This file was prepared for electronic distribution by the inforM staff. Questions or comments should be directed to email@example.com. CHAPTER 7 OBERLIN COLLEGE SELF-EMPOWERMENT AND DIFFERENCE BY LINDA R. SILVER -1 Oberlin College examines some of the distinctions and tensions, as well as the commonalities, among students and faculty members of diverse identities, rather than embracing a single, singular conception of women's studies teaching and learning. Focusing their assessment on both students and faculty, then, Oberlin College examines student learning and self-empowerment; collaborative learning; and relational understandings of race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality. Oberlin College, founded in 1835, is an independent, coeducational institution located thirty-five miles southwest of Cleveland, Ohio. In 1841, it was the first American college to grant undergraduate degrees to women. Oberlin also was a leader in the education of people of color; by 1900, one-third of all black graduates of predominantly white institutions in America had graduated from Oberlin. In keeping with its own origins in nineteenth-century social change movements, the college today has a national reputation as an institution that encourages intense engagement with intellectual and social issues and challenges students to combine scholarship with activism and social responsibility. Currently, Oberlin's student enrollment is 2,750, with 2,250 students in the College of Arts and Sciences and 500 in the Conservatory of Music (Oberlin course catalogue, 1991-92). Efforts to initiate a women's studies program at the college began in the early 1970s and culminated in 1982, when a formal program officially was established. It is run by a committee of faculty members and students, directed by a faculty member, and administered by a part-time coordinator. With one full-time faculty member, the program offers five core courses, including an introduction to women's studies and a senior seminar. In addition, the program offers core courses focusing primarily on women or gender cross-listed with fifteen departments and programs including Anthropology, Black Studies, Philosophy, Russian, and Theatre and Dance. Students also may choose additional work from among almost one hundred related courses offered by sixteen departments or programs, all of which treat a topic or In a survey of majors and minors...three quarters named [their women's studies courses] as the most intellectually stimulating courses they had taken at Oberlin theme involving gender as part of the course material. By the midpoint in the 1991-92 academic year. there were sixty women's studies majors and fifteen minors. The Women's Studies Program is one of Oberlin College's fastest growing academic areas. Student demand for women's studies courses far exceeds the ability of the program to meet that demand. With only one full-time professor responsible for the introductory course, the practicum, and the senior seminar as well as several other offerings, wait-lists for courses sometimes run as high as two hundred students. Requests to the administration from students and from the Women's Studies Program Committee have met with very limited success, running up against not only competing requests from other units of the college but also against a period of economic uncertainty and financial retrenchment. Recognized needs of the program, such as an intermediate-level feminist methodology course and modifications to strengthen the practicum, will remain unmet until at least one additional full-time faculty member is hired. The steady growth of the program and the ever-increasing popularity of its courses can be explained in part by the students' awareness of the interrelationships between race, gender, class, and sexuality. The program prides itself on its attempts to take these issues seriously and to provide a conceptual framework that integrates the multiple categories. As one student puts it: Women's studies is not just about gender at Oberlin.... What's so important to me about women's studies here--and if it hadn't been this way I don't think I would have continued with the major--is that it's about a lot of different systemic oppressions, and central to these are race and class and gender. Nor is it just about women.... I'm not saying...that WOST students are always concerned with race, class, nationality, and sexuality issues. But we have a base we can build on.... In a survey of majors and minors conducted several years ago as part of a class project, all of the respondents said they found their women's studies courses to be intellectually challenging, and three quarters named them as the most intellectually stimulating courses they had taken at Oberlin. The students conducting the survey assert that "such an exceptionally high number of academically satisfied students within a single department is quite unusual. While there were complaints about the program, there was no disagreement that these students felt very challenged." Even students who arrive at Oberlin as self-proclaimed feminists praise the program for its power to transform and challenge. As a 1982 women's studies graduate explained: The college (or specific teachers and groups there) took that feminism seriously--educated, expanded, challenged, layered, enriched that stance, truly enlarging my knowledge and experience. PROGRAM GOALS During the first year of participation in NWSA's FIPSE national assessment project, the Women's Studies Program Committee devoted