One undergraduate student in Tacoma, Wash., is doing all she can to make her campus more queer-friendly.
Meet Kelly Johnson, a University of Puget Sound psychology major with a minor in gender and queer studies, and founder of “Quoffee and Quonversation,” a club where students can engage in “a radical queer theory hour” every Monday on campus.
Johnson has created a petition asking the University of Puget Sound to add GQS as an actual major.
“The students of The University of Puget Sound would like to petition for the addition of a Gender and Queer Studies Major. Currently, Gender and Queer Studies is offered only as a minor, despite our standing as the nation's first women's studies program in the United States,” the petition states.
At the time of publication, the petition had already exceeded more than 1,000 signatures.
“The role of the petition is to show the level support from the student body and from the community here,” Johnson told Puget Sound’s The Trail.
“Education is the best way to bridge gaps and understand each other, lessen conflict; it promotes critical thinking and I think that since we are at a small liberal arts school the interest level is really high,” Johnson added.
Johnson’s petition gives four reasons for developing GQS into a major:
“1. To understand, apply, and critique key concepts and theoretical positions in feminist, gender and queer studies.
2. To use and interrogate gender and sexuality as categories of analysis at various levels, such as individual, interactional, institutional, and global and in specific historical, cultural, and disciplinary contexts.
3. To reconsider and denaturalize identities and experiences as embedded in, and produced by, interlocking systems of power and inequalities.
4. To integrate feminist, gender, and queer analysis into educational and activist practices in students’ research, writing, and classroom interactions, and in public scholarship, activism, and everyday life.”
Johnson told The Trail that one of the measures that will need to be taken in order to formulate the new major at the university will be to develop a curriculum. She states however that this process will optimistically then attract professors to instruct the course.
Johnson acknowledges that creating a new major is a large undertaking. She hopes that the need to create curriculum will new attract professors interested in the topic.
“You can’t just present the idea of a major; you have to have a fully-formed curriculum, professors that want to teach the courses, reasons that it should be a major,” Johnson expressed. “There is a whole lot that goes into presenting this as a major and presenting this as an idea.”
Annual tuition rates for full-time students at the University of Puget Sound fall around a whopping $47,840 (with all direct costs for the year totaling up to $60,210). Some question if a degree in GQS is worth 60 thousand-something per year.
Greta Austin, head of Puget Sound’s GQS program, echoes Johnson’s opinions and believes that a GQS major would be beneficial for university students.
“Offering a GQS major would provide broader perspectives on the way in which academic studies has traditionally been framed,” Austin stated. “There is a lot of work on how doing good science often depends on being aware of how gendered our assumptions are. GQS has broad-ranging intellectual implications for the University.”
“I think that identity is … one of the most prevalent aspects of our world,” Johnson admitted. “It is the way that we understand each other and the way that we understand ourselves.”
Isaiah Denby is a college freshman from Tampa Bay, Florida studying economics and political science.