Queer Studies, Arabic, Hebrew to be Offered

Starting this fall, the School of Humanities will offer first-year language courses in Hebrew and Arabic under the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and a queer studies minor under the Department of Women’s Studies.
UC Irvine’s Academic Senate and the Council on Educational Policy recently approved the queer studies minor and the language courses, allowing them to fulfill the foreign language breadth requirement.
The main reason the university is offering these new courses is that student and faculty interest in them has been growing.
‘I know people who have had their students go to different programs in the summer to study Arabic since UCI doesn’t have it,’ said Michelle Hamilton, assistant professor of Spanish and Portuguese. ‘There’s also been some newer faculty members who have research interest in Arabic.’
Hamilton herself has research interest in Arabic and Hebrew and was on the committee that hired Salem Aweiss to teach the Arabic language courses.
Seymour Menton, research professor of Latin-American literature and the founding chair of the Department of Foreign Languages, will teach the Hebrew course. He also taught Hebrew when it was first offered in 1970 at UCI.
‘But toward the end of the 1970s, there was a financial crunch and student interest lagged,’ Menton said.
After 25 years, Hebrew is being offered again. Not only will the Arabic and Hebrew courses cover language, but they will also expose students to the culture in hopes of getting students interested in further study and research in Middle East cultures.
‘It is unique that both languages are housed and offered by the Spanish department,’ Menton said. ‘If you want to be an idealist you could say that we are encouraging the groups to get together and find a way to establish peace.’
‘I would be personally interested in taking Arabic and maybe a larger understanding can come from that and that would come more from a larger shaping of the Middle East department itself, and I think this is the beginning of [a Middle East department],’ said Merav Ceren, a third-year international studies major and president of Anteaters for Israel.
In addition to Hebrew and Arabic, there is a possibility that a course in Tagalog will be offered through distance learning in fall 2005.
‘Some campuses have graduate programs that support languages that the other UCs don’t have so we’re trying to figure out a way to offer all those languages to all the UC students,’ said Jill Robbins, associate dean of undergraduate study in the School of Humanities. ‘We’re trying to work out the distance learning for Tagalog because we don’t have a department that it would fit in and we don’t have enough faculty who are working in Filipino studies to justify giving a whole language sequence.’
As Robbins explained, all language courses must be connected to faculty interest and faculty research in order to be offered. Robbins is currently working with UCLA to offer a Tagalog course through distance learning which would involve a professor located at UCLA to teach to a class at UCLA and UCI through video. Negotiations and details have not yet been finalized.
Another addition to the School of Humanities is the queer studies minor which will be offered by the Department of Women’s Studies.
Jennifer Terry, associate professor of women’s studies, decided to coordinate the minor because of an overwhelming interest from faculty in the School of Humanities as well as members of the faculty from the Claire Trevor School of the Arts and the School of Social Sciences.
‘The women’s studies department has been underresourced for years, so it was pretty hard to launch the program even though there was interest in it,’ Terry said. ‘But I had almost instant affirmation from every single person I wrote to who wanted to help develop these courses. It’s kind of been a snowball effect.’
An introductory course required for the minor will be offered in the winter of 2006. Although students won’t be able to declare the minor until fall of 2005, students can take courses this spring that will fulfill requirements for the minor, such as the course entitled ‘Queer Lives and Knowledges,’ which will be taught by Terry.
‘All the courses won’t be focusing specifically on lesbian and gay lives,’ Terry said. ‘For example, there could be modernist literature that could be looked at from queer theory.’
Although Terry has not received an opposition from either students or faculty regarding this area of study, there were concerns about the title of the minor.
‘Some [faculty] thought that it sounded like an epithet and it gave us the opportunity to clarify that there is an intellectual and cultural history behind that naming and that it’s claiming a name you were taught to despise,’ Terry said.
Geoffrey Enriquez, a fifth-year aerospace engineering major and ASUCI vice president of academic affairs, believes that the creation of these new courses will only help the UCI community.
‘Even if students don’t like those courses, the important thing is to remember that they are being offered, that students have the choice to take those courses,’ Enriquez said.