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State rep. threatens women's studies

By Brett Erickson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
March 1, 1999
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PHOENIX - A state lawmaker has abandoned her intention of eliminating the women's studies program from the UA curriculum - for now.

Rep. Linda Gray, R-Phoenix, said she has withdrawn her proposal to cut the $1.6 million from university budgets that goes toward maintaining women's studies.

Although the University of Arizona program is safe for the time being, Gray said she would consider reintroducing legislation if the department does not adopt a more conservative attitude.

"They better get it together and in a hurry," she said.

Gray said she originally favored the elimination of the program after hearing of several complaints from UA students. The students, she said, were miffed that they had to go to an off-campus bookstore, Antigone Books, to purchase several books for a class.

Gray said she was also upset about a play sponsored by the Arizona State University women's studies department called The Vagina Dialogues.

UA President Peter Likins spoke Thursday with Gray about students having to go to Antigone, 411 N. 4th Ave., to purchase their books. Gray and Rep. Jean McGrath, R-Glendale, questioned the store's reputation of catering to homosexual groups.

An employee of Antigone said the store does not focus on homosexual readers in particular, although they do carry books aimed at all minorities.

"I think we cater to minority groups and women's authors," said the employee, who spoke on conditions of anonymity.

The class that requires its students to go to Antigone is actually not affiliated with the UA women's studies program. The employee said the class in question is English 418, taught by English Senior Lecturer Yvonne Reineke.

The head of the UA Women's Studies department, Elizabeth Kennedy, said the class is cross-listed through the department, so women's studies administrators have no control over its book-buying policy.

"The policy in women's studies is all books have to be available through the university bookstore," Kennedy said.

She said the policy is in compliance with UA Provost Paul Sypherd's request that all instructors make their books available at the UA Associated Students' Bookstore.

"I understand it as an issue of business that they want us to support the university bookstore," she said.

Kennedy also defended the necessity and importance of the women's studies program at the UA, which Gray and McGrath questioned last week.

She said the department, which has 60 students, is "quite useful," and brings in more than $500,000 in grants per year. She added that women's studies became an official program at the UA in 1996 when the Arizona Board of Regents recognized it as an official department.