By Kelly Boggs, Baptist Message Editor
It was recently revealed that the University of Louisiana at Lafayette began offering a Minor in Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender Studies during the spring semester. The new course of study was outed by Gene Mills, president of the Louisiana Family Forum via an e-mail to supporters.
One of the purposes of the LGBT Minor, according to the ULL website (as of July 24), is as follows: “Through their studies, students will be challenged to investigate cultural traditions that have shaped our current understanding of sexuality and gender, permitting them to confront these traditions and generate new theoretical and ideological paradigms.”
According to the ULL website the new course of study is “Louisiana’s first opportunity to obtain a minor in LGBT Studies.”
As might be expected, many folks throughout conservative Louisiana are less than enthused about ULL’s new minor. Chief among those objecting has been U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia. In a Letter to the Editor recently published in the Lafayette Advertiser, the congressman criticized the minor for failing to provide an academic benefit to students or a worthwhile financial return to taxpayers.
E. Joseph Savoie, president of ULL, responded to criticism of the new minor in a blog post on the ULL website that was published on July 11. In defending the new course of study the president wrote:
“LGBT studies have been an academic area of study in the United States for nearly 50 years and exist at 200 universities in the United States in a variety of forms as courses, minors or degree programs.”
“Our desired posture is to be neither advocate nor adversary on controversial issues of the day,” the president explained. “Rather, our responsibility is to provide in an impartial manner an opportunity for investigation, analysis and understanding.”
The president also pointed out, “Minor areas of study are created by the academic faculty to address student interests.”
KATC-TV in Lafayette interviewed the professor who “spearheaded development of the new minor.” Sociology Professor DeAnn Kalich told KATC, “The more that mainstream America is becoming more and more accepting of openly gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender people, we in the South have not been as open.”
According to the ULL website, “To complete the eighteen (18) credit-hour interdisciplinary minor in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Studies, the following two (2) courses are required totaling nine (9) credit hours: SOCI 254 – Introduction to LGBT Cultural Studies; and SOCI 454 – Gender Across Cultures.”
Additionally, according to the ULL website, “Students must take any additional three (3) of the following courses for an additional nine (9) credit hours.” Dozens of possible courses are listed, 96 to be exact.
However, according to a note on the website, for any of the 96 courses to qualify for the LGBT minor, the course content must include LGBT issues. For example, for the course “ENGL 207 – Poetry” to apply, the class would have to include poetry about or by someone who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
If a class does not currently address any LGBT themes, a professor would have to add material in order for the class to be able to be considered in the minor. Additionally, on the guidelines for the minor it is stated, “Instructors are under no obligation to offer a course for Minor credit.
A few newspaper reports have indicated that some professors have asked their courses not be included in the minor. Why would that be? Because if a course does not already touch on a LGBT issue in some shape, form or fashion, then the professor would have to introduce it, perhaps even artificially, into a course of study.
Those objecting to the ULL’s Minor in LGBT Studies are questioning the purpose of the new program. Is it really about academics or could it be about activism with the goal a greater acceptance of lifestyles many in America, and perhaps even more in Louisiana, believe are aberrant?
President Savoie, in his blog seeking to defend the new minor, wrote that LGBT studies “exist at 200 universities in the United States in a variety of forms as courses, minors or degree programs.” His justification, “Others are doing it, so it must be okay.”
My research discovered that there are approximately 2,774 Title IV-eligible, degree granting four-year institutions in the United States, and 1,721 two-year schools. Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1964 covers the administration of the United States federal student financial aid programs.
Savoie points out approximately 200 schools offer LGBT courses in some shape form or fashion. That means 7.2 percent of all four-year Title IV-eligible institutions offers LGBT courses. When you add in the two-year schools the percentage drops to 4.4 percent. That is not too many colleges or universities offering LGBT classes.
I also discovered of the 200 schools mentioned by Savoie only 48 actually offer a minor in LGBT studies and only 10 have a major. That means only 1.7 percent of four-year Title IV eligible schools in the U.S. offer a LGBT minor and .036 percent offer a major.
I don’t really believe you have to justify your actions by what others are doing. In fact, that is an argument often used by teenagers to coax their parents into letting them do something “all” their friends are doing. That said, it is President Savoie who defended the new minor at ULL because other institutions offer similar studies. Well, the president is correct some are indeed offering the classes, but not many.
President Savoie further defended the program by insisting it will be neutral concerning the presentation of content. He wrote, “Our desired posture is to be neither advocate nor adversary on controversial issues of the day…” Changing information on the web site, however, raises some question.
The information concerning the posture of the new minor seems to in flux. Currently on the ULL web the stated result of the LGBT minor is to challenge and permit students to “confront [cultural] traditions and generate new theoretical and ideological paradigms.”
A previous version of the same statement on the web site indicated students would be “equipped” and “encouraged” to do the same.
Whether the LGBT minor at ULL is designed to “challenge and permit” or “equip and encourage” the confrontation of current cultural tradition, it would seem a desired outcome of the coutdr is to take issue with society’s traditional view of LGBT – that each expression is an aberrant lifestyle choice – and “generate new theoretical and ideological paradigms,” i.e. to bring about a change in how society views and addresses LGBT issues.
Given the how the new minor at ULL has been, and is currently described, it seems it might have difficulty remaining neutral on what is taught.
The president also indicated minor areas of study are created based on student interest. Rep. Jeff Landry, in his letter published in the Lafayette Advertiser, indicated that only five students are currently participating in the LGBT minor. If the congressman is correct, it would seem that with the student enrollment at ULL topping 15,000, five people do not represent very much interest.
If student interest is the criteria for new minors at ULL, the school might consider adding a duck hunting course of study. I feel fairly sure it would generate more interest than the new LGBT minor has and probably have more practical application as well.
The program has also been defended because it will not result in an expenditure of additional funds. That said, since tax payers provide a significant portion of public education, shouldn’t they have some input, or at least some understanding, in how money is spent at a public institution?
The Cato Institute, a public policy research organization in Washington D.C, reported in 2003 that on average students only accounted for 18.5 percent of a public college’s revenue. The other 81.5 percent came from federal, state and local taxpayers.
Tuition, the Cato Institute also reported, is also covered largely by tax payers with almost 60% of undergraduates receiving some form of financial aid. A sizeable amount of this aid is in the form of loans that are frequently subsidized by the federal government.
It should be noted that the Cato Institute report is almost ten years old. But let’s assume for the sake of argument the percentages have remained static for the last decade. If that is the case it would seem that tax payers have more money invested in ULL than do the students currently enrolled.
It would seem to me that the tax payers of Louisiana should, at the very least, be given some very detailed answers about a new minor that is designed to scrutinize, and perhaps advocate for, lifestyles that most in the state believe to be aberrant. And if a significant number of tax-paying citizens object, ULL should pull the minor.
If you would like to express your objection to the new LGBT minor you can contact Jordan Kellman, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at ULL, via phone at 337.482.6219 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.