Utah State University announced on Thursday it will be opening a new Center for Intersectional Gender Studies and Research, following the permanent closure of its Center for Women and Gender at the beginning of this month.
“Rather than a shutting down and reopening, it is more of just an evolution to really re-envision where we are in the whole space related to intersectional gender studies,” said Utah State Provost Frank Galey.
Christy Glass, a USU sociology professor who will be the new center’s interim director, said the initiative is part of the continuing evolution of the university’s commitment to gender studies and research, going back to 1974 when the Women’s Center was first established.
“I see the new center as simply part of that incredible legacy of USU’s unwavering commitment to gender studies, but also its willingness to adapt and change in response to advances in research, scholarship and pedagogy,” Glass said.
The new center will be housed in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. According to Glass and Galey, changes will include seeking to make the center more inclusive, involving more faculty and increasing the focus on the academic side of the center, including research and teaching.
Glass said over the next two academic years, plans will be set for the center’s new activities and programs and an inaugural director will be hired. Galey said student scholarships will still be awarded during this time and other support services will be moved to the office of inclusion.
Students working on the minor and certificate the old center offered will be able to complete them, but no new students will be accepted to the program during this time.
This change comes as the university has also announced that the 2019-2020 academic school year will be “The Year of the Woman,” in celebration of various upcoming suffrage-related anniversaries, including 100 years since the passage of the 19th Amendment.
It’s because of this commemoration that former director of the Center for Women and Gender, Ann Austin, said one of the many things she is disappointed about at the end of her tenure is not being able to participate in the suffrage celebrations, especially since her grandmother was a Relief Society president in Idaho who participated in the movement.
“I was really looking forward to being part of the suffrage celebrations in honor of my grandmother because it meant a lot to her,” Austin said.
Austin also said she was upset to find that the founding of the Center for Women and Gender in 2010 was not originally included on the university’s Year of the Woman timeline, which highlighted other events such as the beginning of the USU women’s basketball team and President Cockett being named the university’s first female president.
After Austin pointed this out via email to both the university provost and president and a few other professors, the founding was added to the online timeline. When asked, Galey said he had not been aware of the issue and that it must have just been an oversight
Austin found out the center would be closing in July, but she said she has known changes were underway since December when she learned Cockett wanted to go a new way with the center.
“I wasn’t given many details before that,” Austin said. “I heard her say that they wanted to revitalize the center. I thought we were pretty vital as it was.”
Between both the lack of knowledge she had about what changes would occur to the center not being originally included on the timeline, Austin wrote in an email to The Herald Journal that the situation felt personal.
“It feels like we’re leaving no legacy,” Austin stated.
According to Galey, one focus of the new center will be ensuring that as many professors who want to be involved with it can be and that Austin will be welcome to be as involved as she likes. He and Glass also commented on the work she had previously done.
“None of this work would be possible without the leadership she provided and leading the inaugural gender center on campus, and I am really proud of the work that she did and I am really proud especially to be a part of the continuation or the next phase of that work at USU,” Galey said.