Students attempt to salvage women studies course

A petition marking the discontent of some of the members of the Wilfrid Laurier University community was delivered to the dean of arts, Michael Carroll, on Mar. 26. Laurier students Christine Wolfl, Katie Regimbald and Priscilla Jarvis began circulating the petition after hearing about the removal of a women and gender studies course which they feel is the pinnacle of the program: to bring light to the violence against women.

Responding to the displeasure being expressed by students, Helen Toye, assistant professor and coordinator of women and gender studies, explained that the word ‘cut’ is being incorrectly used to describe what is happening to the course in question. Violence Against Women (course code) is still “on the books” and could be offered in subsequent years, whereas cutting a course involves a complicated process.

“We’re offering the same number [of courses] we offered last year,” Toye stated.

New courses are being offered in place of Violence Against Women, in an effort to add more variation for woman and gender studies majors.

“It’s always a difficult decision,” she said. “That’s why it’s not just one person who makes it—
there’s always a committee.”

Toye is excited that the program is expanding, as Carroll gave them a new hire this past year. “It’s a program I want to foster,” Carroll said, explaining that women and gender studies at WLU is a success story.

He believes that “gender, sex, sexuality and their relationship with power, ethnicity and other cultural conditions are an important part of the liberal arts education.”

Both Toye and Carroll are appreciative of the passion students are displaying through the petition. Helen Ramirez, assistant professor in women and gender studies, voiced the inspiration Wolfl, Regimbald and Jarvis have instilled in her as they demonstrate such leadership.

“We have this mantra for what Laurier is supposed to be about; inspiring lives of leadership, for instance,” she explained. “Here, we have students who are actually acting on that mantra.”

The three students imparted their own perspectives on the Violence Against Women course. For Wolfl, it gives students a venue to relate to one another.

“Taking a course like this allows you to see what actually goes on in the world,” she asserted. “It allows you to create awareness and teach others about what you’re going through as well.”

Regimbald was appalled when she heard the news, explaining, “I think in order to get the true flavour of a women and gender studies degree, this course is absolutely necessary.”

Jarvis believes the course should be mandatory for all WLU students, as violence has become so taboo in our culture that we are unable to identify it. The fact that the course addresses this problem is what makes it so imperative to the program. “This course has created an amazing space for discourse, education and a continuum of the voices of women,” Jarvis continued.

Ramirez expanded on this, explaining how people who take the course become agents; armed with information on the issue, they are able to subsequently go out into the community and assist others.

Beyond stopping the course from being ‘cut,’ Wolfl notes that they hope it will bring awareness to violence against women.

“Things change over time,” Jarvis said, speaking to criticism that the petition may be useless. “And it’s not by people turning their backs or turning their heads or ignoring the issue. It’s little steps like this that create change.”

Toye encourages students to come speak to her about their concerns. “We’re on the same side, hopefully,” she conveyed. “Let’s see what can be done.”

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