Pass the Gender and Sexuality Studies Requirement
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*We had a petition that received over 300 people in support but since this requirement has taken so long to go through the Academic Senate it has termed out.
Education is a university’s most powerful and appropriate tool for addressing gender inequality and gender-related violence on campus. In light of numerous recent incidents exposing UC campuses as often hostile or unsafe environments for women students, the need to step up educational interventions is clear. The evidence is mounting that students would benefit from critical attention to the intersections of gender and violence. For instance, the Obama administration’s investigation of the mishandling of sexual assault cases on two UC campuses; the recent shootings at UC Santa Barbara described by the male perpetrator as retribution for not receiving the sexual attention from women he believed he deserved; the hostile climate created annually by massive photographic displays of aborted fetuses in the center of UC campuses; and the role of sexism and the objectification of women in the entertainment culture of the university. Two recent examples specific to UCR illustrate the latter problem quite clearly. During Ludacris’ recent performance at UCR’s Spring Splash, he called out to students about “UCR girls giving UCR head!” While sex itself is not the problem, and sex has its place in campus life, we believe UCR has an obligation to teach students to recognize that women are almost always the objects in such representations, and men the agents. This pattern of objectifying women for students’ entertainment was also demonstrated during winter quarter, when UCR’s Associated Students Program Board brought the Adult Swim inflatable funhouse to campus. The funhouse, displayed in the center of campus, featured an exit where students slid through the giant, inflatable open legs of a woman’s body. Arguably, the sort of climate created by these incidents feeds into the stream of sexual violence at UC Riverside.1 A greater awareness of the systems that oppress women, men, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer identified people can be a powerful influence in a university setting where sexual assault, rape, bullying, and hazing are known to occur.
In light of the normalization of misogyny and gendered violence in the broader culture, we feel it is naïve for us to imagine that UCR students will have the critical thinking skills necessary to question these forces—unless students have been provided with the training and skills to do so. Through inclusion of gender in UCR’s general education program, the campus can take the needed steps to accomplish its goal of, "[setting] an example of respect for all people," as its own Principles of Community stress . As a university that prides itself on academic achievement and a climate of respect, UCR’s investment in gender studies will position the campus as a national and global leader that teaches students not only about the crisis of rape culture (on campuses, in the military, and beyond) but also about the central role of gender in shaping how labor is divided, how products are sold, how wars are justified, how children are raised, and almost every other realm of social life.
All students at UCR are required to fulfill an ethnicity requirement by taking one ethnic studies course. This requirement has been a great success, and has helped to promote diversity and student awareness of racial and ethnic inequality in society. Gender and sexuality, in intersection with race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, also profoundly shape people’s life chances, their status in society, their sense of self, and their capacity for self-determination. Arguably, it is UCR’s obligation to offer students some insight into the workings of such a powerful and ubiquitous force—if only so that students may be effective at the work they do upon graduation. For instance, many UCR students go on to become teachers in California public high schools, and as mandated by SB 48, teachers in California schools must offer their students some instruction in LGBT history. Of course, to do this effectively, teachers must themselves have training in LGBT history. This is but one example of the direct link between education in genera and sexuality and effectiveness in the very fields that UCR students are most likely to enter.
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