Berks 2011: “Queering the College Campus”

2011 June 20
by Shane Landrum

Here are my Twitter notes from the Berkshire Conference panel on “Queering the College Campus,” which explored late 20th century history and current politics related to LGBT students and faculty in North America.

Panel on “Queering the College Campus”, June 10, 2011, 15th Berkshire Conference on the History of Women

  • Chair: Nicholas Syrett, University of Northern Colorado
  • “Creating Sexual Violence for LGBTQ Students on College Campuses,” Stephanie Gilmore, Dickinson College
  • “Learning Alternatives: Student-Led Gay and Lesbian Studies in the U.S., 1969-1989,” Susan K. Freeman, Minnesota State University, Mankato
  • “The Classroom as Therapeutic Culture? Gay Students and Their Professors in North America from the Student Revolt to Today,” Heather Murray, University of Ottawa
  • Discussant: Shante Smalls, New York University (and now of Davidson College)

Please note: This post is intended to preserve some of the key ideas from the session as I understood them. I have edited this transcript to remove factual errors made in the speed of the moment. As with most of Twitter, it prefers soundbite-style brevity to nuance. If I’ve misquoted or misrepresented what was said, please feel free to correct me in comments (or to expand on ideas you heard in the session.)

  • After a magical mystery tour to the Cape Cod Lounge, settling down for "Queering the College Campus" at #Berks2011. Nick Syrett introduces. ->

“Creating Sexual Violence for LGBTQ Students on College Campuses,” Stephanie Gilmore, Dickinson College

(Gilmore started out by saying that this wasn’t primarily a historical paper, but an effort to explore how LGBT students at highly selective liberal arts colleges do or don’t classify their experiences as “sexual violence.” Her home institution has been in the news recently for its handling of sexual assault cases.)

  • Stephanie Gilmore, Dickinson Clg: "Creating 'sexual violence' for LGBTQ students on college campuses"; based on 3-campus study #Berks2011 ->
  • LGBTQ students at college students experience sexual violence but have no institutionalized ways to discuss them. #Berks2011 ->
  • This past yr, Dickinson Clg LGBTQ students successfully executed a 4-day sit-in to push administrative policy change. #Berks2011 ->
  • Women & LGBTQ students minimize the impact of sexual violence (& avoiding it) bc of institutionalized lack of good policies. #Berks2011 ->
  • What is at play when we confront institutional & individual silences? Gilmore gives brief history of .edu nondiscrim policies. #Berks2011 ->
  • LGBTQ people aren't specifically covered by any federal educational nondiscrim policy, like Title IX. #Berks2011 ->
  • Colleges have adopted LG(B) inclusive policies to boost student/fac/staff recruiting; many leave gender id/expression out. #Berks2011 ->
  • By 1990s, LGB(T) ppl generally rhetorically included as part of campus "diversity" initiatives, but campuses still chilly. #Berks2011 ->
  • Campus nondiscrim *policies* matter to students/faculty/staff, but good *practices* are difficult to find. #Berks2011 ->
  • Gilmore does ethnographic, IRB-approved rsrch on 3 highly-selective SLACs; but most college admin records are sealed for 25 yrs. #Berks2011 ->
  • She relies on interviews w/tenured faculty, longterm administrators, etc. In all 3 .edus, Title IX officer is in Athletics Dept #Berks2011 ->
  • Many administrators don't think about sexual violence as a Title IX issue & use FERPA as shield to keep silence on events. #Berks2011 ->
  • Campus administrators are watching the Yale frat case but aren't connecting sexual violence & nondiscrim policies systematically. #Berks2011 ->
  • Gilmore describes "heartwrenching" stories from students about incidents but faces a stone wall of archival records. #Berks2011 ->
  • misconception that if assaulted students do not pursue some judicial process, then there's no record: not actually true. #Berks ->
  • Gilmore reports that campus activism against sexual violence is often led by LGBTQ students *and/especially* women of color #Berks2011 ->
  • LGBTQ students are recording the sexual harassment they face on campus & are putting those documents in college #archives. #Berks2011 ->
  • This means we can write those histories in the future. #Berks2011 ->

“Learning Alternatives: Student-Led Gay and Lesbian Studies in the U.S., 1969-1989,” Susan K. Freeman, Minnesota State University, Mankato

  • Susan Freeman, Minnesota State U-Mankato, on history of student-led course offerings in gay & lesbian studies, 1969-1989. #Berks2011 ->
  • Talking about courses colleges agreed to create because students demanded them, even without faculty on hand to teach them #Berks2011 ->
  • Further student activism was a result of lesbian/gay-themed classes, even when courses not esp. academically rigorous #Berks2011 ->
  • Spring 1973: Sacramento State U had 5 gay-titled courses. #Berks2011 ->
  • During 1970s & 80s, student-power movements successfully allied with faculty & local communities to get identity-based courses #Berks2011 ->
  • In some schools, gay studies explicitly followed the model of ethnic studies, women's studies, latin@ studies, etc. #Berks2011 ->
  • Discusses "free universities" in 1960s: "anyone can learn, anyone can teach;" usually unpaid instructors; coopted later by .edus #Berks2011 ->
  • RT @historying: Presenting a poster this afternoon at #Berks2011 on text mining midwife Martha Ballard's diary: http://bit.ly/iwEB7H ->
  • Freeman talks about what students learned from the gay studies classes they ran & how it shaped their lives. #Berks2011 ->
  • Gay Liberation Front activists offering courses at NYU's "Alternate U" in 1969-70, with (illegal) dances afterwards. #Berks2011 ->
  • One of these dances & police crackdowns produced the founding of activist grp Street Tranvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) #Berks2011 ->
  • U of Louisville (KY) students affiliated with GLF won university defense of their student-led gay-studies courses #Berks2011 ->
  • At Florida State University's Ctr for Participant Education, 1971, GLF's "the homosexual in america" cancelled by administration #Berks2011 ->
  • FSU's courses were eventually approved with different names & different instructors of record. #Berks2011 ->
  • Freeman listing off early 1970s courses at many different schools' free universities, all over the US. #Berks2011 ->
  • The places she lists aren't just in parts of US now seen as "liberal"; lots of college towns in what we'd now call "red states" #Berks2011 ->
  • Freeman closes: Institutionalization of LGBT studies has a longer history worthy of further study. #Berks2011 ->

