New Sexuality Major Finally Gets off the Ground

Program Reaches Senate After Years of Delay

Graphic Graeme Shorten Adams

After years of development and perceived bureaucratic delays, Concordia University is getting close to having its own interdisciplinary sexuality major.

“Honestly I think it would be easy to say there was discrimination because it’s a bunch of gays proposing this, or it’s a controversial topic and whatnot—I really don’t believe that’s the case,” said Geneviève Rail, principal of the Simone de Beauvoir Institute at Concordia, which will be housing the major once it’s finally implemented.

“Concordia is quite open to these things—thank God, that’s one of the reasons I came here—I think rather it’s been a lot of bureaucracy gone mad.”

The new major was approved last month by Concordia Senate and the university is now drafting its formal proposal to the Quebec Ministry of Education, Recreation and Sport (MELS) so that the program can receive final approval from Concordia’s Board of Governors and be added to the curriculum.

Rail has been actively working towards getting an interdisciplinary sexuality major underway since arriving at Concordia in 2009.

But the interdisciplinary sexuality program was in development long before then—the university has been offering a minor in interdisciplinary sexuality studies since 1998.

According to the Concordia website, the program combines anthropology, art history, cultural studies, film studies, fine arts, history, literature, philosophy, psychology, religion, sociology and women’s studies “in order to investigate empirical, theoretical, and creative aspects of sexuality.”

The major will employ a similar approach, Rail said, and the proposal for a new major adopted last month by Senate reflected that mindset.

Rail added that costs might have played a role in the decade-plus delay between starting the sexuality minor and implementing the major.

“I’ve been told by people in higher administration that because minor programs are easier—because minors are usually constituted of courses that are already existing, [they are at] no cost to the department or the university,” she said.

“But the major is a bit different, because usually it belongs somewhere and you get a degree in that, so it requires resources to administer.”

Rail says there were other setbacks for the major—particularly finding it a home.

“My feeling was that the fact that the major was floating [for so long], in other words, not one department wanted to carry the project, was a big stumbling block.”

Prior to Rail’s arrival at the institute, other faculty members had expressed interest in housing the major under the institute’s scholastic umbrella.

According to Rail, the institute’s faculty would only agree to open the institute to a new major “under certain conditions.”

With only four professors teaching regularly, Rail says the institute’s faculty wanted to ensure it would not be bearing the entire load required to operate the program.

However, Rail says even though the institute was able to agree to support the major, a “series of bad things all happening in the same five-year period” kept the major from getting Senate approval until now.

Among those problems included new requirements being demanded by the MELS following the university drafting all the necessary documents for the ministry to approve.

Going forward, Rail says she hopes the program proposal will be sent to and approved by the MELS by September, in hopes of beginning the program by the start of the 2015-2016 academic year.

The Board of Governors will still have to sign-off on the program, but Rail says she expects the program to succeed.

“I think we’ll be able to make great strides in sexuality studies at Concordia, so I think it’s going to consolidate the reputation in this area for the whole university, because it’s not just us at the institute, it’s the two faculties and 21 professors involved,” she said.

“I’m expecting that having that here with a strong student association and strong professors in the field […] will give new oxygen to the field.”