Joint Statement from the Department of American Studies and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies regarding the recent treatment of Student Protesters

Our academic units stand with student protesters and their right to politically-motivated free speech and right to assembly. In the context of our convocation ceremony, we gather to celebrate all of our students and their multi-year achievement in moving forward to their academic and personal goals. Our gathering celebrates the achievements of our students. We do not condone the university’s upper administration’s harassment of students at the UNM Palestine Encampment or the use of excessive force and pepper spray on students in and near the Student Union Building.

We hope that our administration will recognize these students’ actions for what they are, acts of political speech that exist in a long history of such speech, just a few past examples of which include the Civil Rights Movement and the student movement against the Vietnam war in the 1950s and 1960s. Likewise, we look forward to a future in which these students will be supported by our university and not penalized with overly harsh and punitive responses.

This statement is given in the context of the Faculty and Staff Statement of Solidarity with UNM Palestine Encampment.

What is Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies at UNM?

What is Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies?

Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) is an interdisciplinary field of knowledge production that centers analyses of women, gender, and sexuality, considered intersectionally with race, Indigeneity, class, age, nation, and ability.

From the National Women Studies Association:

“Women’s studies has its roots in the student, civil rights, and women’s movements of the 1960s and 70s. In its early years the field’s teachers and scholars principally asked, ‘Where are the women?’ Today that question may seem an overly simple one, but at the time few scholars considered gender as a lens of analysis, and women’s voices had little representation on campus or in the curriculum.

Today the field’s interrogation of identity, power, and privilege go far beyond the category ‘woman.’ Drawing on the feminist scholarship of U.S. and Third World women of color, women’s studies has made the conceptual claims and theoretical practices of intersectionality, which examines how categories of identity (e.g., sexuality, race, class, gender, age, ability, etc.) and structures of inequality are mutually constituted and must continually be understood in relationship to one another, and transnationalism, which focuses on cultures, structures and relationships that are formed as a result of the flows of people and resources across geopolitical borders, foundations of the discipline.”

Here at UNM, we are fortunate enough to have
one of the oldest programs in the country. After years of organizing across faculty, students, and staff, the Women Studies Program was launched in 1972. As part of the civil rights movements of the time, Women Studies at UNM offered a radical resurgence of feminist scholarship and activisms. In 1999, Women Studies began to offer a BA major alongside the minor that had been offered for many years. While the program had offered graduate courses for many years, the graduate certificate program was officially initiated in 2006. In 2019, we changed our name from Women Studies to Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies to reflect the current state of our intellectual field as well as our growing investments in intersectional queer and transgender studies.

What is Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies at UNM?
It is a program staffed by award-winning faculty who create dynamic classroom spaces for diverse learning styles. It is a program whose interdisciplinary partnerships allow it to examine how race, Indigeneity, nation, disability, age, and more intersect with gender and sexuality. It is the hub of feminist, queer, and transgender studies at UNM.