substantial time to discussing its goals, its future, its faculty and curricular needs, and its student audience. The basis for our discussion of the goals of our Women's Studies Program was the catalogue copy that currently describes us as: a multidisciplinary program exploring topics concerning women, gender, and difference, in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Course work includes scholarship by and/or about women of varying racial, ethnic and class backgrounds and sexual identities in literature, the arts, history and theory; it also analyzes the experiences of men and women with respect to social, psychological, cultural and biological factors influencing the construction and representation of gender. Women's studies courses often involve the investigation of materials previously neglected by scholars and new methodological and critical approaches to materials customarily treated in other ways. Such courses may as a result propose revisions in the content, methods, and assumptions of particular disciplines in light of recent feminist scholarship. Going beyond the catalogue description, we stressed that our aims are multicultural and interdisciplinary; we see the program striving on the one hand to achieve analytic clarity and rigor and, on the other, to facilitate, personal growth and student voice. We see important interconnections between what appear as separate categories in the NWSA/FIPSE proposal: knowledge base and learning skills. We see ourselves as trying to foster tolerant, critical habits of mind in which students learn to question their own assumptions, in order to explore the ideological underpinnings of knowledge to see the connections between structures of knowledge and structures of society. We want We want to communicate how differential access to power and authority--with respect to gender, race, class, and sexuality--shapes our understandings to foster a self-reflexive criticism that identifies and, beyond that, locates epistemological formulations within social structures. We want to communicate how differential access to power and authority--with respect to gender, race, class, and sexuality--shapes our understandings. Our discussion stressed that the knowledge we seek to communicate in women's studies is not a simple body of information but rather a question of approach and conceptualization. In this way, we see logical connections between women's studies and other programs dealing with ethnic and minority peoples and people of color. We are currently trying to make our women's studies program more truly interdisciplinary, and we believe our own core program courses have contributed to making connections between disciplines. At the same time, we think it is important to encourage the growth of more courses in a variety of disciplines across the curriculum. At present, our disciplinary strengths are centered in the humanities, with some representation in the social sciences and real weaknesses in the area of the natural sciences. Unfortunately, such curricular lopsidedness hinders our programmatic goals. We also are consciously working to continue our progress toward a program where multicultural issues inform every aspect of our program, including our curriculum, our faculty, and our student audience. We seek to involve people of different ethnic and racial backgrounds and sexual orientations at all levels. In other ways, too, we are continuing our efforts to reach out to a variety of student constituencies, including women and men, and students from a variety of fields from the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities, irrespective of majors. For many, the issue of learning skills includes assisting students in developing a personal voice and expression, as well as basic confidence in learning. We are concerned that our students learn to "authorize" their own ideas and identities; this issue is especially important for traditionally marginalized groups such as women in general and especially women of color and lesbian and bisexual women. For faculty, our goals for ourselves include learning to encourage different modes of expression and reevaluating why certain skills are deemed important. In terms of feminist pedagogy, we seek to foster critical, tolerant, investigative thinking, and we encourage students not to reproduce knowledge but actually to produce it as well. To do this, we think feminist pedagogy must demonstrate a sensitivity to questions of social differentiation in the classroom and in the learning process. Again, feminist pedagogy must strive to give voice. In working on the NWSA/FIPSE project, we on the faculty articulated once more our goal of experimenting further in methods of presentation and evaluation, of undertaking cooperative learning projects, and new orientations in our off-campus practicum projects. Finally, we all concurred that personal growth has a special place in women's studies and that encouraging creative, critical thinking and fostering voice would empower students and heighten their awareness. We like to think that what we do in women's studies classrooms will have a positive impact on how our students see themselves and what they are doing in the "outside world" beyond our academic context. We hope that students are learning how to create new knowledge and new group relations. ASSESSMENT PLAN Our Women's Studies Program is grounded in the recognition of differences: differences between courses, in the courses of study followed by our diverse majors and minors, among our