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Women's Studies says proposed bill unnecessary

By Hillary Davis
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
January 20, 2000
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The UA Women's Studies department - once at the center of controversy over homosexual course content - defended itself yesterday in light of proposed state legislation that would require detailed descriptions of class topics.

The bill recently introduced by Arizona State Rep. Jean McGrath, R-Glendale, seeks complete "truth in advertising" in University of Arizona course catalogs and syllabi.

The proposal follows McGrath's earlier attack on "lesbian components" in certain Women's Studies courses, and would also allow students to drop any class they feel they were misinformed about with no penalty.

Elizabeth Kennedy, Women's Studies department head, said McGrath's criticism does not provide an accurate picture of her research area.

"I think that focuses on the most limited aspects of it and doesn't give a full presentation on it," said Kennedy. "I'd love to educate her (McGrath) on what a great Women's Studies program we have. All these wonderful things are going on."

Kennedy added that course syllabi are already open about class topics, making McGrath's objective misdirected.

"The university is (already) committed to that by requiring the faculty to have full syllabi for the students to look at," she said. "We always have explicit syllabi - she would do well to encourage the students to read the syllabi."

Kennedy said she does not harbor any ill feelings toward McGrath, and suggested the legislator to visit the UA Women's Studies program and participate in its upcoming 25th anniversary activities.

"It's ironic that she's complaining about truth in advertising," said Kennedy. "She should come see the Women's Studies program and see the breadth involved here."

Julia Bal­n, Women's Studies associate director and professor, said if McGrath's bill were to pass, it could effectively oppress the voices of lesbian students and professors and weaken the interactive "intellectual community" of students and scholars.

"Any good teacher enlists students to bring their own thinking to the class," she said. "Her (McGrath's) model presents teaching as a one-way street, and it's a two-way street."

Bal­n said that although the proposed bill has tones of homophobia, there were also more disturbing "flat out ignorant elements" in it that could shut out alternative opinions.

However, Bal­n said she would trust the other state legislators and the Arizona Board of Regents to work against passing McGrath's proposal.

Greg Fahey, UA state lobbyist, said he hoped McGrath would withdraw her bill after seeing there was no need for it. As long as professors continue to hand out accurate syllabi in a timely manner, such regulatory measures would not be necessary, he said.

"I'm hoping that she will decide there is no need for the bill," Fahey said. "We don't really think there's a problem - I don't think this is a big problem for most students."

McGrath, along with Rep. Linda Gray, R-Phoenix, criticized the validity of the UA Women's Studies department last February after some students in an upper-division English course - cross-listed as a Women's Studies class - complained of homosexual content and having to purchase textbooks at Antigone Books, 411 N. 4th Ave.

Gray and McGrath called the bookstore a specialty shop for homosexuals and other minority groups, and Gray threatened to cut funding for departments who ordered textbooks from off-campus vendors.

Hillary Davis can be reached at Hillary.Davis@wildcat.arizona.edu

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