During the 1990s, attacks on the arts and higher education have demonized Women’s Studies and Gay/Lesbian Studies, as well as those courses designed to make higher education available to academically underprivileged students. The CLAGS Board of Directors has come to feel that CLAGS should be taking a leading role in debates that use homophobia, racism, and sexism to justify cuts in funding for the arts and education, restrictions on freedom of academic and artistic expression, and policies that restrict access to higher learning. For this reason, we have formed a Board committee for advocacy in the arts and education. So far, the Advocacy Committee has focused on three priorities: fostering media contact, strengthening a sense of unity within the CUNY and SUNY systems, and participating in intellectual publics outside of the academy, including those among educators who work with youth. To establish a better media presence for lesbian and gay scholars, committee members participated in a GLAAD media workshop designed especially for CLAGS, and our staff is assembling a CLAGS press kit. So that individual scholars working in the CUNY and SUNY systems feel less isolated and vulnerable, we have established an electronic listserv that can distribute information and mobilize action quickly. We are also working on a face-to-face Roundtable Discussion for CUNY and SUNY scholars in LGBT and related areas of study at our upcoming Rockefeller Conference this spring. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we recognize that people outside of the university system are central to the progress of lesbian and gay studies. The success of our Seminars in the City reading and discussion series has already given us a sense of the intellectual, political, and artistic energy that thinkers outside the academy contribute to our shared inquiry. We are currently putting together the 1999-2000 series, which may include semesters on public sex, Latina/a identities and sexualities, and transgender politics. We are also having discussions amongst ourselves as to how best to begin sharing resources and intellectual forums with educators working in elementary and secondary schools. Conversations between Advocacy Committee members and educators who work with youth suggest to us that a conference on pedagogical and curricular issues may be the best way to begin. The Advocacy Committee welcomes member input about what we’re doing. There are only six of us, but we do like to hear from members about what you think are pressing issues in the arts and education. Please forward your comments to the CLAGS office.
CLAGS Board Member and Advocacy Committee Chair