students, and among our faculty. Rather than embrace a single, singular conception of women's studies teaching and learning, then, our objectives in conducting our self-assessment entail getting at some of the distinctions and tensions, as well as the commonalities, among students and faculty members of diverse racial, ethnic, class, gender and sexual identities. Thus, we recognize and hope to highlight the positionalities from which learning and teaching occur in our program. To this end, more- over, we focused our assessment on both students and faculty members. The questions we posed were: * Does student learning entail self-empowerment? We understand self-empowerment as a matter of agency and social responsibility and self-understanding as inseparable from an articulated sense of social responsibility. Thus the self- empowerment we hope to teach involves students' coming to an understanding of the identity and history of their own group(s) within the context of understanding the identities and histories of members of other groups, all such understanding being situated within substantive knowledge of sociocultural structures. Self-empowerment also entails gaining an understanding of the tools of disciplinary and social analysis and of modes for effecting social change. * To what extent does collaborative learning occur, and how effective is it? We defined pedagogy as a matter of shared responsibility and shared work and recognize that the weight of responsibility differs from class to class. We do not want to prescribe what the collective nature of learning is for the entire program; rather, we want to assess whether the pedagogical structures of a given class are appropriate to the objectives--and the composition--of the class. Moreover, given our understanding that knowledge is produced and not simply acquired, we want to learn the extent to which our students are engaging in genuinely collective work and how that work is being done. Since collaborative learning means working with and learning from people who are different from oneself, we specifically want to learn whether/how our students are negotiating and mediating differences, how they are putting themselves on the line, and what the outcomes are. * Does a particular course foster a relational understanding of race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality? Specifically, does it help students understand the significance of these categories? Does it identify how they operate individually? Does it identify how they operate in conjunction? METHODS OF ASSESSMENT Students in women's studies courses, senior women's studies majors, alumnae, and faculty members were the four groups upon whom the assessment focused. Written self-statements (see page 176) were administered three times during a semester to students in seventeen courses. These students were not necessarily women's studies majors or minors, and their degree of engagement with women's studies varied from fairly intensive to virtually none at all. Senior majors taking the women's studies senior seminar interviewed one another as part of a class project. A questionnaire was mailed to college faculty members and another was inserted into an issue of the program's newsletter, WomaNews, and mailed to alumnae. Supplementing these methods of gathering data was a set of student interviews conducted by a senior major who served for one semester as the project's research assistant. The shape of the assessment plan as it developed tends to reflect the growing national debate about multiculturalism and the questions asked about women's studies programs in terms of this debate: What fosters student learning and self-empowerment? How can courses encourage a relational understanding of gender, race, class, and sexuality? Does feminist pedagogy differ from other types? How do women's studies courses affect students' lives and life choices? STUDENT LEARNING AND SELF-EMPOWERMENT Self-empowerment stands out as the program goal most important to students. The results of the assessment suggest that students' understanding of the meaning of the concept develops over the course of their college experience and is Influenced by the intensity of their engagement with women's studies. By senior year, a women's studies student, for instance, revealed in an interview that her agenda in women's studies started with issues she could apply specifically to herself and her position and spread out into "looking at systems of domination: ...it's about power and how society is structured." In the self-statements, no question directly relating to or mentioning the term "self-empowerment" was asked. However, answers to questions about "the most significant thing you have learned" in terms of either process or content elicited responses that connote self-empowerment: "I've learned how to think.... I have a whole bunch of alternatives open to me that I want to take. I am engaged" (junior, art major). In student responses, self-empowerment occurred almost twice as often as the next cited category--collaborative learning. The most important thing...was not just getting my hands on information but also on a method...of knowing what to look out for and what to do when I see it. JUNIOR, WOMEN'S STUDIES MAJOR I have gained a sense of feminist literary criticism with which I may not only approach all other literature but also which I may apply to my personal life. SENIOR, ENGLISH MAJOR I have learned something about coalitions and the difficulties of trying. I have learned to distinguish between guilt