Two years after students demanded Georgetown University give the women’s and gender studies program departmental status, students’ demands for such a department remain unmet. Georgetown’s WGST program continues to face a lack of resources, depriving students interested in the field of the complete education they deserve.
To fulfill the university’s core values of “community in diversity” and “academic excellence,” Georgetown should establish a WGST department as soon as possible.
The WGST program was founded in 1987 and since then has supported Georgetown students in studying the historically overlooked subject. The program employs an intersectional lens in examining gender, according to its website.
WGST classes provide new perspectives on diversity for majors, minors and other Georgetown students. Introductory classes provide students a gateway to explore a field they otherwise may not be familiar with. This semester’s electives further explore the intersections of gender with disability, race and the environment, among other topics. With these courses, students are able to explore different topics through nontraditional pedagogy, thus exposing them to traditionally underrepresented perspectives in academia.
Additionally, in talking about the intersections of gender equity with other identities, WGST promotes student awareness of societal injustices and therefore fosters civic engagement.
Though WGST yields many benefits in terms of both diversity and civic engagement, the program has the potential to do much more if given the proper resources. A department would allow WGST to hire more full-time and tenure-line faculty members and receive more administrative assistance from Georgetown.
The WGST program currently only has 12 professors, of which only two are full-time and none are tenure-line. The lack of full-time faculty not only overworks professors, but also deprives students of the same support their peers receive in academic departments.
In an April 2019 op-ed in The Hoya, WGST major and coordinator of the current campaign for a WGST department Katarina Watson (COL ’21) described how professor You-Me Park, the director of the program, has to advise all majors and minors, teach courses in the program and manage the administration of the program.
Chad Gasman (COL ’20), in an October 2019 interview with The Hoya, detailed how their thesis project was left unsupported after their adviser, a former adjunct professor, chose to leave Georgetown for financial reasons.
With the instability of faculty due to lack of departmental status, neither faculty nor students are able to further their academic pursuits without having to worry about how the program’s lack of resources might affect their work.
As an institution that exalts “community in diversity” and “people for others” as some of its key values, Georgetown has clearly not provided students with sufficient resources to fulfill those commitments in the WGST program.
The university has also moved painfully slowly in response to student demands for a department. The university has barely taken any concrete steps to pursue departmental status for WGST more than six months after a petition garnering over 270 student signatures was sent to College Dean Christopher Celenza in March 2019.
In May, Watson met with the newly formed WGST board composed of Celenza, College Vice Dean of Faculty David Edelstein and four female faculty, according to Watson.
But Watson felt the meeting did not sufficiently address the main issue of WGST’s lack of departmental status.
“Although some of the steps stated will undoubtedly have a positive impact on WGST, they lack a sense of urgency and willingness to impart large change,” Watson wrote in an email to The Hoya. “I worry that, despite the dean’s assurance that this is a top priority, I will return to campus and little progress will have been made.”
A WGST department is long past due; the university can no longer sit idle on this issue two years after students began calling for the department’s creation. Students and faculty deserve the full range of benefits offered by a department — most importantly full-time and tenure-line faculty. Georgetown should create the department now.
The Hoya’s editorial board is composed of six students and chaired by the opinion editor. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.