Letters of support

In early 2016, the WGST program was told that its status in the university budget was uncertain. Fearing major cuts that would lead to the end of the program, we asked for support from our allies. These letters and messages were very helpful as we worked to secure a temporary solution to this funding issue.

In addition to the comments posted to this petition, we have received letters from the following individuals and organizations:

Dr. Gillian Poulter, Women’s and Gender Studies, Acadia University
Dr. Susan M. Brigham, Alexa McDonough Institute for Women, Gender and Social Justice, Mount Saint Vincent University
Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Regina
Dr. Ann Braithwaite, Diversity and Social Justice Studies, UPEI
Dr. Marie Lovrod, Women’s and Gender Studies et Recherches Féministes (national association)
Jewell Mitchell, YWCA Moncton and MTA parent
Natalie Lesco, St. Francis Xavier
Dr. Kimberly Williams, Women’s and Gender Studies, Mount Royal University
Dr. Shannon Dea, Women’s Studies, University of Waterloo
Lawrence Miller, MTA parent
Dr. Terry Sefton, Faculty of Education, University of Windsor
Department of Gender Studies, Memorial University
Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, Simon Fraser University
South House Sexual and Gender Resource Centre, Dalhousie University
Dr. Lorraine Code, Distinguished Research Professor Emerita, York University
Gender and Women’s Studies, Brandon University
Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Winnipeg
Dr. Joanne Wright, Associate Dean of Arts and Coordinator, Gender and Women’s Studies, UNB
Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice, University of British Columbia
School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, the Graduate Program in Gender, Feminist and Women’s Studies, and the Centre of Feminist Research at York University
Collective for Feminist Action and Research, Wilfrid Laurier University Brantford
Letter from concerned alumni
Dr. Susan Frohlick, University of British Columbia

To whom it may concern:

I am writing on behalf of the Women’s and Gender Studies program at Acadia University to express our dismay at the report that you are not planning to fund the WGS program at Mount Allison next year.  I believe you have full classes with waiting lists for each course, so it cannot be on financial grounds that you have made your decision.  I would urge you to reconsider since it has never been more important for students to understand how gender operates in society to marginalize and disadvantage whole sections of our population.  Equity, social justice, and diversity are all topics and concepts which WGS students investigate and critique in their classes, and that is critical knowledge required in every walk of life and highly desirable in an educated and informed citizenry.

At Acadia we have taken the opposite approach to you and have consistently strengthened our program over the last few years.  We are currently hiring two new tenure track faculty members who will be cross-appointed with WGS, making our program one of the strongest in Canada since it will no longer depend entirely on faculty from other departments or contract instructors.  We have honours, major and minor in WGS and our courses are all in high demand.  In addition, we believe the WGS program plays an important activist role on campus in drawing awareness to some of the difficult issues we face in Canada.

We strongly urge you to reconsider your funding cut and to reinstate and strengthen your program in Women and Gender Studies.

Dr. Gillian Poulter
Coordinator, Women’s & Gender Studies
Acadia University

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Dear Dr. Campbell, Dr. Grant, Dr. vanderLeest, and Mr. Inglis,
We are dismayed to hear that your university has made the decision to cut funding to the Women’s and gender studies program, and we urge the University to immediately reverse that decision.

While we recognize that post-secondary institutions are facing budgetary constraints all over Canada, and perhaps most especially in the Maritimes, it is short-sighted to select this particular interdisciplinary program for redundancy. Now, as ever, students require the ability to examine every day issues from multiple view points, to develop essential critical thinking skills, enhance their understanding of women’s diverse contributions to society, and explore social roles, sexuality, labour, and equity of women and men in all areas of life.

Women’s and gendered issues do not get adequate attention or sufficient exploration in most university courses, yet students continue to care about diversity, human rights, society and the world and studying about these concerns through a women and gender studies’ lens is as critical today and for the future as it was in the past. Students continue to want to be inspired and challenged in their higher educational experience. There is a critical need for Women’s and gender studies program, as your own University website proclaims in its statement: “Women’s and gender studies challenges commonly held perceptions and explores the complexities of the role of gender in social, cultural, economic, and political issues… [and it] offers a unique perspective on a number of other disciplines by examining them within the context of gender.” (https://www.mta.ca/wgs/).

A decision to stop funding the Women’s and gender studies program puts your university on the map for all the wrong reasons. We urge you to do the right thing and not only keep the program alive but grow it. Mount Allison University students deserve it. Our communities provincially, regionally, nationally and internationally deserve it.  If the Federal government cares enough to have a diversified cabinet to more adequately reflect the country’s population, then it is even more pressing that a University shows it cares about women and gender. Do the right thing. Fund and continue to expand the Women’s and gender studies program at Mount Allison.