and power. I learned about silence and what it means. I have learned to encompass a global con- text into my thinking and, hopefully, acting. SENIOR, SOCIOLOGY MAJOR Self-empowerment was also central to the comments of the senior students who were interviewed. As one senior put it, "Self-empowerment is of the utmost importance because without it, you are immobilized." In the interviews, however, the link with social responsibility was more apparent. When asked to describe the changes in their expectations of their women's studies education between their first and last college years, the majority commented on how their interest had shifted from personal to social issues. One student told the interviewer that she had experienced a "growth that is a natural progression in women's studies," that her "first exposure to feminist coursework centered around issues of self" and that as she developed better and more numerous skills she "desired to politicize and problematize the personal." When included in a list of Oberlin's Women's Studies Program goals self-empowerment and the linking of personal with social responsibility were rated together as most important. What's important to me is having a language not only to represent myself but to talk about political change.... It's more about feminist thinking and method as opposed to "feminine" or "women's issues." It's about learning how to address marginalization and difference. Another student stated that women's studies helped her see where she has "work to do in this world" and how to do that work; she did not see women's studies as a "personal tool for me to learn how to feel good about myself as a woman." While students commented on the primacy of empowerment as both an educational goal and as an outcome of the feminist education they receive at Oberlin, neither alumnae nor faculty members ranked it first among the stated program goals of student self-empowerment, recognition of differences, collaborative learning, and understanding the relationships among race, class, gender, and sexuality. Alumnae were reluctant to give a ranking. Comments like "All are important" or "It's impossible to rank hierarchically things that are so interrelated" were common. However, when asked if and how the women's studies courses they had taken at Oberlin had influenced their lives, many alumnae singled out the self-empowering nature of the critical thinking in which they had been encouraged to engage. Classroom teaching practices and relationships with peers and faculty were characterized as providing the freedom and courage to question, a means toward empowerment, a catalyst toward political action, and a model for sorting through social issues. We were interested in finding out if women's studies alumnae continue to be involved in feminist activities after they graduate. In other words, were they empowered toward social action? The broad categories of feminist activities identified by Linton were used as a basis for this inquiry. -2 Conceptualizations of feminism represented by these activities included reproductive rights clinics, battered women's shelters, marches, networks, political action, women's crafts, filmmaking, voter education, and research. All of the alumnae who responded had participated in most of the sixteen activities specified. The involvement of many had, in fact, begun at Oberlin and had been carried on after graduation, often in the professions they now practice, such as teaching or law. This seems fitting for graduates of a college whose motto is "Learning and Labor" and whose women's studies program currently is considering how to strengthen students' ability to relate theory to practice. One graduate articulated the importance of developing in students "the ability to see how theory shapes practice and how practice-- the real, changing world--keeps pressing at the boundaries of theory." The most critical comments about the Women's Studies Program at Oberlin came not from students but from faculty members who were not teaching in the Women's Studies Program. The survey sent to Oberlin's general faculty revealed that there was striking variation in how the program is perceived and accepted (see pages 174-75). In contrast to the evaluations by students who had taken women's studies courses, a minority of faculty respondents, both female and male, construed the program's goals as being ideological, political, or indicative of "one big counseling session." In reply to a question about the impact of the program on the college, one female humanities professor, who is not part of the Women's Studies Program, wrote: [It has had a] terrible impact--the program has politicized and ideologized students instead of promoting objectivity in education....I must withdraw my support for this program until it becomes less ideological and more in line with the spirit of true academic excellence at Oberlin.... A long-time professor of mathematics, who also is not part of the program, stated that the goals of the program "make [it] sound more like a political party than an academic department. I have been supportive of women's studies in the past, but I am not willing to support a political party in disguise." Notwithstanding these views, the vast majority of faculty members support the program and its stated goals. As one faculty member argued, "Its continued existence is of core importance to the mission of the institution," and another echoed these sentiments: "...the role of the program as an institutional basis for dissent is absolutely