Sometimes we forget that there still are lots of young women out their majoring in women’s studies (same as when Christine Rosen wrote a brilliant piece for the old Women’s Quarterly on how obtaining a degree in this illustrious discipline isn’t necessarily the ideal path to becoming gainfully employed).
Our friend Charlotte Allen has just written a hilarious piece for the Minding the Campus blog about an imperiled women’s studies department at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas that was granted a reprieve at the last minute. One of the women’s studies professors took the period of uncertainty hard:
One person who hasn’t spent much time on the campus since May is [Lynn] Comella. Sitting behind a desk piled with files and loose papers from spring semester, the women’s-studies professor was too discouraged by this year’s session of the Legislature to return to her small fourth-floor office all summer. “For some of us, we needed the summer to regroup,” she says.
Charlotte decided to find out what Ms. Comella does on the taxpayer’s dime when she is not too discouraged to do it. Charlotte went to the department’s website:
Dr. Lynn Comella earned her Ph.D. in Communication from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, September 2004, her M.A. in Gender Studies and Feminist Theory, The New School for Social Research, May 1996, and her B.A.(Highest Distinction) in Psychology, with minors in Anthropology and Women’s Studies, May 1990. Her research and teaching interests include media and popular culture, gender and consumer culture, sexuality studies, and ethnographic research. She is presently at work on a book project that explores the history and retail culture of women-owned sex toy stores in the United States.
There is also a mission statement:
Throughout history and in all known cultures, power has been distributed differentially (and unequally) according to gender. Certain men have traditionally determined what counts as “knowledge” and will, therefore, be reproduced and circulated as “truth.” Women’s Studies both critiques existing androcentric theories and methodologies, and seeks to reconstruct and reproduce knowledge to include the experience of the previously excluded.
Despite its valuable work in helping young women overcome androcentric theories and such, women’s studies was on the chopping block as part of a move to trim $47.5 million from the cash-strapped university’s budget. Chronically-low enrollment may have been a factor for the department.
But supporters, if not actual students, rallied. The department was saved! Charlotte proffers some advice:
My suggestion is that Comella get back to work. And also that Nevada’s dwindling ranks of taxpayers think seriously about whether a heavily politicized and seriously under-subscribed academic program staffed by lazy faculty is really one they want to continue supporting.