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May 31, 2005 - Image 15

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Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2005-05-31

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The Michigan Daily - Orientation Edition 2005 - 3

Required sexuality
course proposed

Students would take three
credits about gender and
sexuality issues to graduate
December 9, 2004
By Aymar Jean
* Daily Staff Reporter
A student-led initiative, years in the making,
is now gaining momentum. In about two years,
LSA students could see a dramatic change to
their University curriculum.
A group of students are pushing for a course
requirement for gender and sexuality issues,
similar to the race and ethnicity requirement.
The requirement would mandate LSA stu-
dents take three credits of classes addressing
these issues. Students would still need 120
credits to graduate, but the new requirement
would not replace the race and ethnicity one.
It could also count for a student's distribution
requirement.
The group, called the Gender and Sexuality
Requirement Committee, is presenting its pro-
posal to LSA social science department chairs
today. Earlier this week, the committee recom-
mended the proposal to women's studies fac-
ulty members. The students hope to address the
LSA curriculum committee early next semester,
which is the first step to getting the approval of
all LSA faculty.
"A Gender and Sexuality requirement will
create new dialogues, challenge hegemonic
discourse, break taboos and stigmas, and open
up realms of communication between all stu-
dents," states the students' proposal, slowly
being circulated among LSA faculty members.
The plan would incorporate a wide swathe of
issues, from classes on "Hollywood Masculin-
ity" to those on gender and health.
The requirement would not be implemented
until the fall 2006 term at the earliest. The com-
mittee has worked to create a student-led move-
ment supporting the changes. Members say that
to the to the best of their knowledge, this is the
first time students have pushed for a curriculum
requirement in recent years. Last year, the stu-
dents circulated petitions and collected about
1,000 signatures, LSA senior and committee
co-chair Catheryn Malczynski said.
"This isn't some activist process," because
the group is working within the bureaucratic
process LSA senior and co-chair Laura Ced-
erberg said.
Group leaders stressed that taking a wom-
en's studies class is not the only way to satisfy
the requirement. They have compiled a list of
about 40 courses from this semester that would
satisfy the requirement. Possible departments
include: American culture, communications,
English, film and video studies, history, his-
tory of art, political science, organizational
studies, the Residential College, sociology
and women's studies.
"Michigan is obviously dedicated to promot-
ing diversity. We have one of the best women's
studies departments in the country, and there
are classes within the race and ethnicity require-
ment that focus on gender and sexuality," said
LSA alum Avra Siegel, one of the students who
started the initiative a few years ago.
"They're recognizing the need to study these
issues indirectly, but they're not making it offi-
cial," she added.
When the student committee presented its
proposal to women's studies faculty on Mon-

day, they received "a mixed bag of emotions,"
Cederberg said. Faculty members were con-
cerned that the requirement would focus only
on women's issues. They also expressed con-
cern that the requirement would overrun the
small department with students who did not
want to be there, sacrificing the intimate aca-
demic environment the program cherishes.
While Cederberg said these are valid con-
cerns, the academic advantages offset any
problems the requirement would cause. "These
are not issues that pertain to just a small group
of people who can study them," she said. "This
should not be exclusive."
"There's a lot of education that's mandated
and required that you might not agree with
at all," Cederberg said. "You can take it or
leave it in these classes, but people need to be
exposed."
Because the requirement would function like
the race and ethnicity, student activists often
compare the two. In the early '90s, faculty
members campaigned for the race and ethnic-
ity requirement, citing racial violence as one
reason for it. The proposal eventually passed,
but only after a failed attempt and contentious
discussions.
Unlike the race and ethnicity requirement,
no particular event spurred students to act on
adding the new requirement. To the group's
leaders, gender issues permeate everyday life,
and part of a liberal arts education is to raise
consciousness of these matters.
But recent political affairs have added a
sense of urgency to their cause, group members
said. Ballot initiatives and court cases concern-
ing gay marriage and possible challenges to
abortion rights have brought issues of gender
and sexuality to the nation's forefront.
"Those are the kinds of things that we think
are very important today and that people should
be educated on, like they are educated on race
and ethnicity," Malczynski said.
Given the outcome of the gay marriage
amendment in Michigan, there is an increased
need to study these issues, group members said.
"You can gain so much more insight into the
way the world works," Siegal said. "I think they
are essential to gaining a holistic liberal arts
framework."
But the passage of Proposal 2 banning gay
marriage and similar unions in November
may indicate that the public is not receptive to
studying sexuality.
"The reason to be pessimistic is, again, this
is a state school," Malczynski said. "With the
way the gay marriage proposal turned out, it
showed a lot of homophobia and that people
might not be willing to do this."
Considering these hurdles and the mild
reaction from the women's studies faculty, the
committee is considering other options. One
involves requiring students to take six credits
split between gender and sexuality classes and
race and ethnicity classes. In another option,
the group would push for gender and sexual-
ity requirements within majors - a number
of programs have these, including American
Culture.
"As far as the actual requirement goes,
there's definitely a lot of thought that needs to
get done," Cederberg sad.
Because the student committee's two co-
chairs are currently seniors, the group is
actively recruiting sophomores and freshmen,
mainly because the initiative could take years
to implement.

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