By Tamar Bot
— The AUC curriculum will soon be expanded with a long-awaited gender studies course. The class will be taught as part of the Culture track starting in the academic year of 2016-2017. It will be an interdisciplinary module, cross-listed with Social Sciences.
The course, to be called Gender & Sexuality, will be situated on the 200-level. It will likely be taught in the first semester, but this is still to be fine-tuned with the teacher, whom is yet to be hired.
The inclusion of a gender studies course has been a topic of discussion among the student body for years. “Students informally proposed it to me quite a while ago,” said Rebecca Lindner, Head of Studies for Humanities. However, according to her, it wasn’t proposed in time for the discussion of course proposals, which is why the management didn’t consider it at first.
Also, there usually isn’t much space to add courses, especially in the Humanities department. Only well substantiated proposals have the chance of getting through, if submitted at the right time.
This was the case last May, when the Humanities Focus Group of 2014-2015 submitted a proposal after they received the results from a survey conducted by the Student Council. Students from all majors were asked what course they thought was missing from the Humanities curriculum at AUC, and gender studies was the number one answer. The other options were a music, theatre and curating course.
The appeal for a gender studies course had always seemed high, and these numbers proved it. “The demand was literally quantified,” said Aaron Altaras, board member of the Student Council and student representative in the restructuring of the Culture track.
In response to the result, the Humanities Focus Group set up an official proposal which was sent to the management through the Student Council. “They made a really clear, persuasive case for such a course in the context of the humanities and the social sciences,” said Lindner. The proposal not only described the potential content and skills needed for the course, but also contextualized it in comparison to other University Colleges in the Netherlands — all of which have one or multiple courses in the field of gender or women’s studies. The Focus Group also identified a gap in AUC’s curriculum: themes of gender and feminism are reflected in small parts of many different courses, but often swiftly, not allowing clear focus or depth.
The crux of the acceptance was that the submission of the proposal coincided with the restructuring of the Culture track. According to Lindner, the faculty feared that this track lacked coherence. “Because it appears in the academic core [placemat], our culture track became a mix of things that we brought across from the academic core and social sciences, often because they were anthropology courses with some humanities involved,” she said.
There was an unusual amount of space to add courses within the restructuring, because of the departure of faculty member Rafael Sánchez. Two of his courses, Addiction and the Modern Subject and The History of National Civil Rights Movements, will not be offered anymore because they were strongly connected to him as a teacher.
Professor Alexandra Brown, currently on maternity leave, conducted a thorough track analysis. She evaluated the experience of students, core faculty and external faculty with existing Culture courses in order to identify what were the most coherent links between courses, and what links were missing.
According to Altaras, both students and faculty identified the lack of unity within the track. “Individual courses were popular with students by all majors, but there wouldn’t be many people saying they were majoring in Culture,” he said.
The restructuring is supposed to make the track move up progressively. A 100-level course, Introduction to Cultural Analysis, is being offered this semester. Prior to this, Chinese Studies was the 100-level course in the track. According to Lindner, the introductory course will identify methodologies of cultural analysis and function as a preview of the 200- and 300-level courses in the track.
But there’s more: as of the next academic year, a 300-level course on intersectionality will be offered as well. This course will further build upon the content of Gender & Sexuality, but also include topics of class, race and ability. Gender & Sexuality will act as its prerequisite.
The courses in the new Culture track are supposed to relate to one another in methodology rather than merely in content. “Cultural analysis is a field of study,” said Lindner, “not just random fun things.”
It is not yet clear who will be teaching Gender & Sexuality. When AUC designs a new course, they send out a call to faculty at the UvA and VU. Both universities have proposed teachers, which, according to Lindner, is quite unusual. The teacher will be able to tailor the content and approach of the course to their own expertise and field of research. This way, the course might just be purely theoretical, or focus on cultural case studies instead, Lindner explained. “The hiring decision is really important.”
Lindner and Sennay Ghebreab, Head of Studies for the Social Sciences, will be interviewing candidates shortly. This is to ensure a detailed course description is available by the time the enrolment period starts in May.