Monday, Nov. 11 saw the first of four lectures on campus by candidates for the new chair and first full-time professor of the Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies (FGSS) program. Professor of English and FGSS Christina Crosby is leading the search along with a handful of other FGSS professors.
Crosby described the reasoning behind the search for a new addition to the program.
“The program has no one that is appointed 100 percent to the program,” Crosby said. “This is a problem because departments, quite rightly, ask people to do things, to either chair the department or serve in some other way.”
Current Chair and Assistant Professor of FGSS Jennifer Tucker commented on the difficulty of not having any faculty members dedicated solely to the FGSS curriculum. Tucker is also an Assistant Professor of History, Science in Society, and the Interim Director of Albritton.
“Over the years, [FGSS] has been sustained and supported ably and generously by faculty (core and affiliated) whose positions are in other departments,” Tucker wrote in an email to The Argus. “One of our Program’s strengths is the great variety of courses we offer annually, and this has been accomplished due to the dynamic faculty interests across the university and the willingness of faculty to cross-list their courses with FGSS.”
According to Crosby, there is a high level of interest in the FGSS program, in part because so many fields intersect with feminist and gender topics.
“We certainly know that there are feminist scholars across the University, which is a great strength here at Wesleyan,” Crosby said. “But this means that we don’t have the bodies in the program to do the important things that the department needs done. There’s plenty of student demand for feminist courses; just look at the Wesleyan curriculum and you see that. There are feminist courses everywhere. We need to staff our core courses, and it’s just a question of time, of people’s time.”
However, the committee is unsure whether the program will see any drastic changes with the arrival of a new chair.
“We have intentionally tried to not plan ahead,” Crosby said. “We want to see what the people we’re talking to have in mind and would be able to do. I don’t think there’s going to be any radical change [to the program], certainly not in the immediate future.”
Also involved in the process is a group of several students involved in the FGSS program, including Jessica Tollman ’15, who described the process that the student committee will undergo.
“We’re going to go to the talks and just give our input, since we’re going to be the ones involved in their classes,” Tollman said. “Then we’ll get lunch the next day with the candidates, talking about them, their ideas, their work, their backgrounds. Our committee will talk and write up a one-page evaluation of our thoughts and preferences, and that will weigh into the ultimate decision.”
Tollman noted the need for a full-time FGSS professor to enhance the program by having it be the professor’s primary focus.
“It’s a program and not a department, so all the professors who are affiliated with FGSS belong to other departments, so [their classes] will be cross-listed with other departments: English and FGSS or Government and FGSS, things like that,” Tollman said. “The FGSS professors are awesome, but because they are so great, they are often asked to take on a lot of responsibility that might make them spread thin.”
The search committee aims to find a chair who will unite the program and create a clear focus for its courses.
“The program has invited to campus candidates who have significant scholarship in feminist studies, a forward-looking vision of interdisciplinary work, and a record of intellectual and institutional leadership,” Tucker wrote. “We are hoping to find a scholar-teacher-chair who sees the great possibilities here, and who will work with us to help build interdisciplinary feminist studies and related collaborative projects across the Wesleyan campus.”
Tollman detailed the qualities she hopes to see in the new chair, stressing the importance of introducing a new point of view to the FGSS program.
“At Wesleyan the FGSS department does a really good job of looking at the intersectional nature of feminism, taking into account…all of the different matrices of power,” Tollman said. “From what I know of the candidates, they’ve all done that kind of intersectional work, and that is contemporary feminism in a lot of ways. So I’m looking for someone who understands that idea of an intersectional feminist consciousness and also just someone who will bring something that I haven’t had to my FGSS experience. It will be great to bring someone in who has a fresh perspective.”
Crosby seconded Tollman’s sentiments.
“With this [professor] to provide the kind of orientation and leadership, it would make a difference for the program and for Wesleyan,” Crosby said. “I think a stronger program will strengthen feminist scholarship across the university.”
In the coming weeks, more candidates will visit campus to present lectures. The chair will be selected by the beginning of next semester.