| Monday, February 27, 2006
| DE PAUL UNIVERSITY OFFERS FIRST 'QUEER STUDIES' MINOR
|College student Eric Oliver sits in the classroom's front row, ready to learn about Italian poet Dante and Catholic theologian St. Thomas Aquinas and theri views in morality and sin.
This isn't a religion, philosophy or literature class. It's an introductory course in queer studies, and tfor the next 90 minutes, Oilver and his calssmates study the history of same-sex desire, the biology of gender indentity and government reactions to homosexual behavior dating back for centuries. It is no longer remarkable that the subjects are taught, but on this day, it is notable where the discussions is taking place. The classroom is on the DePaul campus, the country's largest Catolic University and, it is believed, the first Catholic school to offer an undergraduate minor in queer studies. The minor became available in January.
"I can see how it may seem like a big step", said Gary Cestaro, Director of Lesbian, Gat, Busexual, Transgender and Queer Studies, the offical name of the minor.
Other Catholic schools, including Georgetown and Santa Clara in California, offer coruses in the subject, but they fall under Women and Gender Studies programs. Notre Dame offers a course on sex and sexuality in U.S. history that includes discussion on homosexuality and gay liberation.
Several non-religious colleges offer degrees in the subject, including the Illinois. which allows students to focus on queer studies within the gender and women's studies department.
"Institutions of higher learning, Catholic or not, are about open investigation and free inquiry. DePaul particularly has a strong indentity that involves commitment to social justice and to the urban community . At least from that perspective. LGBT studies make a lot of sense here," Cestaro said.
The new program, whcih began this semester, comes as religiously affilitated universities are grappling with potential conflicts between contemporary issues and religious values. Rev. John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame, recently limited the campus 'Queer Film Festival' and "The Vagina Monologues" show, requiring the festival to change its name and banning fundraising for the performance.
Jenkins, who wants the Catholic view point represented in discussions of morality, has requested faculty and student inout before deciding whether the shows should continue in future years.
Nicholas Lund-Molfese, who works with the higher education ministry at the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, said teh archidiocese isn't necessarily opposed to the program at DePaul.
"I dont' have any allergic reaction per se to the subject matter. There were ways it could be treated good and ways it could be treated bad, which is true of any course that deals with history or sociology", he said. "Are there ways of doing this that would be according to Catholic teaching? Tes. Are there ways of doing this that would be opposed to Catholic teachings? Yes"
Although DePaul officials say the minor has'nt been cmtroversial, it does have critics.
Karl Maurer, spokesman for Catholic Citizens of Illinois, said he plans to send a letter to DePaul's president, denouncing a program that he contends "validates people in sinful lifestyle". Catholicism teaches that homosexual activity is immoral.
"I am very disappointed that anti-Catholic propaganda would be given such a high level of attention by DePaul", said Maurer of New Lenox, a DePaul graduate. "Keep in mind this is a university that calls itself the largest Catholic school in the country. This is almost truth in advertising."
Rev. James Halstead, chair of DePauls' religious studies department, said he has no academic qualms about the minor, but said he has had concerns about how it would affect DePaul's image.
"For those who don't know the inner workings of a university, study means study. Advocacy means advocacy. How does this play in circles outside the university that is a concern," Halstead said. "From the university's point of view, this is a matter that ought to be studied in a multidisciplinary study."
Students seem to agree. Cestaro, who is teaching the introductory course Tuesday and Thursday mornings this semester,s aid demand exceeded the 30 spots in the class.
(Source: REDEYE from Chicago News Services)
|posted by infraternam meam @ 4:04 AM