In an effort to broaden the University’s educational offerings on LGBT culture, students are spearheading an initiative to start a department devoted to queer studies.
Students in the Michigan Student Assembly’s LGBT Issues Commission want to create a queer studies department in LSA that would encompass studies on the history, issues and nature of queer culture. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Sexuality Studies, also referred to as queer studies, is currently offered as a minor in the Department of Women’s Studies.
Members of the LGBT Issues Commission have discussed the possibility of creating the department with faculty and administration, including Jackie Simpson, director of the office of LGBT Affairs, which has helped gain support for the initiative.
“(We are) investigating the possibilities, whether something like that would work at the University of Michigan,” Simpson said. “I’m definitely supportive of that.”
Lester Monts, the University’s senior vice provost for academic affairs, wrote in an e-mail interview that he, too, supports the student movement and appreciates students’ desire to make changes in academia.
“I am very pleased our students have taken the initiative to inquire about this …” Monts wrote. “We are always interested in teaching, learning and research that significantly expands knowledge and engages our diverse community of scholars.”
In the past, student initiatives led to the creation of the women’s studies and Afroamerican and African Studies departments, which became a department last year.
Faculty in the academic area will first discuss the possibility of creating the queer studies deparment, Monts wrote. Then, the University will conduct a comprehensive review of the research, literature and teaching in the subject.
“I look forward to hearing the thoughts of those who are conducting these first important steps in the process,” Monts wrote.
LSA junior Ethan Hahn, co-chair of the LGBT Issues Commission, said he thinks the current queer studies minor that is offered does not supply enough information on the subject because it only teaches the history of LGBT culture. In the queer studies department, he said queer theory and the future of LGBT culture would be taught along with history.
Hahn added that he envisions the concentration offered by the department to be broad and applicable to many different professional fields such as law or medicine.
“(The major) is a way for students to have an opportunity to learn more about queer culture and how to handle today’s issues,” Hahn said.
Creating the department would also be a way to provide more job opportunities for professors at the University, Hahn said.
The potential new department would be affiliated with other cultural departments and concentrations, according to Architecture and Urban Planning junior Kristen Mayer, the other co-chair of the LGBT Issues Commission.
“Hopefully, there are still some ties between the queer studies and women’s studies departments,” Mayer said.
While the main focus of the commission this year is to spread awareness of the initiative and gain student and faculty support, members of the commission predict queer studies will become a potential department in the next few years.
“So far, everyone has been supportive,” Mayer said. “We haven’t run into any opposition yet.”
The LGBT Issues Commission is holding a mass meeting today in the MSA Chambers to provide more information on the initiative and garner support from students.
Correction appended: A previous version of this article misidentified who will hold a discussion on the possibility of creating the queer studies department. It is the faculty in the academic area.