At the Threshold

Hunter  College professor Joan Tronto was sitting around  her office one day, she told us at the Queer  CUNY conference on May 6, and a student she’d  never met dropped in and sort of just smiled at her. “Hi,” the student
said. “I saw your name  on the flyer for the conference on Saturday,” and that was all. The student flashed another  moony grin, and then vanished.  Over the course  of a few days, several other students came  by and did the same thing.

The little parade  of beaming undergraduates suggested  to Tronto that as out as she may be at Hunter  and beyond, and as much  as various campuses may host LGBTQ student  groups and even offer Gay Studies courses,  many unaffiliated LGBTQ students still yearn for evidence of queer possibility. That is, they simply need  to see — and be seen by—an  out, authoritative, eal-live person at school in order to feel better about their lives on campus, and maybe,  their lives in general. Tronto’s observation has stayed with me,
partly because of the innumerable times such students have hovered  at the threshold of my office, but also because the image serves as an always useful reminder that coming  out is an endless process,  all the more so as students cycle through a college  at various stages of their lives, and new ones arrive each  fall to start the cycle over. Our perfectly legitimate sense that things have gotten better and better both for queer  students and for queer  studies over the years doesn’t diminish  our responsibility  toward  LGBTQ students.
But what, exactly, are those responsibilities?  Where are the boundaries? How do they relate to LGBTQ scholarship and even to queer  theory?

As you’ll see in reports on some of our events over this last academic year, CLAGS has (among many other things) been grappling  with such questions,  and we expect to keep them on our agenda  for a good while. Our energetic  Queer  CUNY conference was the first of what we hope will be an annual
gathering  of students, staff, and faculty—indeed, we’re  already planning  for year two at Queens College next spring.  And our three-session pedagogy workshop,  co-led  by Carolyn Dinshaw  of NYU’s Center for the Study of Gender  and Sexuality and me, drew overwhelming response.  We realized  that not only do faculty have few opportunities to discuss strategies, struggles, and successes in teaching  LGBTQ Studies; we seldom  get to share ideas about  teaching  at all. We plan to continue this series next year, too, with three Monday  evenings in the Fall to be held on the NYU campus. Finally, as we announced in our last newsletter, organizing  is well underway for a big Spring 2001  conference, Futures of the Field: LGBTQ Students and Studies.

In the meantime, we’re  proud to announce that The Graduate Center has approved the establishment of an interdisciplinary concentration in Lesbian/Gay/Queer Studies— the first graduate  program  of its kind.
The concentration includes an interdisciplinary course in LGBTQ Studies to be offered in the fall term by CLAGS board member and CUNY political scientist Mark Blasius. (For details, see p. 14)

No doubt the firmer establishment of queer studies and scholars in universities has enabled, if not demanded, the sort of self- scrutiny these various programs reflect. CLAGS, amazingly, is approaching its 10th anniversary, and as I learned at the Queer CUNY conference, Arnie Kantrowitz taught a Gay Literature course at the College of Staten Island in 1973.

But taking time to reflect on the field itself and our roles within it has hardly interrupted our focus on fostering new research that builds and stretches that field. As reports in these pages attest, our monthly colloquium series, in which scholars present work in progress, continues to beat at the heart of our activities, and our April conference, Whose Millennium? Religion, Sexuality and the Values of Citizenship, offered an unprecedented exchange among diverse scholars, activists, clergy, and community folks.

All in all, it has been a productive and provocative year at CLAGS, thanks to the labor and ideas of our board and staff, and to the participation and support of all of you. Next year, you can count on what have become our staples: the colloquium series, Seminars in the City, the annual David
Kessler lecture, the major spring conference— and on some special, timely symposia. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, best wishes for an enjoyable and productive summer. I look forward to seeing you in the fall – whether at CLAGS events or at the doorway to my office.

Alisa Solomon
Executive Director