Sincerely,
[signed]

Susan M Brigham, PhD, Chair of the Alexa McDonough Institute for Women, Gender and Social Justice (AMI)
On behalf of the AMI Steering Committee, Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, NS

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WGST and associated faculty at the University of Regina have provided the statement below:

The members and associated members of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Regina are very concerned that Mt. St. Allison University
has decided to no long support a Women’s and Gender Studies program. We believe that WGST provides a critical and insightful analysis of a wealth of human productions that faculty share with students and larger communities. You do a great disservice to your students and impoverish your university by discontinuing the Women’s and Gender Studies Program.

Brenda Anderson
Jill Arnott
Elizabeth Bailey
Carrie Bourassa
Claire Carter
Cindy Hanson
Darlene Juschka
Bridget Keating
Patricia Miller-Schroeder
Claire Polster
Michelle Stewart

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February 2, 2016

Dear Dr. Campbell, Dr. Grant, Dr. vanderLeest, and Mr. Inglis,

I am writing you to express my dismay and disappointment (and indeed even outrage) about the apparent recent budget decision at Mount Allison to effectively suspend the Women’s and Gender Studies Program there by not budgeting for the program in the 2026-2017 academic year. As an academic discipline, Women’s and Gender Studies is central to the knowledges and skills that comprise an Arts education in academia. It teaches students essential and widely transferable skills such as: a knowledge of and appreciation for diversity and equity issues; an ability to negotiate and work with others in an increasingly multicultural country and international world; the capacity to think globally while recognizing the specificity of the local; an ability to communicate complex and often difficult ideas both orally and in written form; and the capacity to both ask critical questions of their social worlds and think through possible responses to them. Furthermore, Women’s and Gender Studies students, even where the program only offers a minor, are often some of the brightest and most passionate undergraduate students on any campus, devoted to their education and active contributors to campus and community life. Additionally,  WGS faculty (appointed or affiliated) are equally devoted to their students, often spending many extra hours with them in a range of curricular and co-curricular activities. These all seem like attributes that a university truly dedicated to the mission of teaching the next generation should be promoting – not cutting!

I understand that, as with many other universities right now, Mount Allison is concerned about budgetary constraints that demand it look closely at its expenses. However, opting to cut a program that doesn’t have any faculty positions tied to it (and that until recently only had a part appointment), that doesn’t offer a major (or a graduate program), that has a minimal operating budget and perhaps one sessional position attached to it, seems an unlikely way to manage expenditures; indeed, the “savings” are negligible and hard to justify in the face of a university’s overall budget. And that (by my understanding) WGS is the only program being cut in this way suggests another agenda is at work here, one that demands more self-reflection for a university that no doubt prides itself, as many do today, on cultivating global citizenship, interdisciplinary curricula, and experiential learning opportunities—which are all central tenets of this field.

I expect that you will from many of us, faculty and students, in WGS (and other similar) programs across the country and throughout our region. As an academically and intellectually rigorous field, and as a field that offers a broad based education with skills that are increasingly necessary in today’s world, Women’s and Gender Studies contributes much to academia generally, and to the kind of education Mount Allison offers. Indeed, perhaps it should be getting more attention and support from the university, not less! Mount Allison can surely find its savings elsewhere than through this kind of elimination of academic programming.

I look forward to hearing about a quick change of this decision, and to better news from Mount A.

Sincerely,

Ann Braithwaite, Ph.D.

