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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

In continued support of Professor Scott Morgensen and queer studies

By Tinbete Ermyas, Alexandra Douglas, Bobbi Gass

Since last semester, students have been organizing around Dr. Scott Morgensen’s tenure denial. As the timeline for the appeals process comes to a close, we once again want to bring the significance of this decision into the spotlight.To do so, we would like to respond to the concerns voiced to us that we have organized just because “we like Dr. Morgensen,” and that this alone is not reason enough to protest a tenure denial. We do not agree with these statements. The significance of Dr. Morgensen’s tenure denial goes beyond his (wonderful) person; a fact which we feel can be demonstrated through a deeper understanding of what “Queer Studies” is and how it relates to the general academy.

Queer studies as a discipline utilizes many frameworks and methods to explore how gender, sexuality, culture, and politics shape the lived experiences of people around the world, meaning ultimately that queer studies is an examination and analysis of systems of power. The discipline goes beyond just the study of sexuality (in the sociological sense), but observes the social practices and norms that construct sexuality as normal or as stagnant. Utilizing frameworks from the sciences, humanities, and social sciences, queer and gender studies have gained prominence on college campuses around the country.

At Macalester, queer studies has found its home in the Women’s Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department, which included the term “sexuality” in its title beginning in the 2005-2006 school year as a way to bring stronger attention to the ways in which sexuality informs the world in which we live. Since then, the department has cross-listed with many departments and has created an interdisciplinary approach to the study of marginal sexual identities within a transnational framework.

Especially given the nature of queer studies’ critique of normative structures/institutions, however, many activists and scholars are concerned about how colleges and universities are valuing interdisciplinary programs such as queer studies, due to the number of recent tenure denials.

One popular case is the tenure denial of University of Michigan Professor Andrea Smith, a 2005 Nobel Peace Prize nominee and a scholar of American Culture and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality studies. The decision by the University of Michigan administration caused a media sandstorm resulting in conferences, workshops and community courses being offered on the importance of the study of marginalized people within the academy. Other examples of tenure denial and student organization are Professor Allan Punzalan Isaac and Professor John Vincent at Wesleyan University, or Professor Jonathan Weinberg at Yale.

If there is one thing that these cases demonstrate, besides a developing trend of tenure denials throughout the nation, it is the importance of community support, education, and organization which hold colleges and universities accountable to their values, and challenge them to examine their institutional practices.

The current Queer Studies curriculum at Macalester is indebted to the work of Dr. Scott Morgensen. In addition to his teaching, Dr. Morgensen has worked to create queer spaces throughout the Twin Cities, such as the Global Sexualities Research Collaborative at the University of Minnesota Institute for Advanced Study which he has been a member of since its inception in 2003.

To educate yourself about queer studies and Dr. Morgensen’s scholarship, we invite you to the Queer Motions Conference at the University of Minnesota, which will bring scholars from around the world to critically address the direction that queer studies and queer politics are heading in the 21st century. Dr. Morgensen has co-organized this event and is presenting on the panel “Movements.”

Dr. Morgensen’s presentation at the conference will address how AIDS activists have adapted global media to embody their experiences and organized responses to AIDS. This presentation forms the basis of a competitive grant that Dr. Morgensen recently received from Macalester College and ACM to travel and research AIDS activists groups in South Africa and Indonesia throughout the coming year.

The Queer Motions Conference is a one-of-a-kind opportunity, and it is free. It runs from 8:45 a.m.-5:45 p.m. on Saturday, April 5, and will be held in the Nolte Center room 125 on 315 Pillsbury Drive S.E. at the University of Minnesota.

Please come and show your support for Professor Morgensen and queer studies at Macalester!

Tinbete Ermyas
Alexandra Douglas
Bobbi Gass

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