National Women’s Studies Association Statement on Charlottesville

Dear colleagues, students, and community members:

The NWSA has shared a letter from its Executive Council in response to the events of the past week surrounding Charlottesville and the murder of Heather Heyer. The Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Mount Allison shares the NWSA’s “mission to promote a more just world in which all persons can develop to their fullest potential—one free from racist ideologies, systems of privilege or structures that oppress or exploit some for the advantage of others.”

I am re-posting their letter in full here:

The National Women’s Studies Association denounces the actions of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend that terrorized that community and shocked the entire country. We further condemn the actions of James Alex Fields, Jr., who drove into a crowd of counter-protestors killing 32-year old Heather Heyer and injuring at least 19 others, and the stick-wielding vigilantes that viscously attacked and beat a young Black man, De’Andre Harris in a nearby parking structure.

White supremacy and fascism have always been intricately connected with misogyny, patriarchy, transphobia, homophobia, ableism, and settler-colonial logics. This fact is evidenced both by the make up of those who rallied last weekend—primarily young, white, able-bodied, cisgender men—and the messages promoted at the rally and by those supporting it, which included anti-woman and anti-LGBT slogans and statements. The NWSA believes that ending white supremacy is a primary feminist political objective. The Combahee River Collective, whose 40th anniversary we will honor at our annual conference in November, wrote in their famous Black Feminist Statement in 1977: “we are actively committed to struggling against racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression and see as our particular task the development of an integrated analysis and practice based upon the fact that the major systems of oppression are interlocking.” That commitment remains just as vital today.

We praise cities such as Baltimore, where our convention will be held this year, for tearing down statues honoring leaders of the confederacy as an important symbolic gesture to denounce white supremacist monuments in the United States that pay homage to pro-slavery ideas and the defenders of slavery. However, symbolic gestures are not enough. The present legacy of white supremacy and the Confederate and U.S. commitment to the system of chattel slavery remains alive and well in the existence of the prison industrial complex. The 13th amendment of the U.S. constitution essentially allows legal slavery inside prisons. Those prisons are predominately populated by African Americans and other people of color, and a steady increase in the number of incarcerated women. Without material steps to end that system, white supremacy and the misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, ableism, class exploitation, and settler-colonial logics it engenders will continue. The NWSA sends condolences to the families and communities of the most recent victims of white supremacist violence in Charlottesville and affirms its commitment to feminist values that see the end to white supremacy as a top priority.

We know that white supremacists seek to instill fear and leverage power using harassment, violence, and the threat of violence.  We encourage NWSA members to join together and raise their voices in the wake of these threats even as we recognize that some of our members face greater risk than others in speaking out.  We know that intersectional feminist analyses offer the frameworks our campuses and communities need to challenge white supremacist ideologies. We applaud our colleagues at University of Virginia and their courageous students who spoke truth in the face of violence when a hateful mob of fascists marched through their campus bearing torches, shouting Nazi slogans and attacking students.

We know that our members embrace our mission to promote a more just world in which all persons can develop to their fullest potential—one free from racist ideologies, systems of privilege or structures that oppress or exploit some for the advantage of others.  Now more than ever we need to recommit ourselves to this vision and engage in meaningful actions that can advance our goals.

Barbara Ransby, President
Elora Halim Chowdhury, Vice President
Karma Chávez, Treasurer
Carrie Baker, Secretary
Vivian M. May, Past President

 

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Fall 2017: Gearing up for a new term!

As the new semester approaches, WGST at Mount Allison is excited to share that our faculty complement has expanded with three new tenure-track faculty members with primary or partial cross-appointments to our program. We will introduce each person in depth in future posts!

The program would like to thank all those near and far who offered their support and worked hard to ensure that this program is adequately staffed well into the future.

 

Fall semester: Welcome back!

The WGST program is looking forward to an exciting fall. We have a few announcements and a mini progress report on future visions for the program.

McCain Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow, 2016-2017: The program is fortunate to welcome back Professor Tasia Alexopoulos in her new role as a Postdoctoral Fellow. She will be teaching the four core WGST courses this year: WGST 1001 and 2101 in the fall, and WGST 3101 and 4001 in the winter. You may contact her at talexopoulos at mta dot ca with questions about courses and program activities.

Program Director, 2016-2019: Dr. Leslie Kern will be returning as Program Director for a three-year term. She will also serve as Program Advisor for students. Dr. Kern taught in the program in 2009-2010 and has been a regular member of the Steering Committee, as well as Acting Director in 2014-2015. You may contact her at lkern at mta dot ca with program-related questions. Many thanks to Dr. Lisa Dawn Hamilton for her excellent leadership as Director in 2015-2016. We wish her a productive fall sabbatical.

