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Much Credit Goes to Women's Studies for Change Felt Across the Campus

by Tamara Keith, Student Contributor
posted Mar. 11, 1998

Women’s studies has been an important campus fixture since it became an official program in 1976. Its influence has been felt throughout the campus’ departments including the typically male-dominated College of Engineering, which now has a women’s resource officer.

Irene Tinker, professor of women’s studies and city and regional planning, says that the most significant impact women’s studies has had on the campus is in its curriculum.

“The most important thing is the integration of issues concerning women in many of the mainstream courses,” said Tinker.

“It has become increasingly difficult to teach only from a white male point of view.”

Women’s studies overcame a major obstacle in 1991 when it was upgraded from program status to a full-fledged department. Tinker, program chair at that time, found that a title can make all the difference in the world.

“The creation of the Department of Women’s Studies gave a visibility to the issue of women’s studies that is very important on this campus,” said Tinker.

“If an issue isn’t recognized with departmental status, it fades.”

When women’s studies became a department, it was one of only four such departments in the nation – though there were more than 600 programs. Departmental status has allowed women’s studies to expand its faculty base and staffing.

With nine core faculty members and eight affiliated faculty each from diverse backgrounds, the women’s studies department offers a feminist perspective to a wide range of topics.

Combining social sciences, history, literature and film, women’s studies looks at gender, culture and society through the lens of feminist theory while attempting to maintain an even-handed treatment of men and women. Five hundred students, men and women both, attend women’s studies courses annually.

Sixteen are expected to earn women’s studies undergraduate degrees this year. Because women’s studies is an interdisciplinary major, students who graduate with women’s studies degrees are not limited in their pursuit of graduate education or careers.

This month, women’s studies is involved with two conferences.

The annual graduate student Boundaries in Question Conference was held March 6 and 7. With the goal of fostering a cross-disciplinary dialogue, this year’s topic was “Designing Women.” The conference explored ways women are constructed by and are reconstructing their spaces, places, images and identities.

An international conference on gender and globabization is set for March 12 through 15. (See below.)

International Conference on Gender and Globalization

March 12-15, Lipman Room,
8th Floor, Barrows Hall

Panelists from around the world will discuss decolonization, the cultures of the Americas, topographies of race and gender, and human rights in the context of globalization. The conference will showcase recent research and illustrate ways to include gender and globalization issues in the curriculum.

Angela Davis, professor of history of consciousness at UC Santa Cruz, will give the keynote address Thursday, March 12, at 8 p.m. Gayatri Spivak, who teaches English and comparative literature at Columbia University, will give the capstone address Saturday, March 14, at 8 p.m.

Sponsors include the Ford Foundation, UNESCO/Society for International Development and several campus departments and offices.

The conference is free. For information, contact the Beatrice M. Bain Research Group, 2539 Channing Way, Rm. 21, 643-7172, or

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