Women’s studies proposes merger with LGBT studies

By Ali Combs

The Women’s Studies program is looking at big changes over the next several months, including a possible name change, new certificates to be offered and a more inclusive curriculum.

During the spring semester, students on the mailing lists for either the women’s studies or lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) studies programs received a series of emails in regard to potential changes to the programs, one of the most prominent being a merger of the two programs. The new program would be an expanded version of the two current programs.

Women’s Studies Director Kristen Myers said the expansion would create more opportunities for students who want to be involved.

“We’re trying to expand our scope…,” Myers said. “We want to create a new minor track called LGBT studies, which is a certificate right now…. We hope to create an undergraduate certificate for women’s studies, which we think will be a nice feeder program.”

Provost Raymond Alden described the proposed changes as a “blend” of the current programs.

“As I understand it, it’s trying to come up with a new blending of the mission of the Women’s Studies Center and the LGBT Center and making it a much more holistic program,” Alden said. “One that includes both the issues of the Women’s Studies program along with a gender and orientation studies program.”

The potential changes to the program go much further than a merger or name change. Myers said they want to make a women’s studies major more easily accessible, as it is currently only available as a contract major.

She also said the ultimate goal would be to create a women’s studies master’s program.

Students and faculty involved in the women’s studies and LGBT studies programs were asked to respond to a survey and give their thoughts on the proposed changes. Myers said the vast majority of respondents were in favor of the changes.

“We had overwhelmingly positive responses…,” Myers said. “People who were ambivalent about it were in both studies. Students were more supportive than any other group.”

Chris McCord, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said although the proposal is still in its very early stages, he is “wildly supportive” of the potential changes.

“I am aware of and supportive of all of those changes,” McCord said. “But there is a long way to go in an approval process before anything happens.”

Myers hopes to see the changes take effect by fall, but the approval process may take longer than that.