A proposal to establish an Animal Studies minor was passed unanimously by both the Educational Policy Committee (EPC) and the Faculty Executive Committee, and will now moves to a final faculty vote by Thursday, May 19. Professor of Philosophy Lori Gruen and Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Elan Abrell submitted the proposal on Friday, Feb. 18. 

Under the current proposal, completion of the minor will require taking a minimum of five Animal Studies credits and completing an internship in one of four areas: animal care and conservation, policy and law, art and media, or veterinary work. PHIL215: “Humans, Animals, and Nature,” taught by Gruen, is the only required class, with students choosing from Animal Studies classes to take to complete the other four required credits.

Animal Studies courses have been offered as a cluster on WesMaps since 2014, but the completion of these courses is not recognized on students’ degrees. Gruen and Abrell decided to propose an Animal Studies minor so that students could have an official title for their studies. 

“I’ve worked with a number of different faculty, visitors, postdocs over the last almost 15 years now,” Gruen said. “I think that part of the idea for the proposal now was that it’s a good time to have a minor as a more organized way for students to show that they’ve taken a coordinated set of courses.”

In a letter advocating for the creation of an Animal Studies minor, Ava Purdue ’23 echoed this sentiment.

The Animal Studies ‘Cluster’ at Wesleyan is a start, but what does that mean on a resume or transcript?” Purdue wrote in the letter. “Creating an Animal Studies Minor would enable students interested in Animal Studies to be recognized for their pursuits and taken seriously beyond the classroom.”

In addition to the two faculty members, students were also involved in the decision-making process, including emailing letters of support to Gruen. 

“Interestingly, I also got emails from prospective Wesleyan students…[asking] ‘Could you tell us what we can get from animal studies?’” Gruen said.

Sophia Clevenger ’22 explained that the interdisciplinary nature of Animal Studies is partially what makes it so important as it becomes a bigger field of study. 

“[Animal Studies is] beginning to be taken a lot more seriously,” Clevenger said. “People are starting to see not only the very obvious connection between environmental studies and Animal Studies, but the connection between [Animal Studies and] sociology, American Studies, FGSS, Af[rican] Am[erican] Studies, all of these different [subjects] that are extremely wrapped up in Animal Studies.”

As Animal Studies develops and expands, Gruen hopes the new minor will allow the University to remain a leader in the field.

“The field of Animal Studies has grown a lot, and Wesleyan is becoming a well-known place for Animal Studies,” Gruen said. “Many other universities and colleges have developed minors and majors.”

Clevenger also noted that designating Animal Studies as a minor helps legitimize the field.

“While [Animal Studies has] been dominated by white men, it’s been completely supported and actually run by women and Native people and POC,” Clevenger said. “Not that any of those groups need recognition from institutions, but it is kind of nice to be like, ‘Yeah, this is a legitimate thing. It’s not just sentimental women who care about animals; it’s a legitimate field of study.’” 

Joshua Kleiman ’24 first became interested in Animal Studies after taking ENVS225: “Liminal Animals: Animals in Urban Spaces.” Kleiman explained that the class pushed him to reevaluate his relationship with animals and think critically about the place of animals in society.

“I thought ‘Liminal Animals’ did a really good job of forcing me to think philosophically about how humans relate to animals and our relationship with animals,” Kleiman said. “It showed me how much depth there is to that relationship and about how if you don’t put yourself in an environment where you critically are thinking about that relationship, then it’s easy to take it for granted and just be satisfied with the way that you exist in relation to animals.”

Kleiman is currently enrolled in PHIL283: “Animal Law and Policy,” and noted how the course conveys the importance of advocating for animal rights.

“[Animal policy is] just unbelievably lacking in every capacity,” Kleiman said. “Every piece of legislation that is supposed to regulate the welfare of animals is just so lackluster in what it does, and I think that’s lit a little fire in me…to be like, ‘Yeah, this is something that not enough people are fighting for’…. If there is an Animal Studies minor, I hope that more people will take these courses and have their minds changed in the ways that I’ve experienced.”

Whether or not the Animal Studies minor is approved, Clevenger encourages students to take classes within the field and explore the interdisciplinary approach that Animal Studies offers. 

“I would very much encourage students to at least take one animal studies class if they can, because not only are the professors amazing, but…you can find so many avenues of entry…that there is something for everyone in it,” Clevenger said. “There’s such rich community between all of us and whether you’re someone who loves animal studies or not, that takeaway is important and valuable for everyone.”

Kat Struhar can be reached at kstruhar@wesleyan.edu.

Linda Lu can be reached at ylu04@wesleyan.edu.

Comments are closed