This letter was submitted by the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies. Letters to the editor do not reflect the opinion or editorial coverage of Mustang News. 

Cal Poly students, alumni, faculty, staff and administrators — along with many San Luis Obispo community members — are engaged as participants in a robust national dialogue about the present and future of universities as sites of education, community, safety and transformation(s).

Alongside student organizers across the country, the #SLOSolidarity movement has challenged each of us to be more intentional, explicit and specific about the ways in which we — as individuals and as members of campus programs and organizations — are working to achieve the “enriching, inclusive environment where every student, faculty and staff member is valued” that President Armstrong imagined and shared as part of Vision 2022.

Let us start.

The Department of Women’s & Gender Studies at Cal Poly stands with #SLOSolidarity.

Did you know that the California State University (CSU) system is home to the oldest program in women’s studies in the world? Established in 1970 at San Diego State University, women’s studies exists in the CSU and United States because of what Susan Cayleff (2001) describes as a “campus-wide eruption” at SDSU that “was triggered by a grass-roots insistence by students, faculty and staff that women be included in the curriculum.”

Four years later in 1974, as documented by Nancy Woloch (1984) and in response to student, faculty and staff activism, 500 colleges were offering 2,000 women’s studies courses, and this number had grown to 30,000 courses by 1982. Today, the field of women’s & gender studies emphasizes scholarly inquiry, education and activism that utilizes an integrative perspective, exploring the intersections of gender, race, sexuality, class, religion, dis/abilities and other social categories within both national and transnational contexts. In other words, as described by the National Women’s Studies Association (2013), women’s & gender studies “is fundamentally about the study of power and societal inequalities.”

In 1991, Cal Poly was then the last CSU campus to establish a women’s studies minor program. We do not need to wait to be the last to establish a queer studies minor. We can, as #SLOSolidarity calls for, take action now and demonstrate Cal Poly’s commitment to being, learning and doing as the nation’s premier comprehensive polytechnic university. Seven CSU campuses already offer a major, minor and/or certificate in LGBT studies, queer studies, sexuality studies and/or sexual diversity studies. In fact, in 2012, San Diego State University became the second university in the country to offer a major in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender studies. More broadly, 19 CSUs offer majors in women’s, gender and queer studies-related fields.

We believe that the time for a queer studies minor at Cal Poly is now. And we are not alone.

Last year, the Cal Poly Queer Studies Working Group (QSWG) was created to provide a mechanism for partnership with the Department of Women’s & Gender Studies in order to support the shared goal of developing and increasing curricular and co-curricular experiences related to the academic discipline of queer studies, with the broader goal of enhancing the visibility of scholarly inquiry, education and activism in this area. QSWG participants include faculty, staff and students, and new members are welcome.

With the support and collaboration of the QSWG and the Women’s & Gender Studies Campus Partners Group, we will submit a proposal for a new interdisciplinary queer studies minor in January 2016 for inclusion in the 2017-19 catalogue. Our minor proposal emphasizes intersectional anti-racist and transnational approaches to queer studies.

If approved by the College of Liberal Arts and the Academic Senate, the new minor will provide all Cal Poly students with opportunities to explore how sexuality is central to human societies and is lived in relation to race, religion, class, nation, dis/ability and gender, and how the dynamics of heterosexism, heteronormativity, sexuality, sexual and gender identities, intimacy, kinship networks and embodiment shape our daily lives, social institutions, political discourses and cultural representations in historical and contemporary contexts.

In her book “Feminism is for Everybody,” bell hooks argues for a “visionary feminism” that “offers us hope for the future.” We call on the Cal Poly community to be visionary. Curricular change is not sufficient on its own, but it is integral to the creation of a more diverse, inclusive, equitable and just Cal Poly. Join us.

Contact wgs@calpoly.edu to join the Queer Studies Working Group, submit letters of support and/or make financial contributions to enhance learning and doing in queer studies at Cal Poly now.

Letters to the editor may be submitted to editor@mustangnews.net with the subject line “Letter to the editor” to be considered for publication. Submissions should not exceed 700 words, and should include a headline, and your year, major or position.

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