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Public university’s ‘gay cultural studies’ gives academic credit for LGBT community activism

Students study ‘contributions, concerns, and challenges associated with LGBT culture’

A public university in Virginia offers students an academic program of “gay cultural studies,” a course of instruction that promotes research and “community involvement” regarding LGBT issues.

The Gay Cultural Studies program at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia “focuses on the contributions, concerns, and challenges associated with LGBT culture,” according to the university’s website. The program is supported by “fundraising and public awareness of issues germane to the diverse and vibrant LGBT community in Hampton Rhodes,” where the university is located.

According to the site, the program “promotes academic research and provides graduate and undergraduate educational opportunities.” The program also seeks to “engage the local Hampton Roads LGBT community through ongoing dialogue and community involvement.”

It is unclear at what stage of the process the program’s development currently stands. The website lists several ways students can “get involved” with Gay Cultural Studies, including “Attend events sponsored by ODU Gay Cultural Studies and spread the word to interested friends and colleagues” and “Join the ODU Gay Cultural Studies Advisory Board.” However, the site also states that the school’s Gay Cultural Studies Advisory Council is in the process of “establishing” the program, leaving its current state uncertain.

Dana Heller, a professor of English at Old Dominion University and the faculty contact for the Gay Cultural Studies program, did not respond to queries from The College Fix regarding this program. Jessica Weaver, listed as the program’s graduate student assistant, also did not respond to queries.

The website lists several courses that fall under the program, including “Foundations of Queer Studies: Sexualities, Identities, and Perspectives,” “A History of Queer Bodies,” and “Contested Bodies: An Introduction to Gender Theory.” These courses “emphasize LBGT Studies,” according to the program’s website, but it is unclear if the courses themselves qualify as “gay cultural studies.”

Elsewhere, the program’s website refers to a proposed “Post-Doctorate position in Gay Cultural Studies” that would be charged with producing scholarship on LGBT issues as well as teaching a “recurring graduate seminar in sexuality/gender studies.”

The position would also “be responsible for organizing an annual outreach event that shines a light on Hampton Roads LGBT community accomplishment and concerns and would act as a liaison between The College of Arts & Letters and the Hampton Roads LGBT community.”

A profile of the program states that it was founded in 2010. According to the profile, the university’s Gay Cultural Studies initiative is “unique to Virginia’s higher education landscape in that no other college or university in the Commonwealth has a program dedicated to research and instruction focusing on the histories, contributions, concerns, and challenges associated with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) cultures.”

The Facebook page of the program appears active, though sparsely so, with posts appearing on average a couple of times a month last semester. The most recent post, from the end of May, announced “the recipients of the first intramural ODU Gay Cultural Studies Grants for Research and Creativity.”

MORE: College’s ‘Queer Studies’ program seeks to ‘destabilize normative sexuality’

MORE: Children should learn queer theory in elementary science class, argues science professor

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Ema Gavrilovic -- DePaul University