I want to reserve my space this time for telling you about a consortium CLAGS has joined that holds out the hope of becoming a significant intellectual and political coalition.
The CUNY system contains five centers and programs that have become residency sites over the past half dozen years for the prestigious Rockefeller Humanities Fellowships. This is a larger cluster than any other university can lay claim to. The five are: The Asian American Center at Queens College; Centro de Estudios Puertoriquenos at Hunter College; the Women’s Studies Program at Hunter College; the Simon Rifkind Humanities Program (African American Studies) at City College; and the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies (CLAGS) at the Graduate School.
These centers, representing five key “subordinate” cultural communities, have recently come together to discuss ways of pooling intellectual and political resources in order to have maximum impact in working for egalitarian change. The five centers feel that they are in a particularly advantaged position to contribute new collective thinking on the cultural politics of difference and equity, nationally and globally. We also have an important opportunity to address our common goals from different cultural and his-torical vantage points. The five centers have taken as their challenge the goal’ of building bridges among themselves and their communities. To that end, representatives from the centers have been meeting on a regular basis for nearly a year to discuss concretely what our commonalities in fact are and how we might best work together. Expressing delight that the centers have found each other and are exploring ways of working together, the Rockefeller Foundation has put its own weight behind the collective effort. The Foundation has provided meeting space for us (with interested members of the Foundation staff sometimes sitting in on our discussions); has given a cocktail reception for the five sites, hosted by the Rockefeller Director of Arts and Humanities, Alberta Arthurs, to introduce key funders and CUNY administrators to our work; and on March 16-17, 1993 provided funding for a two-day retreat in Tarrytown, New York to enable representatives from the five centers to explore at ive efforts. The CLAGS representatives at Tarrytown were myself, Pollinger Haas, and Jeffrey Escoffier. As a result of the two -day retreat, a common agenda was formulated around the subject of “Families, Values, and the Public School Curriculum.” The recent conflict in New York City surrounding the introduction of the “Children of the Rainbow” curriculum went to the heart of the meanings of “family,” how it is constituted and the role it plays in identity politics. The urgency of this conflict over curriculum seemed to present an important opportunity for our five centers and programs, in cooperation with public school personnel and community activists, to address some of the central issues embedded in the dispute. The initial goal’s to convene a working conference in January or February to explore strategic links between public higher education and an inclusive public school curriculum, particularly with respect to teaching and learning about “families.” Based on the outcome of that initial event, the centers hope to move on to the planning of a one to two year collaborative agenda involving teacher education and efforts at public education. The Rockefeller Foundation has provided seed money for the planned January/February event. CLAGS Board member, Jeffrey Escoffier, will serve as the part-time coordinator and CLAGS will serve as the administrative site for the project. The five centers are enthusiastic about the prospect of our joint work and its potentially important political consequences.