Building Queer-Inclusive Curriculum and Student Life beyond the R1

AHA Session 32
Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History 2
Thursday, January 3, 2019: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Williford C (Hilton Chicago, Third Floor)
William Kuby, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Chelsea Del Rio, LaGuardia Community College, City University of New York
Karen M. Dunak, Muskingum University
Elliot James, University of Minnesota Morris
David A. Reichard, California State University, Monterey Bay

Session Abstract

This roundtable session will consider the place of LGBTQ+ history and the history of sexuality at regional universities, community colleges, and other institutions that fall outside the “Research One” designation. Specifically, its participants will discuss strategies for developing queer programming and curriculum on campuses that often lack the resources and institutional support for such initiatives. While there are potential challenges that all educators face in their efforts to implement queer college curriculum, instructors at non-elite institutions must often contend with a complicated set of questions that do not always receive sufficient attention. For example, how can we incorporate queer content into our courses when there is such an emphasis on rigid general education requirements? How can we generate excitement for material that students have consistently been told is impractical and irrelevant amid the broader push for STEM and pre-professional training? How can we foster inclusive curriculum on campuses whose very livelihood depends on funding from conservative donors and legislators? How do we build queer community on commuter campuses with high percentages of “nontraditional” students, whose coursework is often accompanied by full-time jobs and family obligations?

Though the questions posed above are vital ones, they are often absent from conversations about politics and free speech in higher education. All too often, media discourse on issues of sexuality, race, and identity on campus reduces minority students to pampered “snowflakes,” whose desire for inclusion is presented merely as nagging self-absorption. While this reductive stereotype is concerning in all contexts, it is particularly damaging in its near-exclusive focus on students at elite universities and liberal arts colleges, with often no attention to the challenges students face on the majority of campuses around the nation. So in addition to posing the pedagogical and curricular questions noted above, this roundtable will also engage with broader questions about identity politics and sexuality at non-elite institutions. As we discuss our own efforts to incorporate LGBTQ+ issues into our historical curricula, we will also contemplate strategies for bringing our students into public conversations on higher education.

For instance, how do we move away from a “snowflake” narrative and instead consider the complex range of background, identity, and preparedness that shapes our students’ college experience? How do we generate conversation about higher education that acknowledges student apathy when faced with queer content in general education classes? How might the practices and ideas of queer scholarship help us both intervene in these conversations and create more inclusive classrooms? In sum, how can we as a collective help to reframe discussions of higher education in a way that will reflect the diversity of our student populations, and acknowledge the full range of challenges and triumphs we experience in educating them.

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