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New program at SU to explore lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender studies from interdisciplinary perspective
New program at SU to explore lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender studies from interdisciplinary perspectiveApril 13, 2006Carol K. Masiclatclkim@syr.edu
What does architecture or education or history or politics have to do with sexuality? In what ways does our society create, reinforce or challenge ideas of heteronormativity? How does heteronormativity influence all of our identities, families, institutions and communities? To address and explore such questions, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies (LGBT) minor in The College of Arts and Sciences will welcome students this fall. The minor will be housed within the LGBT Studies Program, which was approved April 1.
The minor introduces students to the interdisciplinary field of LGBT studies. Open to all students, regardless of their sexual orientations, it is designed to offer a sustained opportunity to learn about LGBT experiences, history and scholarship, and to explore fundamental questions about sexualities, bodies, identities, communities, social movements and liberation politics.
Although the LGBT program is a part of The College of Arts and Sciences, it will contain courses from all over SU, including the School of Architecture, the School of Education, the College of Human Services and Health Professions, the College of Visual and Performing Arts and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Students in the program will be able to choose from a diverse set of courses that is truly interdisciplinary in scope.
“LGBT studies is a vibrant area of scholarship within many disciplines,” says Andrew London, associate professor of sociology in the Maxwell School and co-chair of the University Senate Committee on LGBT Concerns. “More and more, faculty members are infusing LGBT scholarship into their classes in order to meet their LGBT and non-LGBT students’ needs for opportunities to be exposed to, discuss, analyze and know about LGBT experiences and perspectives.”
The new minor will also be connected to a LGBT learning community that will be located in Watson Hall for the 2006-07 academic year. The learning community will be open to sophomores and upper-class undergraduate SU and SUNY-ESF students enrolled in QSX 112: Sexualities, Genders and Bodies, which will be taught in the fall by visiting scholar, activist and acclaimed author Minnie Bruce Pratt.
In response to high student and faculty interest, the University Senate Committee on LGBT Concerns was formed in 2001. Since 2002, co-chairs London and Margaret Himley, associate professor of writing and rhetoric in the Writing Program in The College of Arts and Sciences, have spearheaded the effort to make the minor and program a reality. With support from two Vision Fund grants, the Senate Committee conducted student and faculty focus groups, brought in speakers and experts on LGBT programs, organized a faculty reading group and sponsored a regional LGBT studies conference in 2004.
Himley and London also reached out to faculty members in search of support for the minor and ideas about courses that could be taught in the program. The response was overwhelming with faculty members from across campus responding with enthusiasm and volunteering their time and effort to develop a curriculum to support the minor.
“We had an amazingly positive response from faculty,” says Himley. “We are thrilled that departments across campus are making a commitment to teaching courses in LGBT studies.”
In addition, the LGBT Resource Center at SU provided help in the form of meeting spaces and administrative support, as well as creating opportunities to collect student input on the program. With the continued assistance of the center and the University community, Himley and London hope the minor will increase dialogue on campus about LGBT issues and meet the needs of LGBT and non-LGBT students by filling the existing gap in curricular offerings at SU.
“There is a range of human experiences out there,” says London. “We’d like to see students take an introductry class and see the ways in which sexuality affects them and their view of the world. Then we can begin to talk, to break silences and bridge differences.”
The launch of the program will be announced at the fourth annual Rainbow Banquet, which will take place on April 20 in the Regency Ballroom of the Sheraton University Hotel and Conference Center. Each year the Rainbow Banquet honors individuals for their work in supporting the LGBT community and celebrates the successes of LGBT students who are graduating. This year’s keynote speaker is Kate Bornstein, a transgendered author, playwright and performance artist. Her book, “Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us” (Routledge, 1994), has been incorporated in more than 120 college courses across the country. SU Vice Chancellor and Provost Deborah A. Freund will speak at the banquet as well.
The minor requires 18 credits of coursework: two lower division courses (QSX 111: Queer Histories, Communities and Politics, and QSX 112: Sexualities, Genders and Bodies) and four upper division courses. QSX 111 and QSX 112 respectively satisfy social science and humanities divisional requirements in the Arts and Sciences core curriculum, and both courses count toward the critical reflections course requirement. Admission requires a minimum GPA of 2.0. There are no prerequisite courses required. The minor, and all courses taught within the minor, are open to all undergraduate students.
The advanced courses are clustered thematically, and each cluster will offer at least one course each semester. The minor has no cluster requirements and students may take any of the approved courses or petition to substitute other courses with substantial LGBT content or projects.
The four clusters and their functions are:
Communities, Places and Identities: to explore the social and spatial dimensions of sexuality, the production of sexual identities and LGBT lives and experiences. Courses include: LGBT Studies in Sociology (Sociology 456), Queer Relationships (Communications and Rhetorical Studies 331), Space and Sexuality (Architecture 500); Sexualities and Gender in World Teen Cultures (Women’s Studies 447) and Geographies of Space and Sexuality (Geography 500).
Histories and Knowledges: to analyze the ways knowledge about sexuality is and has been constructed through social structures, cultural constructs, systems of power, epistemologies and analytical practices. Courses include: LGBT Experience in American History (History 389), Queering Theory/Embodying Knowledge (Sociology 300), Trans Genders and Sexualities (Women’s Studies 438) and Theories of Gender and Sexuality (English and Textual Studies 360).
Representation, Media and Performance: to address the ways in which LGBT cultures and practices have been performed and represented in art and culture. Courses include: Documenting Sexualities (English and Textual Studies 360), Cinema and Sexual Difference (English and Textual Studies 360), Queer Literature (English and Textual Studies 360), Queer Latina/o Performance (English and Textual Studies 314) and Writing, Rhetoric, Identity (Writing 424).
Institutions and Public Policy: to study the ways legal, political and educational institutions both shape and are shaped by LGBT lives and experiences. Courses include: Sexuality and the Law (Political Science 400), Ecology of LGBT Health & Well-Being (Social Work 400/600) and Queer Kids, Straight Schools: LGBT Issues in Education (Cultural Foundations of Education).
There are currently 19 courses approved for the minor, with plans to add more.
For more information on LGBT Studies, contact Himley at 443-4947 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or London at 443-5067 or email@example.com. For a listing of courses offered this fall, visit http://thecollege.syr.edu/depts/lgbt/Minor.htm.