vital to the educational mission of the college." Still others praised women's studies because it "...gives legitimacy to the college's progressive and tolerant reputation." Recognizing that some faculty members "see in women's studies radical lunacy writ large," a respondent nonetheless valued the program because it "promotes attention to multiculturalism and politics." Finally, another faculty member explained why students were so attracted to the Women's Studies Program: "[It] has the most interesting faculty and the most interesting ideas." When asked what goals, if any, they would add to those stated, the goal of critical thinking was added most often. This coincides with the alumnae's recognition that they had, in fact, been taught to think critically, which they valued even more after graduation. According to one faculty comment, critical thinking was cultivated in women's studies courses: In the past couple of years, I've noticed that students who have taken at least the introductory course in women's studies are better trained in critical thinking than many other students. So I gather that critical thinking is more consistently encouraged by women's studies pedagogy than can be assumed across the curriculum. COLLABORATIVE LEARNING In the self-statements, collaborative learning was ranked by students as second in importance only after self-empowerment. In commenting on collaborative learning, one student, for example, explained, "I've not learned as much in any other class at Oberlin in the past three and one half years" (senior, art major). Another commented: "I think collaborative learning is effective in any class....I appreciate this method in my sociology and psychology class and wish it were more common in my economics classes" (junior, economics major). That students come to realize through collaborative learning that their peers can be sources of new knowledge is apparent in the following self-statement: "I am constantly learning from classmates....In this class, with the issues we discuss because they're personal, and public/political, cooperative learning is really effective and eye-opening" (sophomore, women's studies major). As a pedagogical method, collaborative learning more readily challenges students to mediate differences which emerge as students work closely with one another. The process is not an easy one, according to one senior: We are in the process of negotiation [of difference]; ...we are (supposedly) committing ourselves to frank discourse with faith in one another's central worth, but it's hard. We are so untrusting and quick to judge or reluctant to judge at all. SENIOR, LATIN AMERICAN STUDIES MAJOR Most students, nonetheless, have developed strategies for negotiating differences that include "recognizing and dealing with them," "respectful listening," and "allowing for conflict." While the strategies do not always work students felt that the challenge to interact across differences was educationally productive: I've tried (and occasionally failed) not to assume things about people from different backgrounds...and I've been curious about what they think. It's worked pretty well...a lot of communication is going on. SENIOR, HISTORY MAJOR An alumna concurred with students about the value of collaborative learning, especially in terms of its application after graduation: Collaborative learning is particularly important because it requires a recognition of one's own strengths and also a recognition of difference. It's an important life skill to be able to work with others, engaged in our differences. Politically, this is significant. 1991 OBERLIN COLLEGE GRADUATE Senior seminar interviews reiterated what other students had said about both the importance and the challenge of collaborative learning. As one senior described it, "collaborative learning was valuable and...it was certainly attempted but at times was difficult." Another captured the dynamic classroom interaction that can flow from collaborative learning: "The classroom becomes a setting for exchange and question and a form of activism. And I haven't had it in every classroom in Oberlin...maybe two or three." Some seniors, however, were more skeptical about how uniformly collaborative learning actually was integrated into every women's studies course. While one senior felt it "is one area that...has been very successfully met at times," she also felt it "has simply been given lip service at other times." Another senior, who had taken only women's studies courses for two consecutive semesters, stated she was weary of the collaborative learning approach, adding, "I wish there was more lecturing." RELATIONAL UNDERSTANDING OF RACE, CLASS, GENDER, AND SEXUALITY While students ranked self-empowerment and collaborative learning as the two program goals that they considered most important, both women's studies alumnae and faculty members placed greatest importance on teaching students to understand the relationships among race, class, gender, and sexuality. Comments from graduates and faculty members, moreover, suggested that this understanding was integrally related to the recognition and analysis of difference. For example, one alumna wrote: Although I was aware of sexual and racial oppression and my opposition to them when I arrived, Oberlin opened my eyes to a multitude of issues in which...difference-based oppressions play a part and in the ways that they all interact. It added to my ability to analyze power.... 