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Women's Studies encourages student engagement

As someone who serves on the President's Council on Women, I read the Nov. 3 editorial, "Council has unfinished business," with great interest. The major issues raised by the Women's Initiative and the Campus Culture Initiative have not yet been addressed. It is true that there have been some achievements in the last five years; for example, there are improved childcare facilities (though there is still a long way to go), lactation rooms on campus, events directed specifically for female alums and courses created through Baldwin Scholars. But although the attempts to improve matters are very welcome, "woman" has been conceived in the narrowest sense--as primarily reproductive. There is no doubt that the situation has improved for reproductive women on campus, but we have yet to tackle, or even set an agenda for, the educational mission of the institution as a whole around issues of sexuality, class, race and gender.

In the Women's Studies department, we have not seen the lives of women undergraduates improve over the last five years, and we have seen a misogynist backlash unleashed against some. Indeed, morale has been low. We do not see adequate representation of the concerns of LGBT students on campus.

Although I understand that the development of Baldwin Scholars over the past few years has created a handful of students who are able to address some of the gendered constraints and opportunities of leadership, this can hardly be expected to tackle the complex issues for women on campus as a whole. I look forward to an opportunity to work on the educational mission of the institution as a whole around gender issues. In the meantime, in Women's Studies we welcome students into our courses where they may find the analytical tools to understand gender and sexuality more broadly.

Ranjana Khanna

Professor, Women's Studies


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