Professor and Coordinator

Diversity and Social Justice Studies

University of Prince Edward Island

Charlottetown, PE C1A 4P3

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Dear Dr. Campbell, Dr. Grant, Dr. vanderLeest, and Mr. Inglis,
I am writing on behalf of our national association, Women’s and Gender Studies et Recherches Féministes (WGSRF), to express our dismay at Mount Allison’s decision to suspend what is reported to be very modest funding for your Women’s and Gender Studies Program in the 2016-2017 academic year.
  • At a time when universities are making explicit commitments to diversity and inclusion in their mission statements, and articulating global citizenship as the horizon of student learning, this funding decision erodes those commitments, reducing them to marketing optics.
  • According to the story in The Coast this morning, the savings are minimal in a program that is growing.
  • Smaller programs like those at MtA shoulder a lot of equity work for the university and broader community. This is especially true for programs in smaller rural and northern communities, which often operate as a clearinghouse for all kinds of emerging and ongoing concerns; loss of that capacity means loss of an important and critical advocate, and a way to link local issues to national concerns.
  • According to Mount Allison’s website, the two professors currently associated with the program in Acting Director roles are: Dr. Leslie Kern (Geography and Environment, on leave) and Dr. Lisa Dawn Hamilton (Psychology). If the wake of Dr. Marie Hammond Callaghan’s recent passing; can interim faculty or instructional term resources be allocated to the program in the upcoming year while a more sensible plan is worked out?
  • With continued controversy on a range of gender issues, including but certainly not limited to: unresolved cases of murdered and missing Indigenous women, refugee crises, measurable feminization of poverty and international migration, gendered Maritime economic outmigration, national stories on sexual harassment in the workplace, universities caught flat-footed with campus rape stats on the rise, and ongoing clashes over whether and how to build inclusive communities, why defund your WGSt program?
  • Gender Studies is a vital field that helps us all understand and search for solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems. Short-sighted program prioritization projects have hampered the emergence and sustainability of interdisciplinary programs, known for their increasing capacity to tackle large social and global problems with expertise drawn from many methodologies and theoretical approaches.
  • Most educated people now recognize that failure to actualize all citizens and to commit to a flourishing and diverse environment threatens prosperity by overlooking a tremendous need to reorganize our long-term socio-economic and political commitments toward inclusive justice and environmental and economic sustainability.
  • Students graduating from universities need a range of skills that will serve them well, not only in today’s job markets, but in helping to creating new economic directions for the future. These skills include: flexibility, ability to identify, see, and think from multiple perspectives and acknowledge and negotiate those differences, using critical thinking and self-reflexivity about the consequences of particular frameworks, all delivered by WGSt and other interdisciplinary programs.
  • To place this issue in a national context, Mount Allison’s undergraduate program is one of 69 in the country, along with related 5 Ph.D. and 13 M.A. programs, all of which have emerged since roughly the 1980s in Canada. So on the one hand, there is growth, but on the other, there is a challenge to represent the full breadth and depth of the field. Certainly, one of the ways Women’s and Gender Studies et Recherches Féministes has been approaching this issue is by working toward greater local specializations, a project in which Mount Allison could be a valuable stakeholder with longer-term benefits.
Women’s and Gender Studies et Recherches Féministes urges Mount Allison to revitalize its commitments to Women’s and Gender Studies through a strategic fund-raising campaign, a new hire in the field, and a renewed commitment to to excellence in inclusive social and environmental justice in its programming and profile.
Sincerely,
Marie Lovrod
President, WGSRF

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Facebook post from a concerned parent of a WGST student:
“Mount Allison just cut the Women and Gender Studies program!” flashed on my phone. It was a text from my son, a fourth year Mount Allison student, sent to me in an outrage sparked by his deep understanding of what that action meant and said about the school he is set to receive a bachelor’s degree from.

 

You see, by defunding the Women and Gender Studies Department, Mount A has placed itself among other recently disgraced maritime universities guilty of enabling and contributing to misogyny and sexism. Choosing to essentially cut the Women and Gender Studies program is no less heinous than being exposed for frosh week rape chants or Facebook groups that depict the worst kind of dehumanization of women. This decision is one more demonstration of how universities continue to shirk their responsibility as game changers in the struggle for gender-based equality.

 

The university states the decision was budgetary and was not taken lightly; I am sure that decision makers reflected on how this would look. After all, a school that constantly brags about being one of the top undergraduate schools in the country surely knows defunding this department sends a clear, loud anti-feminist message.

 

I suspect there was no gender-based analysis in this decision. Gender-based analysis would tell us that this cut disproportionately affects women. The department has a single professor, a woman. The majority of students enrolled and minoring in the department are women. The student body—of all genders—will be deprived of the opportunity to deepen their understanding of the world around them through a gender lens and have been given a message that women and considering gender impacts don’t matter. Ergo, cutting the discipline is a gendered issue. Too bad there wasn’t a department to look into that—oh, that’s right, they just cut it.

 

I am curious to know what time, energy and resources went into the revenue side of equation. It is easy to let a department dwindle in a slow death to make the decision to end its life a matter of seemingly straightforward fiscal responsibility. Were efforts made on the recruitment and revenue generating side? Have all genders been actively engaged to participate in this decision? Does the university understand the resource it has in this department? Does it recognize it could lean on and leverage the expertise within the Women and Gender Studies Department to be a forerunner in the diversity and anti-oppression discussions that are finally gaining traction right now?