1985 OBERLIN COLLEGE GRADUATE For many graduates, Oberlin was their first opportunity to be reflective about the relationships among class, gender, and sexuality. It often was other students within women's studies and beyond it who triggered intellectual and personal growth: Before I came to Oberlin I had had neither the freedom nor the opportunity to question or even develop any ideas about these issues. The students I met were the main way this questioning and development took place. 1985 OBERLIN COLLEGE GRADUATE Another alumna had a similar experience: "At Oberlin, I...discovered I was a feminist. It was also the first place I ever met openly gay and lesbian people" (1982 graduate). What women's studies seemed to provide for many students was the conceptual framework for understanding complex relationships between systems of oppressions. As one women's studies graduate explained: I was exposed to critical thought on these issues and provided with the means to make links between them. [Oberlin] taught me to ask questions--not just attempt to give answers. I became more equipped to examine my own racism and classism at Oberlin. 1988 OBERLIN COLLEGE GRADUATE Alumnae surveyed--all of whom had taken women's studies courses--strongly believed that Oberlin had influenced them regarding these issues; through Oberlin's tradition of tolerance, its respect for diversity and difference, its strong feminist and humanist tradition, and its inclusiveness of a variety of life-styles, values, ideas, and backgrounds. Blending the experience as a women's studies graduate with that of the institutional culture of Oberlin College itself, one student commented: Oberlin provided an inclusive environment in which I was free to test and expand my creative and intellectual potential without feeling limited. I learned the meaning of egalitarianism and have applied that approach to life after Oberlin. 1984 OBERLIN COLLEGE GRADUATE Oberlin's faculty has given questions of difference and issues of multiculturalism primacy among its concerns for several years. After much debate college-wide, a multicultural diversity requirement was added last year to the general college requirements as well as to the requirements for the women's studies major. Two women's studies faculty members, Chandra Mohanty and Gloria Watkins, organized and convened a year-long faculty working colloquium entitled "Pedagogies of Gender, Race, and Empire," which included a panel discussion of cultural diversity at Oberlin and several speakers on "oppositional" and non-Eurocentric pedagogy. Even among critics of the Women's Studies Program, its leadership in these areas is acknowledged. One professor noted the impact of the program on the college as "profound" and remarked that "the program has [had] important spillover impact on many disciplines and majors." Another commented that the "rigorous analysis" of these issues in women's studies courses raises students' awareness of the linkage between the local and the global. Still another praised women's studies for the way its multicultural feminist theory enlightened and empowered students: Students learn more about the interrelations of gender, race, class, and sexuality in the social and ideological construction of power and knowledge than in any other program.... They gain empowerment by being taught to query and challenge the status quo of accepted knowledge forms. Student responses on the self-statements indicate that this kind of understanding is considered integral to women's studies. All of the students answering questions at the beginning of the semester about race, gender, sexuality, and class said they expected these issues to be covered in class. Most of them expected all four categories to be covered, while the rest specified which they thought would not be. Although this varied by course, class and sexuality were the two categories most students assumed would be excluded. At mid-semester, students were asked if gender, race, class, and sexuality were, in fact, being addressed. Over half of the students stated that all four were woven into the course. A smaller proportion of students stated that not all categories had been incorporated into the course. Although this varied by course, students cited race, rather than class or sexuality, as the category most frequently excluded. Self-statement number three asked how questions of gender, race, class, and sexuality were being addressed. Comments included: "Through readings, discussions, theorizing..."; "In terms of how [race] shapes people's identities and how much it is tied to other factors like gender.... How to re-analyze and re-address these conceptions"; "[The class] tried to address all of these together. It's difficult to assess how well it ultimately managed to do so"; "This class addresses [these issues] as integral and inseparable from WOST"; and "Before taking this class I had no idea how much race, class, gender, and sexuality were involved in forming feminist thinking...." Senior seminar students recognized the multiple layers of meaning involved in issues of differences. In every interview, students commented about difference which was often cited as one of the most valuable learning experiences. As one student explained, "There's such a consciousness with [women's studies] of the importance of interdisciplinary study, of discussing difference and of having a language for discussing difference." For another senior, the most valuable part of her learning in women's studies was her newfound ability to see the "layeredness and interconnectedness of the different systems that center around