It's not just about women anymore.
The women's studies program at Kansas University plans to change its name to women, gender and sexuality studies. It also hopes to add a human sexuality minor.
"The title that's proposed kind of reflects the diversity of the classes and the diversity of the faculty and the work that they do," said Ryan Weaver, a graduate teaching assistant in the program. "The work being done in the department isn't just focused on women and women's oppression."
Ann Cudd, program director, said the name change and program addition have approval from Joseph Steinmetz, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Ultimately, the Kansas Board of Regents must approve the changes. The program also has a list of long-term goals that include outreach and more majors and minors.
Cudd, also a philosophy professor and women's studies professor, said while gender studies is the program's main focus, it's beneficial for students to learn the discipline within a framework that can be applied to several careers. Cudd said she wants students to see women's issues as they relate to political science and human rights issues like an economics major is trained to look at the world as an economist.
"It's useful for someone in women's studies to see to what degree are concerns for women in this country a concern of human rights," she said. "How can they frame that to get world attention to say this isn't right, this isn't going well, this is a serious moral and political issue."
Even though the program is changing, Cudd said she wants to hold onto its historical ties.
"We're loathe to lose the women as well because we have this revolutionary beginning with the February Sisters," she said. "We want to keep that kind of link to our beginning as well."
Caroljean Brune was one of the original 37 February Sisters who fought for women's rights on KU's campus during the 1970s and were instrumental in the establishment of the women's studies program.
Brune, an assistant to the School of Education dean, said she would rather see the program become a stand-alone department before other changes were made. That's what she and others hand in mind when they fought for it in the first place, she said. She said at the time, their group didn't have enough "clout" as they also pushed for child care and women's health care on campus.
"Right now it's a stepchild of the university," she said. "Latin American and Asian studies are departments. Almost everything dealing with some small group or culture or interest is a department, and women's studies is definitely the last holdout."
Brune said a department has more influence than a program.
"I'm just saddened by the fact women's studies didn't go any further than what the university first created in 1972," she said. "It's still a program. But it's there, and that's a good thing."
Cudd said becoming a department is not so important to her and the program's goals as are the other changes.
Cudd said the study of gender and human sexuality is lacking on the KU campus, so the program hopes to offer a human sexuality minor. She said the popularity of the Human Sexuality in Everyday Life class taught by former social welfare professor Dennis Dailey spoke to the need and interest of students on the subject.
In addition, a women's studies graduate teaching assistant, Milton Wendland, will teach a course in the spring called Lesbian and Gay Cultures in the United States.
"I think sexuality is part of the human experience, something every human shares," he said. "One of the reasons behind the minor is that sexuality doesn't have to be a mystery, that like other elements of our existence we can look at it, describe it, and question it and understand it and also, even more importantly, we can treat it like it is, which is the combination of the emotional, physical and the cultural."