 

Every successful organization (for-profit, not-for profit, government) is building its diversity and anti-oppression awareness and capacity. Study after study demonstrates diverse, inclusive teams are more effective, efficient and profitable. One global trend shaping this discourse on inclusion and diversity is the concept of Gender Analysis +. This is an expanded gender based analysis that includes intersecting factors such as culture, socio economics, abilities, etc. in analysis. During a time when our country is becoming increasingly more diverse, the discipline of Women and Genders studies has only become more relevant, not less. The opportunity exists to expand the discipline not cut it.

 

To Dr. Campbell, President and Vice Chancellor of Mount Allison, I say there is another choice here. Women and Gender Studies can be a vibrant and healthy department within the university. Lean on it, invest in it, and allow it to bloom into a place of learning that changes the way our society thinks, acts and behaves. Open a dialogue; there are those of us who are willing to explore an alternate path to a new reality for this discipline, one where we all win— equitably.
-Jewell Mitchell
Parent of a current Mount Allison Student
Executive Director of the YWCA Moncton

 

To whom it may concern,If there wasn’t a need for a Women and Gender Studies Program, there would be no incidences of sexual assault, violence against women or gendered discrimination. In sharp contrast to this statement, Mount Allison University has been reported by CBC to have the highest sexual assault rate of all the universities in New Brunswick.

To prioritize the humanity of a man over a woman is violent systemic discrimination. Women’s voices have been systematically excluded from Canadian history, leading to the oppression that women face inexorably today. A cut to the WGST at Mt. A is a symbol of the continued systemic violence that women face every single day simply because we are women. With no basis, no scientific truth, other than a blatant disregard our fundamental humanity are we discriminated against. The failure to acknowledge the university community prior to the announcements of any funding cuts is a testament to the ways in which the larger academic system seeks to exclude the voices of women, and continues to do so today.

As a university, Mt. A should be encouraging the student body and surrounding community to immerse themselves within opportunities that enable growth. Instead of continuing to silence women, we must learn from the past. If there is one thing Canadians should have learned from history, it is that more than just the white middle class men matter.
Without women, no men would survive.
How, then, would you field a football team?
Consider that.

Sincerely,
Natalie Lesco
A frustrated St.FX student

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Dear President Campbell,
 
As Associate Professor and Program Coordinator of Women’s & Gender Studies at Mount Royal University in Calgary, I am proud to join my colleagues from across North America who are committed to the inclusion of diverse voices and experiences in higher education curricula in asking you to reconsider the recent decision to cut funding to Mount Allison University’s Women’s & Gender Studies Program for the 2016-2017 academic year and beyond.
 
I suspect that, at this point, there’s no need for me to detail the many reasons why critical, interdisciplinary programs like WGST are integral to a well-rounded education and diverse campus climate; others have done that quite well elsewhere. For example, in her recent guest blog for the Huffington Post (January 18, 2016), Dr. Susan Shaw, Professor of WGST and Director of the School of Language, Culture, & Society at Oregon State University, enumerated many of those reasons, arguing quite eloquently that WGST programs
 
bring unique analytical lenses to academic study that help us understand how race, gender, sexuality, and other forms of difference shape individual and group experiences. They help us examine social institutions and the roles these institutions play in maintaining social inequality. And these academic disciplines also help us think about how people can work to bring about changes in the world that create more inclusive, equitable, and just workplaces, families, schools, churches, and other social organizations.
 
Additionally, as was pointed out in a September 2015 Slate article entitled “Making the Invisible Visible”, “a quick glance at the news highlights the need for the study of gender dynamics” in a wide variety of problems that continue to plague Canada, such as:
  • An appalling lack of access to safe, affordable health care – especially in the Maritimes, and particularly in terms of abortion access, which the United Nations has just this week declared a human right.
  • The gender wage gap, which in New Brunswick is at 11.4% — despite the 2009 Pay Equity Act (Snapshot of Women and Poverty in New Brunswick, 2014)
  • The high cost of child care
  • The ubiquity of men’s violence against women, most salient these days in news coverage of the Jian Ghomeshi trial
  • Skyrocketing rates of poverty. In your own province, for example, 28.9% of women-led households are poor, and almost 30% of single women live in poverty (Snapshot of Women and Poverty in New Brunswick, 2014).
  • Increasing HIV infections, especially among young, heterosexual women and indigenous women.
  • And since we’re talking about indigenous women, let us not forget that they comprise the overwhelming majority not only of missing and murdered women in Canada, but also of women who are incarcerated nationally.
There is no other academic location of knowledge production that is working specifically to teach and research these issues that affect more than half of Canada’s population. To do away with WGST courses at Mount Allison – or at any other Canadian university, for that matter – would not only be an unconscionable act of deliberate erasure, but would also signal a clear disregard for learning from, listening to, and supporting historically marginalized voices on campus.
 
I urge you to reconsider your decision.

