by Viveka Ray-Mazumder, Joey Radu, Elizabeth King, and Lark Mulligan
In November 2009, a group of students and college employees asked a simple question: What if campus activists and experts interested in gender, sexuality, race, disability, ethnicity, class, and nationality could have a permanent voice in Middlebury’s policymaking process—much like environmental activists and experts have a permanent voice through the Environmental Council? Over a year later, these same folk have developed a proposal to create a Gender Council (GC)—a permanent body comprised of students, staff, and faculty that would advise Administrators on gendered policy issues—that would be a resource to help the College resolve issues related to gender before crises occur. Although difficult to explain in so few words, here are some answers to frequently asked questions:
Why is this called the “Gender Council” if it deals with more than just gender?
GC is neither exclusively about women’s issues nor about gender alone, but about entanglements—how it is impossible to discuss “gendered” issues in isolation from other categories of identity. Many colleges have an LGBTQ Council; however, GC would recognize that gendered experiences often extend far beyond the range of sexuality. For example, we cannot address the experiences of Muslim women on campus without bringing together race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, and religion (at the least). Likewise, GC would work cooperatively with ongoing Diversity efforts to examine issues of race, gender, and socioeconomic status that may play into the challenges of recruiting and retaining students, staff, and faculty of color at Middlebury. GC would be attentive to these nuances, and would incorporate the specificity of these unique gendered experiences in college policy. We do not just want to make Middlebury more diverse, or more “tolerant” of diversity. We want to help restructure power relations at the College so as to foster a community where all students, staff, and faculty can feel like they belong, and flourish.
Why can’t existing organizations do the tasks that GC is proposing? Continue reading