WGST Society, 2016-2017: We are excited to have a passionate and committed group of students involved in the student society. The members of the executive team are: Natalie Mellon, Robin Bamber, Annie Sherry, Olivia Landry, Chelsey Brussard, Mizuki Matsuura, Cara Mackenzie, and Katharyn Stevenson. You can join the Facebook page Mount Allison Women’s and Gender Society through the Mount Allison Community Group hub.

Dean Spade Guest Lecture, October 6: Thanks to the hard work of two organizers, as well as the generous support of many programs and organizations, the WGST Program will be hosting the brilliant Dean Spade of the Seattle University School of Law for a lecture entitled: Can we survive mainstreaming? Trans politics and criminal punishment reform. The talk is free, open to the public, and will take place in Brunton Auditorium, October 6, at 7:30pm.

Social media: You can stay connected to the program through our Facebook page, or on Instagram: womensandgendermta.

Future of the program: Earlier this spring, the Steering Committee met to discuss a vision for the future growth and stability of the program. This year’s postdoctoral position is not a long-term solution to the need for tenure-track faculty in the program. We are extremely proud of the enormous growth in student numbers over the past three years and are aware of the demand for classes and perhaps even a major. We will be submitting a proposal for tenure-track hiring with a view to promoting a robust and growing program with a bright future at Mount Allison.

Status of the Program

The Women’s and Gender Studies steering committee has received confirmation that the WGST program will receive a 12-month McCain Postdoctoral Fellowship to sustain the program through the 2016/17 academic year. The McCain is a teaching fellowship that will include a 2-2 teaching load, allowing for all four core WGST courses to be taught in the coming year. This fellowship is funded through an endowment to Mount Allison University, so does not come from the university’s operating budget. We are grateful to have this source of funding.

We have also been assured that in the Fall of 2016, discussion will take place in the context of broader strategic planning to ensure the long term sustainability of the program. Although we would liked to have had something more concrete in place this term, we are pleased with this commitment from the university administration.

We would like to thank all of our supporters from across the country who took the time to write, call, tweet, and sign the petition, which currently has over 7,000 signatures. The support has been overwhelming and very encouraging. This change – from zero funding to a full-time fellowship – would not have been possible without the activism of the Mount Allison students and the support we received from alumni and faculty across the country (and beyond!) Thanks to everyone who helped us to send a clear message to Mount Allison University about the importance of Women’s and Gender Studies. We will keep everyone posted as this process goes forward and we know we can rely on supporters across the country if needed in the future.

Weekend Roundup -Feb 8, 2016

Here is a roundup and summary of things related to the WGST program that happened over the weekend, plus upcoming events for this week.

Students staged a silent protest outside of the Mount Allison University Board of Regents meeting on Friday, Feb 5. The WGST cuts were added to the agenda for the meeting.

Elizabeth May tweeted her support of the program!

Elizabeth may tweet

Mount Allison alumni created a video in support of the program:

Letters of support have continued to come in from across the country.

We have new links in our Media Coverage section.

We updated our FAQ, which you can see here.

What’s next?

There are budget town hall meetings this week. We encourage any one who is interested to come out and ask questions about the budget for next year. They are happening at the following dates and times.

February 9, 6 pm, Wu Centre (Dunn 113)
February 10, 1:30 pm, Library Theatre (Libr 316)

 

 

 

Keep the pressure on!

Thank you to everyone for the support and for helping to pressure the university to restore some funding to Women’s and Gender Studies.

We may have some partial help next year in the form of two stipends. This means money to pay a part-time faculty member to teach two courses for just over $6000 each.

We are not out of the woods yet. We had been told to expect nothing and only received money for half the core courses after a better-than-expected provincial budget and significant public attention. This is an indication of where WGST stands in the university’s priorities, and we do not yet have a plan for the continuing of the program.

The program is not sustainable at this level of funding and requires a sign of long-term commitment from the university.

Please help keep the pressure on! Students and alumni, let the university know what WGST means to you. Colleagues here at Mount A, let the university know that we need transparency and genuine communication. Supporters and colleagues across Canada, thank you so much for your letters, tweets, and posts.

The WGST Student Society Facebook page has information about upcoming student action. There is a letter writing campaign Friday, Feb. 4 from 12-4pm in McCain 125; letter templates will also be made available.