Respectfully,
KW
_________________________
Kimberly A. Williams, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Program Coordinator of Women’s & Gender Studies
Mount Royal University

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4 February 2016

Dear colleagues:

I am writing to urge you to resume financial support for Mount Allison’s Women’s and Gender Studies Program and to rescind the decision to cease allowing students to enroll in the program.

Mount Allison’s WGST program is a respected site of feminist teaching, learning and scholarship. It would be a loss to the WGST community across the country if it ceased to exist.

Women’s and Gender Studies programs like MTA’s provide students with crucial opportunities to learn about justice and oppression. In a PSE environment increasingly geared towards economic goods, WGST programs remain strongly committed to ethics and social justice. Put differently, WGST programs produce not only good employees but good citizens.

This emphasis on engaged good citizenship is part of the national “brand” of Mount Allison. Students choose excellent small liberal arts universities like Mount Allison precisely to receive the kind of socially-engaged, well- rounded education at which WGST excels. Moreover, Mount Allison was the first university in the British empire to grant a degree to a woman. Closing the WGST program would be a very sad departure from MTA’s long tradition of inclusive, humanistic education.

I join my colleagues across the country in urging you to rescind your decision to close the program.

Sincerely,

Dr. Shannon Dea
Director, Women’s Studies Associate Professor, Philosophy Faculty of Arts Teaching Fellow University of Waterloo Waterloo, Canada

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Dear Dr. Hamilton, et al,
I am a parent of a student who is currently enrolled in her second year and is participating in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Mount “A”. Of course, I’m not aware of the underlying reasons and the discussions that led to the decision to discontinue the program. However, I would urge all concerned to consider the optics; it appears to be a ham-fisted “bean counter” response to a fiscal issue, and in breathtaking disregard of the heritage of the institution itself. I would suggest that before cutting academic programs, especially one that is the very embodiment of the history of Mount Allison as a haven and pioneer in women’s academic pursuits, perhaps it would be more appropriate to look at non-academic activities, such as athletic programs – unless men’s football is considered sacrosanct as a fund-raising tool as is the case with so many schools in the US.
This decision is ill-conceived, ill-advised, and I urge you to reconsider. Otherwise, I anticipate that there will in fact be the opposite of the desired effect, i.e. declining enrolments, starting with current students who transfer to other schools in order to participate in  more progressive curricula.
Yours truly,
Lawrence Miller

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Dear Dr. Campbell, Dr. VanderLeest, Dr. Grant, and Mr Inglis,
I am writing in support of the Women and Gender program at your university. While all institutions of higher education make changes to programming over time, any change should look at many factors, not only financial. Discontinuing this minor concentration will affect students currently in the program and may send a message to future students that Mount Allison is not concerned about deeply entrenched issues of power and discrimination based on gender and sexuality. While some have argued that the need for Women’s Studies programs has passed, recent events at Dalhousie and ongoing social struggles over missing and murdered Aboriginal women would tell us that these issues are far from resolved in all corners of Canadian society.
I respectfully suggest that you review your decision. This program may need more, not less, investment from your institution.
Yours truly,
Terry Sefton, PhD.
Associate Professor
Faculty of Education
University of Windsor

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Letter from Department of Gender Studies, Memorial University
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Letter from Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, Simon Fraser University
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Letter from South House Sexual and Gender Resource Centre

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Dear Dr. Campbell, Dr. Grant, Dr. vanderLeest, and Mr. Inglis,

In the late 1990s I had the opportunity to spend some time at Mount Allison University as one of the evaluators of the Department of Philosophy, as it then was. I had known several MtA graduates, mostly but not entirely in philosophy, and had thought from their respect for the university and the education they received there, that it must be a fine place to study. I was most enthusiastic about the academic and professional atmosphere.

As I came away, however, I grew increasingly dismayed by a comment a faculty member offered in response to my question as to why there were no women on faculty, in philosophy. I knew at least one female philosophy graduate who has gone on, now, to become one of the leading feminist philosophers in the English speaking world, and who had high praise for the education she received. So I was puzzled and dismayed, as I thought further, by a comment from a philosophy faculty member, in response to my asking why there were no women on faculty in philosophy. He commented “Oh, there would be, if we could find a woman who can think.” The picture of gender relations and blatant sexism – and their clear bearing on research integrity – his comment evoked was beyond shocking. Yet I am hoping the current draconian plans to demolish women’s and gender studies do not attest to the endurance of this same dangerous, damaging attitude. It is hard to believe there is no connection.