“The Classroom as Therapeutic Culture? Gay Students and Their Professors in North America from the Student Revolt to Today,” Heather Murray, University of Ottawa

  • Heather Murray, U of Ottawa, on "gay students & their professors in North America from the student revolt to today" #Berks2011 ->
  • Murray starts with quote from an interviewee about his 1960s crush/love feelings for his college's dean, blurring into mentoring #Berks2011 ->
  • 1960s gay liberationist students watching their closety older gay profs: seeing them as kind of sad, also fascinating. #Berks2011 ->
  • 1960s gay-lib students worried they couldn't be mentored by closety faculty who were in the "straightjacket of a normal life" #Berks2011 ->
  • Murray talking about gay-lib students trying to get their profs to bond with them as gay by (as we might say) "dropping hairpins" #Berks2011 ->
  • Gay-lib students belittled "the closet" & its effects on older profs but were also fascinated by it. #Berks2011 ->
  • Murray retells Terry Castle's published story of relationship w/female prof: fascination with psych scars of closeted generation. #Berks2011 ->
  • These student behaviors, overall, started to make gay faculty discuss whether it was important to come out in their classes. #Berks2011 ->
  • Murray uses "gay" repeatedly but it's not clear whether she studies mostly men or whether she's repeating the era's term. #Berks2011 ->
  • "Broader concern with expression of emotion in the workplace in the 1960s"- could older gay faculty really be honest in classes? #Berks2011 ->
  • #Berks2011 is a constant struggle against dehydration. Many in this room are visibly sweating. (Again, it's Women's History Summer Camp.) ->
  • Murray: evolution of the idea of the gay teacher as role model; Castle's idea that lesbian prof proves gay adulthood is possible #Berks2011 ->
  • Murray cites 1993 MA Governor's Commission on Gay & Lesbian Youth, calling on L/G teachers to support L/G students. #Berks2011 ->
  • I note that @PhDeviate testified for that 1993 MA Governor's Commission hearing/report. Congratulations, you're part of History. #Berks2011 ->
  • The 1990s notion that a prof might have a moral influence on students freighted idea of the gay prof– made being out difficult #Berks2011 ->
  • Murray: how useful is concept of a generational rift btwn profs & students when both were experiencing "gayness" at same time? #Berks2011 ->
  • So what we're learning from Twitter at #Berks2011 is: pick sessions based on the AC in the room? ->

Comments by Shante Smalls, New York University/Davidson College:

  • "Queering the College Campus", Cape Cod Lounge, #Berks2011: @ShanteParadigm beginning official comments. ->
  • .@ShanteParadigm addresses "LGBT safe zones" on campus when campuses are often not physically safe. #Berks2011 ->
  • .@ShanteParadigm : Trans students' difficulty accessing medical care amid "diversity" policies & LGB "just like you" rhetoric #Berks2011 ->
  • Homophobia, heterosexism, *and* homonormativity all impede LGBT students but don't block college admins' ability to function. #Berks2011 ->
  • .@ShanteParadigm says: all these projects highlight the importance of keeping a queer archive: ephemera, buttons, oral histories #Berks2011 ->
  • .@ShanteParadigm: Freeman says these Marxist-style courses built counterpublics, predated institutionalization of queer studies. #Berks2011 ->
  • Nontraditional pedagogies are important for producing archives that don't repeat homonormativity, corporate patronage. #Berks2011 ->
  • .@ShanteParadigm says these different queer archives can show alternatives to current G/L focus on marriage & military service. #Berks2011 ->
  • .@ShanteParadigm explores Murray's questions about what kinds of power people could/can wield from the closet. #Berks2011 ->
  • At many of 1960s universities, profs & students "looked alike" (race, culture, class, gender); this is less and less true now #Berks2011 ->
  • As profs start careers at younger ages, & students are getting older- sharing cultural references- how does mentoring happen? #Berks2011 ->
  • Importance of ethics & boundaries in mentoring, especially for queer profs also being pushed by administrators. #Berks2011 ->
  • .@ShanteParadigm raises questions of who has access to campus; perceptions of campus as idyllic refuges, actual sexual violence. #Berks2011 ->
  • .@ShanteParadigm's comments end; Q&A opens. I'm not going to try to keep up with tweeting this segment. #Berks2011 ->
  • Yours truly caught on camera at #Berks2011 by @TenuredRadical: http://bit.ly/knEYhv ->

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