Sexuality Studies Crisis
by Kimberly Fisher
I really didn’t know if Carolina was the right place for
me, but then I stumbled across the website for sexuality studies.
No other public university in North Carolina offered anything
like it. I was very impressed that Carolina had created space
within the undergraduate curriculum to explore the diversity
of human sexuality across academic disciplines and across cul
tures. Maybe, I hoped, Carolina supported the type of academic
and campus environment that I needed to thrive. I have been
here for a semester, and that initial impression has changed.
The Sexuality Studies program was created in 2004 and
may be gone by 2008. Blatantly violating its written promises
for increased support, the University administration has with
drawn its formal support of the program and Sexuality Studies.
It needs two things to survive: a director, and sustained
support from the University
support should take the form
of granting a course release for
the Sexuality Studies director,
which would allow her or him
to teach one fewer class each
year so that she or he could de
vote more time to administering
the program. No new academ-
le program can survive without
a person to fundraise, publicize,
^d organize the curriculum.
Former Provost Shel
ton promised this form of
support in a formal letter to
the program’s acting chair last
summer. Provost Grey-Little failed to fiifill this agreement, and
'vithdrew not just one, but two course releases for the Sexuality
Studies director. As a result. Sexuality Studies has been with
out a director and a budget for the entire 2006-7 school year.
Students, faculty and staff have worked through the ap
propriate channels to help fix this problem, meeting with Dean
Levine, Dean Andrews, and the Vice-Chancellor ofStudent Affairs,
L)r. Jablonski. The Student Advisory Committee to the Chancel
lor continues to raise this issue with Chancellor Moeser himself,
^rnphasizing that administrative leaders have a responsibility to
follow through with their promises. Yet nothing has changed.
If nothing else, the positive student response to Sexual
ity Studies should be reason enough for the university adminis
tration to give it the support it deserves. Sexuality Studies classes
^re the first to fill when students register. Students who take Sex
®nd Gender in Society, Comparative Queer Politics, Politics of
Sexuality or other classes in the program don’t come out the same
'vay they went in. I’ve heard people say that these classes changed
iHeir lives. I’m currently in two classes listed in the program and
each has given me a unique outlook on myself and the world.
The value of Sexuality Studies extends beyond student
response - it contributes to the vitality of Carolina’s undergradu
ate curriculum. Sexuality Studies provides an understanding of
how human sexuality is intrinsically connected to the public
realms of race, class, and politics. All students, whether they’re
straight or queer, have to grapple with these issues on a daily basis.
Furthermore, Sexuality Studies represents a new and
challenging area of academic inquiry and research. As Karen
Booth, Professor of Women’s Studies and Sexuality Studies, stat
ed, “The area of human sexuality is not considered important in
many of the mainstream disciplines. There’s been a real expan
sion of scholarly work done in the area but professors aren’t given
enough room to pursue these subjects.” In giving full support
to Sexuality Studies, Caro
lina establishes itself as an
academic trailblazer, on the
cutting edge of scholarship
within the social sciences.
The Sexuality Studies pro
gram matters. It enriches
undergraduate students’ in
tellectual development. It
enhances the vitality of the
Why, then, has, the admin
istration failed to support
the program? It isn’t clear.
What is clear is that this lack
of support is connected to a
larger issue of administrative
irresponsiveness, irresponsibility, and failure to take seriously
issues of sexuality in general, and homophobia in particular.
Carolina should take pride in its stated commitment
to diversity and academic excellence. The Sexuality Studies pro
gram exemplifies this commitment. This program, more than
any other, reaches out to all students. The inclusion and ap
preciation of difference found within Sexuality Studies courses
will not remain isolated to the classroom. Students engaged in
this program will take what they learn to help Carolina to be
What can students do about Sexuality Studies?
First of all, sign the online petition to save Sexuality Studies:
Additionally, students must demonstrate that they care
about the program. E-mail the Chancellor, the Provost,
and the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences to let
them know your opinion. Finally, encourage your parents
and alumni to speak to the administration on your behalf.