps.

“In the coming weeks, our team will be meeting with them, reviewing the proposal, and convening faculty to discuss the ways in which we — by which I mean faculty and students together — might go forward,” Celenza wrote in an email to The Hoya.

Campbell said the first meeting between College administrators and team members was largely positive, but finding a source of funding for the prospective department remains an obstacle.

“It was really productive and the dean seemed really optimistic about making it possible,” Campbell said. “The biggest barrier would be finding the money.”

Students can either major or minor in women’s and gender studies. However, majors who are double majoring in another discipline note the disparity between resources available for full departments compared to non-department programs such as the women’s and gender studies program.

A key issue for the program is the ability to meet student demand for introductory level courses. Many women’s and gender studies courses fulfill Georgetown’s “engaging diversity” requirements, making introductory-level classes popular.

However, with limited department resources, it is difficult to meet student demand for the program’s 11 currently offered courses, according to Park, who has been at Georgetown for 14 years.

Students decided to draft the proposal in part after Georgetown University’s Sexual Assault and Misconduct Task Force called for more academic resources exploring issues of sexual misconduct, Campbell said.

Kory Stuer (COL ’19), one of the students involved in drafting the proposal who is minoring in women’s and gender studies, said the establishment of a department would help address sexism on campus.

“There is still a huge problem of misogyny and sexism on this campus and I think to pretend that away is a gross injustice to the women and femmes on this campus,” Stuer said. “To show that there is an academic focus on studying feminism, on studying gender, on studying women is a really important step towards institutionally recognizing that that needs to change.”

The student team worked with the GUSA Academic Affairs policy coalition to draft the proposal starting Sept. 14.
Sara Clark (COL ’19), chair of the Academic Affairs policy coalition, said the student demand on campus for this program should not be ignored.

“The proposal demonstrates a clear student need for increased course offerings and faculty positions that could best be satisfied if the program were to become a department,” Clark said.

Within the past few weeks, the team has met with administrators in the Office of the Provost’s Student Advisory Committee and Celenza’s office.

Park said this is not the first time students and faculty have explored the possibility of a department. However, this effort is the first time a group of students have submitted a formal written proposal.

“I’m absolutely, of course, supporting students’ effort and I am really grateful,” Park said. “It was entirely student-led.”

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