By Courtney Kimberlin
A new policy has been added to all women and gender studies (WGS) syllabi, which is intended to lessen classroom confrontations and increase open-minded thinking.
“The advisory board for women and gender studies decided in Spring 2012 to add a section about program and course expectations to all syllabi,” said Lisa Day, director of WGS.
In every WGS-affiliated course syllabus, the new policy states the course “respects and celebrates diversity, which includes, but is not limited to race, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic status, gender, sexual orientation, disabilities and cultural or national backgrounds, in pursuit of common unity.”
Day said when a change is made to a syllabus, it is always supposed to improve the classroom, student understanding and teacher opportunity.
She said it serves as a precautionary element for students that don’t know what to expect from WGS course material.
“I think the statement will indeed make a difference in our classes because sometimes students aren’t prepared for the subject matter of our curriculum,” Day said. “Our courses often challenge the students’ paradigms about gender, sexuality, and sexual identity, and even when change occurs only in mindset, it isn’t an easy shift.”
Day said during such shifts, students sometimes displace their discomfort with the subject matter onto their peers or toward the professor, which disrupts class and turns the discussion toward a less than optimal learning environment.
One student said the new policy will help allow all students in WGS courses to receive an equal learning opportunity.
“It’s good,” said Jamie Woolery, 21, WGS minor from Irvine. “Mainly because there are a lot of diverse subjects covered in a WGS class and you may not agree with them all, but you need to be open because others in the class might and they’re there to learn the same as you.”
Ultimately, she said the new addition to the syllabus is meant to improve the WGS program and students as a whole.
“The program and course expectations are intended to alert the students about the strong potential for these challenges,” Day said.
The policy wasn’t created to influence student beliefs, but rather educate them on the importance to acknowledge ideas from other students as equal to their own, Day also said.
“We aren’t asking the students to abandon or replace their beliefs and personal ideologies,” Day said. “Our syllabus changes are intended only to make the students aware that they will be learning about other perspectives, and by being open-minded toward things that are different, EKU students will be better equipped to participate in a global, multicultural society.”