It would be sheer folly for you, singly or collectively, to gainsay my impressions with an assurance that gender and women’s studies infuse and inform all areas, or even a large number of issues in the University’s curriculum. They may perhaps have informed Mount Allison’s Philosophy curriculum then, but it would be an implausible stretch to suppose that the opinion I was offered was a one-time, one-off comment. Yet indeed, things have improved: Philosophy, in the person of Dr. Jane Dryden, has made a superb appointment that could, all else being equal, begin to dispel some of the appalling fall-out in a place where the comment I cite above could once have been uttered in a matter-of-course tone. Dr. Dryden is making a remarkable difference for gender and racial issues at MtA: her second year feminist philosophy course is consistently over-inscribed and, from all reports, a superb success. Her presence in the larger university contributes to the positive impression that was being created – to the benefit of faculty, students, and the public – by the active and dedicated work of Dr. Marie Hammond Callaghan, whose work is shoddily ignored in the current process, just when it should be celebrated and honoured by sustaining her legacy. Part-time “replacement” faculty members are working in what amount to pre-Industrial Revolution conditions with very large student enrolment, quantities of grading that would prompt any tenured faculty member to rebel or resign, and bare minimum standards. The situation is appalling, and actionable.

Yet Professor Dryden will be hosting the Canadian Society for Women in Philosophy (C-SWIP) at Mount Allison in November 2016: an occasion we are eagerly anticipating as a way (so we had thought – and we are a Canada-wide organization) of affirming Mount Allison’s increasing “difference awareness” around issues of gender, race, class, homophobia and other blatant injustices in policy and practice that had hitherto characterized it – despite its academic eminence. It is simply incredible that a university with such a venerable history – especially in regard to women – should be undertaking so flagrantly unjust a move as to close, or starve, women’s and gender studies.

Sincerely,

Lorraine Code, PhD, DLitt, FRSC

Distinguished Research Professor Emerita

http://www.lorrainecode.ca
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Letter from Gender and Women’s Studies, Brandon University
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Letter from Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Winnipeg
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Letter from Dr. Joanne Wright, Associate Dean of Arts and Coordinator, Women’s and Gender Studies, UNB
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Statement of Solidarity from UBC’s Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice

We, the undersigned, are core and affiliated faculty members, sessional lecturers, visiting scholars, postdoctoral fellows, undergraduate and graduate students, alumni and staff members of the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice at the University of British Columbia. We write in unequivocal support of Mount Allison University’s Women’s and Gender Studies program and its faculty members, staff and students. We wish to voice our concern for those who will be directly impacted by the cancellation of the WGS program: students whose intellectual and political journeys will be harmed, staff members whose employment will be jeopardized, and faculty members whose teaching and research programs will be adversely affected.

We believe that the reported upcoming cancellation of the program will foreclose opportunities for students and researchers to continue engaging with feminist scholarship and activisms and their strident visions for more just worlds. We maintain that we continue to be in dire need of strong feminist interventions, with WGS programs playing an important role, parallel to and in partnership with on-the-ground organizing and activism, in making feminist knowledge public and actionable. From the alarming commonness of sexual assaults and threats of violence against women, trans and feminist scholars on university campuses to the continuing public crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and the policy-led importation of racialized women’s labouring bodies for child care in Canadian homes, we, as a society, are faced daily with the structural and lived persistence of intersectional gendered inequalities and violence. Given such a context, the erasure of one space for engaged feminist interventions will very much be a step in the wrong direction. We thus advocate for the continuation, protection and indeed strengthening of the Women’s and Gender Studies program at Mount Allison University, as we believe that the benefits it offers – for students, for the community, for interdisciplinary scholarship – will far outweigh the rather modest savings that might be achieved from its cancellation.

We commend Mt. Allison University for its commitment to the principles of (i) equity, diversity and inclusion and (ii) community and connection, as identified in its list of proposed values, along with its desire to “[engage] critically in the liberal arts”, as noted in its proposed mission statement. We also wish to remind MAU that Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS), as an interdisciplinary field of scholarship and teaching, contributes greatly to the achievement of these values and mission, with its intellectual, pedagogical and political centering of social justice, intersectionality, critical analysis of power and engaged praxis. Feminist scholars and activists are at the forefront of responding to some of the most vicious patterns of violence and inequality and the structures that sustain them, some of which we identified above. Given MAU’s stated commitments, we encourage MAU administrators to consider very carefully what is truly at stake in cutting the WGS program. Along with the importance of intersectional feminist scholarship, teaching and praxis in shining light on pressing issues of inequality and violence today, our experience here at UBC suggests that undergraduate and graduate students who are committed to women’s, gender and feminist studies are some of the most active members of the university community. Guided by a combination of political commitment and the knowledge they gain from feminist peers, scholars and teachers, they are some of the most important figures leading efforts to confront racism, homophobia, transphobia, colonialism, misogyny and violence in the university setting. This is to state, in no uncertain terms, that the impact of WGS spills beyond its classrooms and hallways, a testament to the capacity and commitment of feminist scholarship to bridge spaces of the personal, the political and the academic. In other words, the loss of the WGS Program will be a loss for the vibrancy of intellectual, political and student life at Mount Allison University.

