Under a proposal being put forward by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies will move out of the soon to be dissolved School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry, and moved into the new School of Social and Political Sciences.
The Department of Gender and Cultural Studies has a radical and unique history. Beginning with a strike in 1974 for the first women’s studies course, “Women and Philosophy,” studies of gender and sexuality at the University of Sydney have a deep-rooted relationship with philosophical inquiry. These courses fill a space which allows for imagined collective thinking and ideals. This plays into the unique learning experience students gain in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies, which prioritises care and adjustments to each individual’s needs and lived experiences.
Many staff and students fear this experience will be lost in a relocation, due to what would likely involve adjusted staff reporting measures and heightened managerial involvement of subject planning. Also of concern are the units of study lost in the Dean’s push for subjects with less than 24 enrolments to be axed. These concerns are symptomatic of former Arts Dean Annamarie Jagose’s approach to tertiary education: that less student choice leads to better outcomes. This belief is diametrically opposed to what attracts students to Gender and Cultural Studies, and what allows them to become successful thinkers through it.
On top of all this is a broader concern among students with whether the School of Social and Political Sciences is at all a comfortable fit for Gender Studies. The core of Gender Studies is about building a better collective reality – searching for a better understanding of lived experience through academic inquiry. This lens is seemingly incompatible with the University’s emphasis on employability statistics, and many students worry that vocationalising the course through discouraging the more philosophical aspects will have a detrimental impact, not only on the learning experience, but also on the social impact of the course.
Despite these changes being made on the premise of better learning outcomes and building a more competitive image for the University, it is materially true that they involve less HDR student admissions and a loss of project choice for those students: it is difficult to justify less unique research being done as something to assist those goals.
Staff submissions to the proposal close on October 10. Gender and Cultural studies students are striking on October 13 to oppose the changes, as well as organising a day of action. You can support them by getting involved with the Education Action Group here.