Monday, November 10, 2014

Celebrating 20 Years of the Center for Women's Studies

This Tuesday’s Brown Bag was a reflection of the history of Women’s Studies and the Center for Women’s Studies at Colgate. All six interns created original Stand and Speak pieces on specific topics pertaining to the history of women’s studies at Colgate. Some of these included Title IX, the creation of the Women’s Studies major and minor, and the women’s resource center.  While doing research in preparation for this presentation, I found it incredibly frustrating to realize how much of the same issues pertain to the Colgate campus in 2014. However, meeting past women Colgate professors at the symposium brought a bit more nuance to my understanding of their experience. For example, my topic of coeducation and co-curriculum and some of the concerns that I found in the archives were further explained. The women on the panel discussed their difficulty acclimating to the campus culture and the pushback they were met with as professors. are The discussions which I had really showed me how much progress has been made. In the archives, women students spoke of feeling like they need to represent the views of all women in the classroom. This feeling of isolation is still relevant today for students who's experience . It makes for a less safe learning environment. In 1986, a Committee on Coeducation and Co-curriculum was created as a review of the past four years of the WMST program. The questionnaire included shared student perspectives on housing, academics, athletics, and extracurricular activities. On the topic of academic life at Colgate, women professors and advisors were perceived as being more open and available for counselling. Women were not as satisfied with their experience as their male peers. I think the questionnaire was point to some sort of balance in equity if the needs of women. I think this is still relevant today. The idea of needing to represent the voice of all women in the classroom is something that students of color deal with daily.

 On the topic of coeducation and curriculum, student dissatisfaction with a male dominated campus climate making it difficult to learn was a reoccurring theme. While the earlier committee transcripts and maroon news articles reflected some of the needs of women students, the official proposal for the program written in 1989 elequently explains the need for a Women’s Studies program. “The Women’s Studies program is built on the assumption that women’s experiences are sufficiently different from men’s past experiences. Both must be fully recognized and acknowledged if we are to fully understand human experience.” As a WMST minor, it’s interesting to see the reasons for the inception of the program and why they are still relevant today. I'm grateful to be a part of this community and think it creates a culture that is incredibly important to the creation of a better learning environment. In short, studying history and culture from a women’s perspective is important as is the need to re-examine traditional concepts so that more voices are included. Attending this weekend’s celebration of 20 years of the center further drove home this idea. While talking to Wanda Warren Berry, one of the first women professors to teach at Colgate in 1962, she explained the deep strides she made to become a full time tenured professor, and the decision to eventually leave Colgate. Being part of discussions on the change in departments and the different values given to programs and departments was also interesting. I think one of the most significant things which I learned from the Brown Bag and the celebration is that change is incredibly slow and hard to recognize. Having forty years of distance between the experiences of the women I read about and who’s stories I listened to provided much needed perspective. As a person who has just five weeks left on the campus, it’s becoming more and more apparent that this distance is very much needed. I can’t imagine how much Colgate will change for the better in the next twenty years. I really appreciated hearing from the past and current WMST professors this weekend. I think it really brought to life documents such as a the Committee to Reflect on Coeduation and Curriculum.

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