Hence, rather than considering its cancellation, we urge administrators at Mount Allison University to adopt strategies to strengthen its Women’s and Gender Studies program, taking into account not only fiscal concerns, but also – and more importantly – broader moral, ethical and political values and commitments to engaged pedagogy and scholarship.

In solidarity:

Alison Watts-Grant

Amel Eldihaib

Anna Ward

Becki Ross

Brooklyn Kemp

Cecilia Wang

Chris Shelley

Denise Ferreira Da Silva

Donna Chapman

Gillian Creese

Heather Latimer

Jacqueline Marchioni

Janice Stewart

Jen Sung

John Paul Catungal

Joshua Ferguson

K Ho

Kaymi Yoon-Maxwell

Kim Snowden

Kristi Carey

Leila Harris

Lori MacIntosh

Magnolia Pauker

Nicole Chanway

Puneet Sandhu

Rashmi Abeysekera

Sarah Rudrum

Shruti Buddhavarapu

Susan Bahaduri

Taq Bhandal
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Dr. Robert Campbell, President of Mount Allison University and Vice Chancellor

Dr. Karen R. Grant (Provost & Vice-President, Academic & Research)

Dr. Hans Vanderleest, Dean of Arts, Mount Allison University

Dr. Lisa Dawn Hamilton, Acting Program Director, Mount Allison University

Mr. Robert Inglis, Vice-President, Finance and Administration

On behalf of the School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, the Graduate Program in Gender, Feminist and Women’s Studies, and the Centre of Feminist Research at York University, we are writing to express our deepest concern about your decision to cut the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Mount Allison University. We urge you to re-instate program funding to Women’s and Gender Studies at your university, to continue to offer courses in that program and to let students continue to enroll in Women’s and Gender Studies as a minor.

We have heard from many students and faculty at Mount Allison University who are directly affected by your recent decision and who are concerned by the decision to close this program that the program has been growing steadily and tremendously over the last few years. Across the country, departments bearing the name of Gender and Women’s Studies as well as Sexuality Studies (a related field in high demand on the part of students) deliver a range of introductory and advanced courses on a variety of topics, with learning objectives that are not provided in other disciplines. These courses are so popular among students that they often have waiting lists. As a result, at York and in similar departments in Canada, the number of majors and minors is growing. Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies programs are devoted to interdisciplinary pedagogy and to teaching critical skills that serve all students, no matter their gender identity, throughout their lives. Based on our most recent Cyclical Program Review, we know that, when they graduate, our students find jobs within the private and public sectors, nationally and internationally. Furthermore, a vibrant university culture of undergraduate programs in the field supports the development of graduate level programs and the training of future scholars.

We know that during the last few days, you have received several messages requesting to reconsider your decision. Among these messages, the National Association of Women’s and Gender Studies/Recherches Féministes (WGSRF) listed a series of facts concerning the state of Gender and Women’s Studies program in several parts of Canada and at Mount Allison University in particular. The Association writes:

