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Local view: Demotion of women’s studies shortsighted

A proposal to merge the department of women, gender and sexuality studies (women’s studies) at the University of Minnesota Duluth with the department of sociology, anthropology and criminology (sociology department) recently was brought to my attention.

Joyce M. Kramer

In my view, this is a demotion of women’s studies to the status of a program since it is now an autonomous department that includes a major and minor and two remaining faculty members.

I am dismayed for a number of reasons. I was on the committee that first established the women’s studies department 30 years ago. I am now retired from the department of social work. My doctoral degree is in sociology, so I have a very positive view of sociology as a discipline.

However, women’s studies has a much broader theoretical and activist mandate than sociology as a field of study. Over the years since its inception, the women’s studies department has provided multifaceted leadership in addressing discrimination. It is baffling that this department is being basically demoted at the same time a consultant who assessed the results of a campus-climate survey indicted UMD, including that, “Based on the results of this study, you have a racist, sexist, heterosexist and genderist climate.” (“UMD examines campus climate survey results,” Sept. 13).

The department of women, gender and sexuality studies is devoted to addressing these plagues both within and outside of campus life. As a full professor in the social work department at UMD, I became well-aware that many of the best students who continued their education to receive the master’s of social work degree were women’s studies majors as undergraduates.

I give the women’s studies faculty credit for having imparted the understanding and experience that has enabled students to make a positive difference throughout society and in their workplaces. The proposed merging of the department of women’s studies and the sociology department will deprive women’s studies of its ability to make key decisions related to its curriculum, hiring, budget, and outreach activities. This proposal would render it invisible.

I am sympathetic with the fact that UMD is having to make significant budget cuts, but the sacrifice the department of women’s studies is being required to make is disproportionate and will have far-reaching negative consequences far beyond the dollars that would be saved. The proposal is a huge mistake and should be opposed before it is too late.

Joyce M. Kramer of Kakabeka Falls, Ontario, Canada, is retired from the department of social work at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Protest planned at UMD

The new student organization Feminist Consciousness United, or FCU, announced it will stage a protest today outside of the offices of the chancellor and vice chancellor at the University of Minnesota Duluth in response to proposed changes to the university’s department of women, gender and sexuality studies. A sit-in with signs is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.