As part of Gay Pride Week events, a faculty panel on Queer Studies was held on Thursday. The panel discussed the ideas, applications and problems surrounding the implementation of such a department.
The panel was composed of several faculty members whose academic interests lie in areas that deal with issues of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) sexuality.
Panelist Beth Freeman, for example, was instrumental in founding a women's studies program at the University of Chicago and Jan Cooper, associate professor of expository writing and English, has worked to obtain grants for LGB studies at Oberlin.
Both students and faculty attended the event, and discussion ranged from the definition of Queer Studies to a debate over the potential effects of such a program on the queer, or lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual community at Oberlin College.
The main discussion at the forum centered on the way queer issues are currently studied and taught at Oberlin, and how they might be handled differently within a college department in the future.
Freeman, associate professor of English, said she believes that the academic area known as Queer Studies "involves taking the issues of marginalized sexuality seriously."
Andrew Lavallee, Double-degree sophomore and co-chair of the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Union (LGBU) summed up the panel's purpose with the question: "What are Oberlin scholars doing in fields that address lesbian, gay, bisexual and other issues concerning sexual differences?"
Answers were provided. Visiting Instructor of English Linda Dorff has focused her scholarly attentions on the issues surrounding homosexuality in drama. Similarly, Jeff Byrd, associate professor of art, and Bill Hood, professor of art, have worked to raise awareness of queer issues through their courses.
When asked whether a queer studies program might have the effect of stagnating LGB activism efforts on campus, the panel answered that activism takes many forms.
Cooper and Hood said that Queer Studies is a way to bring the study of LGB topics into the academic arena, where they can be more closely studied.
Hood said, "Activism and education do not have to be mutually exclusive."
Problems facing a potential queer studies department were also addressed. Panelists said the appearance of Queer Studies classes on a students' transcripts might affect who they are perceived to be or how they are treated in the outside world.
Other problems identified were that of not being able to accurately gauge the demand for such a program on campus, and the difficulty in educating prospective students about the Queer Studies option if it were made available.
Of the panel, Viet Le, a college first-year, said,"It was a very good discussion. It's nice to hear what the faculty has to say about these issues."
Raising questions: Faculty and students discuss what Queer Studies would mean for Oberlin. (photo by Richard Hong)
Copyright © 1996, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 124, Number 21; April 19, 1996
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