This is the letter send from the graduate department of Women’s Studies at San Diego State University to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, which is threatening to close its Women’s Studies Department. Let’s speak out to keep Women’s and Gender Studies departments open!
Dr. Neal Smatresk
Dear President Smatresk:
We are writing you to express our grave concern that UNLV has announced budgetary plans that include the dissolution of the Department of Women’s Studies at UNLV. San Diego State is proud to have the oldest Women’s Studies Department in the nation, and from this 40 year experience, we can offer numerous arguments about the essential nature of such departments to their home institutions, the community that surrounds them, and even world-wide networks concerned with equity, human rights, diversity, and the environment..
The interdisciplinary nature of Women’s Studies departments provides an arena for creative negotiations across disciplines and among individuals with varying expertise and experience. This often leads to new collaborations and productive pathways. Particularly important to Women’s Studies are scholars concerned with issues of privilege and oppression and ways that these intersect in cultural categories such as gender, race, sexuality, class, and ableness. Clearly you have a research-productive faculty, including both those tenured and others approaching that achievement who deserve better than to be suddenly cut off. UNLV has an outstandingly diverse faculty, both in their disciplinary strengths and racial and ethnic experience, making Women’s Studies an invaluable manifestation and even a home for diversity in curriculum and through forms of outreach that sustain and change many lives for the better. If you end the program now, you will leave a generational gulf in the faculty, in terms both of its diversity and its interdisciplinarity.
The region will also be impoverished. Women’s Studies has a special ability to research locally, sharing findings for wider collaboration. Many of us attended the convention of the National Women’s Studies Association in Las Vegas, where your university was well represented. The region has much to contribute to understandings of women living in the borderlands, engaging in work related to the gaming industry, indigenous studies and environmental studiesall entered into wider global understandings.
In difficult economic times it is important to recognize that the 40 year history of the discipline of Women’s Studies has made study in this field a treasured part of undergraduate experience. It reaches not just majors, but many other students who take GE courses, and beyond that the people on and off campus who come under the influence of these students. At SDSU we have entered an era when women who have studied with us are ready to give back, in terms of substantial donations to the University. With their commitment to activism, Women’s Studies faculty and students are constantly in the community, forging connections and drawing positive attention to the University. Conversely, dissolving such a program could bring severe criticism of the priorities of the institution. We strongly urge you to retain this essential Department, not just for the sake of your own university, but for the wider goals of the academy and the community.
Bonnie K. Scott, on behalf of the Department of Women’s Studies, SDSU