‘Minor’ issue? Not in the least

The Argosy condemns Mt. A admin.’s possible slashing of WGST funding

Dr. Lisa Dawn Hamilton, acting director of Mount Allison’s women’s and gender studies program (WGST), announced in an email last week that the program’s funding had been cut for the 2016-17 academic year. This potential administrative action is deplorable; by further reducing degree requirements, the
administration demonstrates compli-city in the devaluing of gender-studies discourse. We stand aligned with the people fighting to keep the WGST program alive and thriving at Mt. A.

As students, WGST’s de-funding leaves us at a disadvantage. It is essential to the liberal arts education that Mt. A not only claims to offer, but touts as well. Not only does the program benefit those enrolled in its courses, but it permeates Mt. A’s entire campus culture – through the formation of student groups like the WGST society, through gender-focused talks and events, and through the incorporation of women’s and gender studies in other departments.

Some students in the process of completing a WGST minor face uncertainty about whether they’ll be able to complete their degree or not. At present, students with six WGST credits will be permitted to complete their minor-degree requirements with only interdisciplinary courses.

The previously required mere four core courses did not suffice for a minor, and further decreasing the degree requirements would be unacceptable.

The department should be funded properly so that students can actually reap the high-quality learning experience on which Mt. A prides itself. The WGST minor’s enrolment has tripled since 2013, yet the administration refuses to provide the staffing necessary to teach the courses. This diminishes the educational experiences of those who take them.

Professors paid by stipends face increased stress and unreasonable working conditions. This makes it harder for them to provide the teaching quality necessary for critical courses – like WGST courses – and devalues the work they do. Since stipends don’t cover research, these professors cannot participate in the academic community to the extent to which full-time professors can.

Funding the teaching of WGST courses with stipends is unethical. Every department at Mt. A should be able to accommodate the number of students who want to take its courses without having to mistreat its faculty, and this has not been the case for the WGST department in the past.

The WGST program has been essential to creating a community for both students and faculty to facilitate discussion and shift the discourse on gender issues. By stripping it away, the administration is sending the message that those who have benefited from this community are not important. The program’s de-funding is also an offence to all women who have to struggle to avoid being silenced every day of their lives. In doing this, the administration chooses to be complicit in a long history of erasing women’s voices.

Many students arrive at university uninformed about women’s and gender issues, and by cutting the WGST program, the university is denying them the potential to change this. This decision reflects the gendered nature of economic policy, a concept being discussed in the very classes now on the chopping block. To argue that this decision is based solely on budget cuts is both contemptuous and brazenly asinine.

De-funding WGST would also fly in the face of simple – not to mention economic – logic, since any in-demand program should be expanded, not shrunk. It would go against Mt. A’s commitment to teaching critical thinking and fostering informed citizens. The administration desperately needs to start listening to student voices. They can hang up as many photos of Gracie Lockheart as they want to, but they cannot claim to value women’s education while simultaneously proceeding with this action.

By The Argosy’s Editorial Board 

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