Women’s studies major overdue at KSU, president says

Heather Scarlett

Kathe Davis handed President Lester Lefton a brochure about the Women’s Studies program, telling him the university doesn’t offer it as a major.

“No major?” she said he asked. “Why not? It is the 21st century.”

Davis, director of Women’s Studies, said it is likely that in the near future, with the efforts of she and the Women’s Studies Coordinating Council, Women’s Studies will become a major.

“We have had Women’s Studies courses at Kent State since 1971,” Davis said.

The development of the Women’s Studies major has a history, she said:

• In 1979, the Women’s Studies Curriculum Committee received approval for a certificate that a student could earn for the program.

• In the 1980s, it turned into a minor.

• In the 1996 to 1997 academic year, a plan for the program to become a major was laid out. At the time, Joe Danks was dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and supported the major, but felt that the college could not support it on its own.

“The shift from certificate to minor was just a shift in terminology, because the courses stayed the same,” Davis said. “It was the next logical step from minor to major, (and) everybody was for it.”

The new major is coming into play again, and many feel it will be a good addition to the programs that the university already offers.

“This program will offer a valuable additional option to students, particularly to those who may wish to pair Women’s Studies with a major in some other discipline,” Provost Paul Gaston said in an e-mail.

Davis said most of the current minors are excited about the idea of Kent State having a Women’s Studies major. She said the university will likely offer the major by Fall 2008.

The process is very cumbersome, she said, because the Ohio Board of Regents has to approve the proposal and then committees at Kent State must pass it.

“A major in Women’s Studies would represent the filling of a conspicuous gap in our curriculum,” said Gaston, who would like to see the issue of the program addressed before he steps down.

“Women’s Studies, an important discipline in its own right with a creative and corrective vision, has in addition exerted a strong and positive influence on many other disciplines, including the study of literature and the social sciences.”

Davis said some of the requirements of the new program will be 12 credit hours of core courses and an independent investigation of a topic applied to Women’s Studies.

Nicole Steward, senior sociology major, is doing her individual investigation project on how risk perception influences the use of contraception in adolescent black girls for her Women’s Studies minor, Davis said.

One of the reasons they feel so hopeful, she said, is because both Gaston and the Lefton have declared themselves behind this issue.

Contact academic affairs reporter Heather Scarlett at [email protected].