  • At a time when universities are making explicit commitments to diversity and inclusion in their mission statements, and articulating global citizenship as the horizon of student learning, this funding decision erodes those commitments, reducing them to marketing optics.
  • According to the story in The Coast this morning, the savings are minimal in a program that is growing.
  • Smaller programs like those at MtA shoulder a lot of equity work for the university and broader community. This is especially true for programs in smaller rural and northern communities, which often operate as a clearinghouse for all kinds of emerging and ongoing concerns; loss of that capacity means loss of an important and critical advocate, and a way to link local issues to national concerns.
  • According to Mount Allison’s website, the two professors currently associated with the program in Acting Director roles are: Dr. Leslie Kern (Geography and Environment, on leave) and Dr. Lisa Dawn Hamilton (Psychology). In the wake of Dr. Marie Hammond Callaghan’s recent passing, can interim faculty or instructional term resources be allocated to the program in the upcoming year while a more sensible plan is worked out?
  • With continued controversy on a range of gender issues, including but certainly not limited to: unresolved cases of murdered and missing Indigenous women, refugee crises, measurable feminization of poverty and international migration, gendered Maritime economic outmigration, national stories on sexual harassment in the workplace, universities caught flat-footed with campus rape stats on the rise, and ongoing clashes over whether and how to build inclusive communities, why defund your WGSt program?
  • Gender Studies is a vital field that helps us all understand and search for solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems. Short-sighted program prioritization projects have hampered the emergence and sustainability of interdisciplinary programs, known for their increasing capacity to tackle large social and global problems with expertise drawn from many methodologies and theoretical approaches.
  • Most educated people now recognize that failure to actualize all citizens and to commit to a flourishing and diverse environment threatens prosperity by overlooking a tremendous need to reorganize our long-term socio-economic and political commitments toward inclusive justice and environmental and economic sustainability.
  • Students graduating from universities need a range of skills that will serve them well, not only in today’s job markets, but in helping to creating new economic directions for the future. These skills include: flexibility, ability to identify, see, and think from multiple perspectives and acknowledge and negotiate those differences, using critical thinking and self-reflexivity about the consequences of particular frameworks, all delivered by WGSt and other interdisciplinary programs.
  • To place this issue in a national context, Mount Allison’s undergraduate program is one of 69 in the country, along with related 5 Ph.D. and 13 M.A. programs, all of which have emerged since roughly the 1980s in Canada. So on the one hand, there is growth, but on the other, there is a challenge to represent the full breadth and depth of the field. Certainly, one of the ways Women’s and Gender Studies et Recherches Féministes has been approaching this issue is by working toward greater local specializations, a project in which Mount Allison could be a valuable stakeholder with longer-term benefits.

In view of the state of the discipline describe above, the decision of the administration of Mount Allison University to stop funding and to close its Women’s and Gender Studies program simply does not make sense. That is why we are encouraging our students, faculty and staff here at York University to sign the petition currently circulating urging you, as President of Mount Allison University, to reconsider your decision and to re-instate your support and funding to this vital program.

Cordially,

Dr. Jacinthe Michaud, Associate Professor and Chair of the School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, York University

Dr. Ena Dua, Associate Professor and Director of the Graduate Program of Gender, Feminist and Women’s Studies, York University

Dr. Alison Crosby, Associate Professor and Director of the Centre for Feminist Research, York University
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Letter from Collective for Feminist Action and Research at Wilfrid Laurier University Brantford
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Dear Dr. Robert Campbell ,

We are writing to express our support for the continuation of the  Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Mount Allison University. As former students and alumni, we have championed Mount Allison for the principles it espouses. In our view, it’s impossible to educate the whole student without the inclusion of a robust women’s and gender studies program on campus. This includes a dedicated staff member who is critical to its success.

As one of the most highly rated liberal arts universities in Canada, Mount Allison has always taken pride in teaching students how to think and learn.  To leave out women’s and gender studies, as a tool for thinking about major issues would be a huge step backwards for Mount Allison and would be doing a disservice to the individual students it is trying to educate.

This is not just about women’s issues, it’s about how we think about power in our society, it’s about how we act towards one another and it’s about questioning the status quo. Women’s and gender studies provides a unique space to learn about intersectional inequalities, to learn about systems of oppression and lesbian and queer issues. It provides one with the ability to apply a gender analysis to questions that people might not immediately think of as women’s and gender issues. This is also incredibly important to issues that are unique and important to women. These issues are reflected in our current news cycles in the form of the current Jian Ghomeshi trial and the inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women to name a few.

Even if only a small percentage of the student population takes a WGST course, those students have a reverberating effect across campus and they add a critical voice to discussions in the Mount Allison and Sackville community. This collective letter and all of the other actions taken by alumni are proof that the effect of women’s and gender studies has stayed with us and our passion for these issues is in no small part due to its inclusion in our undergraduate careers.

We empathize with the decisions you are faced with in your role as president, Dr. Campbell, however, we are certain that every undergraduate school in the Maritimes is seeking ways to distinguish itself in these fiscally challenging times. We strongly believe that the WGST program must remain for years to come, a vital part of the Mount Allison curriculum to guarantee that Mount Allison remains on the cutting edge of one of the most important areas of concern facing our world today.

Sincerely,

The undersigned concerned alumni

Katherine Austin-Evelyn ‘07, Frances Ross ‘06, Sarah LeBlanc ‘06, Adam Smith ‘06, Jessica Chapman ‘08, Allison Coady ‘06, Bridget Arsenault ‘08, Alison Smith ‘08, Nicole Basque ‘06, Vanessa Matthews ‘06, Emily Sheppard ‘07, Roberta MacLean ‘07, Lauren Sheffield ‘07, Angela Hersey ‘07
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Letter from Dr. Susan Frohlick, University of British Columbia
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