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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

WGST program dreams of hiring full-time faculty

<ir="ltr">With 39 majors across a wide spectrum of departments, Carleton prides itself on letting students truly immerse themselves in their academic interests. However, not all programs are created equal, with many lacking in substance and support for those interested. According to many students, Women’s and Gender Studies is one program that is severely deficient in its offerings.

Matthew Elfstrand ’17 is a WGST concentrator and GSCA in the Gender and Sexuality Center. He has been heavily involved in recent efforts to expand the program at Carleton in several directions. He explained that the shortage of resources in WGST has discouraged some students from exploring it as an area of study. He considered it a “shortage” due to the fact that WGST is merely a program rather than an official department, and at this point, Professor Meera Sehgal is the only faculty officially committed to the program.

“[Meera] is too stretched for the entire program,” Elfstrand said. He explained that Sehgal’s academic focus is on women’s issues in South Asia and gendered violence, while he and other students desire expansion in queer studies. The program brought in a visiting professor who focused on LGBTQA+ issues in an attempt to bridge the gap, and several courses were offered this year in the area, among them WGST 112: Introduction to LGBT/Queer Studies and WGST 220: LGBTQ Movements in the US. However, Elfstrand claimed that the main issue is a lack of consistency in course options. For example one course, Feminist Theory, while quite popular among students, is only offered every few years.

“A lot of our peer institutions have professors designated in queer studies.” Elfstrand said. “Before this year, I had never really seen anything relating to queer people. Meera wants there to be queer studies at Carleton, but she is not an expert in that.”

Sehgal reiterated many of Elfstrand’s concerns. She said the scarcities in WGST were brought to light when the program recently underwent its decennial review, when faculty from other liberal arts colleges came to critique the program. While the reviewers praised the substantial transnational focus of Carleton WGST, they agreed that the program was severely lacking in queer studies.

“Our students are upset, and legitimately so,” Sehgal said.

She noted how the reason for the shortage in LGBT-related faculty and courses was the result of a lack of funding. While the program received an APLS fund from alumni that was to be allocated towards hiring a more permanent faculty member, the money is not sufficient. As a result, WGST relies mainly on adjunct and visiting professors, some of whom are here for only a term.

“We all want more consistency in the program’s resources,” Sehgal explained. She said that this financial shortage is common in the College’s smaller, interdisciplinary programs like African/African-American Studies. The funding a program or department receives is determined by administration and usually relates to the size of the program. This explains why larger departments at Carleton, like economics, have an easier time keeping faculty and student resources consistent. She then made clear that the program’s goal is to get more money approved from Carleton to hire a full-time professor, contractually obligated to WGST. That way, the program name could be changed from Women’s and Gender Studies to the more appropriate Gender and Sexuality Studies. This goal would require substantial funding, but Sehgal believes it is achievable. “I’m very optimistic about this plan,” she said.

Elfstrand expressed similar sentiments. “We have been communicating about a petition to administration about this issue,” he said. “I think it is possible that change will be made.”

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