These were really great articles/podcasts/links!
In Rivera and Nadal’s chapter, I was prompted to think about the different structural symbols that are given to students. For example, if an LGBTQ+ center was located in a basement, inaccessible, what would this tell queer students? The chapter encouraged me to consider environmental and structural cues that can play a huge role in making schools genuinely inclusive. I first thought of this when the authors were describing how course offerings can send overt and covert messages about which fields “belong in the family,” or are relevant to queer studies. This made me reflect on two examples from my undergraduate institution.
First, I was a Psychology major, and while the issues of traditional psychology (therapy, personality theory) were what initially enticed me, I became exhausted by the lack of social context/political relevance taught in my courses. I eventually found out that the Human Development department taught courses on critical psychology and individuals in context. My eventual advisor was in the Human Development department, which houses the Education department, even though he has his PhD in Psychology. I found out later how problematic the Psychology department was, but it was wild to me how I had to leave my own department to study Psychology critically. I would have completely missed that if I stayed taking courses in my own hub. This makes me think about all of the queer and trans students and students of color who may have majored in Psychology who were systematically excluded from hearing their own narratives in class and were taught a “one sized fits all” model when talking about Psychology. I now fully realize the violence of this.
The second example is also from my college. Much of our student body majored in Economics – a lot of the student body was very wealthy, so it makes sense they may want to study finance. There were discussions I heard from my friends who were Economics majors, who were mostly studying things like global poverty, urban development, and neoliberalism, who were saying that there was a push in the Economics department to make two “tracks” in the major – one focused on Finance, and one focused on “Social Economics.” There was violence in this decision too – so many students studying economics would completely miss out on understanding how economic systems can perpetuate global poverty and systems of oppression.
This article in particular encouraged me to think about the signals we give students, while designing a course or a syllabus. I loved how the chapter ended by encouraging work to be interdisciplinary, showing that queer studies is truly relevant to all. There’s a place to speak critically about social issues in every discipline, and I’m curious in seeing how this can be done particularly outside of the Humanities, such as in STEM, where I see a lot of this hesitance.
Janan, such a good point re: signals—I remember having a very similar thought when the GC established one gender-neutral bathroom tucked away in a far corner of the seventh floor. What does physical location and inaccessibility say?
To pull back the curtain a bit on our teaching, Matt and I recently had a similar conversation regarding upcoming readings. We were torn on whether to trim down some of next week’s readings, given that pressures (and fatigue) are increasing as the semester goes on. However, we realized that the writers that week are mainly women scholars, all BIPOC. We chose to teach these texts when we did as part of an arc, a place we wanted to be moving towards, but the result may still be a negative one. How can we rethink this for future semesters? What signal does it send that we placed these thinkers in a late week of the semester, when readings are likely to be cut or skimmed? We opted not to reduce the reading load, but that may have its own effects.
All this to say—so many choices send signals, and sometimes we don’t even realize what those signals are until much later. Maybe in class we can talk about some of the things that you all see as positive or negative signals in your current departments, or at the GC or CUNY more broadly?
My first reaction is, well, a reaction. I yelled out loud at this sentence, because it reveals the upside-down way knowledge is made, especially for people who may want to enter “helping professions”: “This makes me think about all of the queer and trans students and students of color who may have majored in Psychology who were systematically excluded from hearing their own narratives in class and were taught a ‘one sized fits all’ model when talking about Psychology. ”
And then another sentence floored me. Reflecting on your undergrad experience, you wrote that “much of our student body majored in Economics – a lot of the student body was very wealthy, so it makes sense they may want to study finance.” Like, what kind of sense is being made here? I’m not disagreeing with you…far from it. I’m asking what kind of logic is at work that perpetuates (demands) that wealth be maintained by those with advantage. (Btw, where did you go to college…and might we think about the act of referring to but *not* naming our academic institutions, an act that we’ve seen happen a couple of times this semester?