Geneseo is planning to have a women’s and gender studies major available to students as early as fall 2016. As a joint project by both the English and philosophy departments, the new major would be an expanded effort from the current women’s and gender studies minor. Faculty have discussed the possibility of this major for almost a decade. English professor and women’s studies coordinator Melanie Blood has played a key role during the major’s development. Blood spoke about the process, specifically citing Geneseo’s Women’s Action Coalition and Geneseo Pride Alliance as noteworthy advocates. “Movements are already underway and this major is a snowball effect from those,” Blood said. “It’s coming from something greater.”
Official developments began two years ago when the major was drafted. Women’s and Gender Studies Advisory Board Committee junior Thomas McCarthy was one of the individuals who helped discuss how to draft the major and described the drafting from the perspective of the committee.
“Certain classes have to be offered every year for this to be a major because there are required classes, so someone has to teach them every year,” he said. “It was about getting teachers to commit to teaching these classes once they were established, what classes we could teach based on what professors we had [and] what other schools were doing. “
After the draft is completed, it will undergo evaluation by the Office of the Dean, the Committee on Undergraduate Curricula and the Senate. After the school officials review it, the proposal will be sent to Albany where State University of New York officials will assess the draft.
McCarthy and other proponents expressed optimism about the draft passing. “I’m assuming that since it was approved at [the Geneseo] level, there wouldn’t be a reason it wouldn’t be approved at [the SUNY] level,” McCarthy said. “Other SUNY schools have women and gender studies majors, so it’s not an uncommon thing to have.”
If SUNY approves the major, there will be a number of additional courses. Specifically, Blood mentioned the permanent establishment of courses such as feminist theories and a capstone with a senior seminar. She also described the draft as “very well-conceived.”
Despite the addition of new courses, however, there is no plan to make taking a women’s and gender studies class a general education requirement, despite that being the case at SUNY Brockport.
“If you have a requirement, the spirit of the intro courses change,” Blood said. “Not all students want to be there.”
Sociology major and women’s and gender studies minor junior Stephanie Gerspacher noted her support for the new major. As president of Geneseo’s branch of the VOX Planned Parenthood action group, Gerspacher did also express her disappointment at the length of time it’s taken for the major to take hold.
“I think Geneseo is behind the bend a little with this,” she says. “Many schools across the country have a similar program and it’s really important to be able to study things that affect everyday life so thoroughly like gender, sexuality and race.”
She did, however, also express some praise for the major improving upon some aspects of the minor. “I do think that it’s good the school is referring to it as ‘women’s and gender studies,’ instead of just ‘women’s studies.’ That’s more inclusive for people who don’t necessarily identify as one gender. The major is an important step and I’m glad.”