by Jacqueline Frost
A new gay and lesbian studies minor at Berkeley offers students an opportunity to explore issues facing the homosexual community.
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies program was approved in July by the executive committee of the College of Letters and Science.
"It shows the university's commitment to the growth, development and support of this emerging field," said Carolyn Dinshaw, an English professor who helped establish the new minor. "It legitimizes the field of study."
The program's full complement of courses won't be offered until next year, but several of the core classes are already available. "The (new minor) draws together and coordinates what we already have," said Dinshaw.
In the past, students who wanted to pursue this course of study could put together their own curriculum within the Interdisciplinary Studies major. Now, the material is assembled into four core courses and a wide selection of elective classes.
"It brings coherence to the field of study," said Michael Lucey, a French and comparative literature professor who worked with Dinshaw on the curriculum committee. "This keeps the university current and up to date with research and scholarship."
The new courses cover a wide range of topics, ranging from "Methods and Problems in the History of Sexuality" to "Alternative Sexual Identities and Communities in Contemporary American Society."
In addition, students can pick electives from many departments including English, ethnic studies, public health, Spanish and classics.
While new to Berkeley, many colleges and universities have similar programs, including Cornell, Yale, Harvard, Rutgers and Duke University. In the Bay Area, San Francisco City College and San Francisco State University offer gay and lesbian study programs.
At Berkeley, the project got underway in 1992 with a curriculum development grant from the College of Letters and Science. Faculty and students formed an informal task force called the Berkeley Bisexual Lesbian Gay Center to begin work on the project.
While initial plans called for the establishment of a new major, the group scaled back its plans after hearing from students who said they would be more interested in a minor. Lucey also said that faculty staffing would have been a problem since there were not enough faculty available to staff a new department.
While enrollment figures are not available, Dinshaw said she was encouraged by interest shown by students in the new minor.