gender, race, class, and sexuality." In explaining to those who ask her what women's studies is, a senior answers by saying: ...we study how gender, race, class, and sexuality fit into systems of government and knowledge.... So it's not necessarily "woman." It's how men and women interact. . .and what affects their behavior or their position or their experience. Perhaps the clearest statement of how successfully women's studies courses provided students with the intellectual framework for understanding relationships of power is captured by the senior who said: The first,...most important lesson I learned was the notion of center and...who is placed at the center.... That this system creates a situation where people of color, and women, and working class people are marginalized and targeted [has] sort of become central to how I think about the world. WHAT NOW? THE ROLE OF THE ASSESSMENT IN PLANNING Since Oberlin's participation in the national assessment project began almost three years ago, much in our program has changed, yet much has stayed the same. High turnover among women's studies faculty and among those who run the program has meant that relatively few people who helped to develop the original assessment plan are still around to witness its completion. Only two of the current members of Oberlin's Assessment Task Force have been on it for more than the current year, none since its beginning. That the final assessment resembles fairly closely the one envisioned three years ago attests to the strength of the initial planning. That it mirrors some of the perennial problems of the program--namely, shortages in the time and human energy needed to provide continuity and planning for the future--suggests that the program has arrived at a critical moment in its history. The FIPSE/NWSA assessment at Oberlin has become part of an intensive internal examination of the program organized in the fall of 1991 to develop a five-year plan that will provide for increased coherence, stability, and growth. So far, the examination has focused on staffing, curriculum, and pedagogy. Our assessment dovetails with each of these concerns. It did not require a formal program assessment to tell us that women's studies courses, particularly those few that are offered as the core program, are in great demand. For several years, that story has been told by the number of names on computer-generated wait lists and, far more compellingly, by the disappointment and frustration voiced by students who sometimes cannot get into the introductory course until their senior year--and then only if they have a major or minor in the program. The assessment does show quite clearly, however, that current students, graduates, and faculty members find the core courses in particular to differ qualitatively from other courses in the college. Far from being "rap sessions," as one of the few negative comments described them, they offer not merely a sense of empowerment, as might be concluded from data on students, but actual empowerment, expressed as social action, and shown by alumnae data. Moreover, the way that students experience and conceptualize "empowerment" appears quite clearly to develop from the personal to the social at least in part in relation to the intensity of the engagement with women's studies. The assessment also shows that women's studies classrooms--again, particularly in the core program courses--involve students as active collaborators in a multidimensional, interdisciplinary learning experience that is rarely found to the same extent in more traditional non-women's studies courses. Some do not always find this comfortable but still choose to grapple with the discomfort rather than to reject it. They find, by and large, "the courage to question," or to develop what many among the alumnae and faculty members called "critical thinking." We also have learned from the assessment that women's studies courses seem to offer a space--although not necessarily a "safe space"--for many different social, racial, and sexual identities. The terms "multicultural diversity" and "recognition of difference" are pallid in light of the intense encounters, confrontations, discoveries, and revelations--individual and collective, emotional and intellectual--that occur within that space. The very creation of that space by instructors and students often is searing. The nature of Oberlin's women's studies program, as indicated by the assessment, requires close attention to methodological and critical approaches and to continuous conversation among students, faculty members who teach core courses, and those who teach cross-listed courses. It also requires a degree of mediation within the college community that is not required of those disciplines whose scholarly norms are customarily considered to be unconcerned with ideology or politics. We recognize the fact that program development and faculty development are intertwined and that the future of women's studies at Oberlin depends on both. The need for greater curricular coherence is an outgrowth of the evolving disciplinary uniqueness of women's studies. The development of feminist theory has been concomitant with cross- or supra-disciplinary work in such areas as the international division of female labor, the "first world's" construction of racialized sexualities during and after colonialism, and reconstitutions of gender in new and re-emerging nations. Growth in the field of women's studies may well account for the increase in the number of majors in Oberlin's program; students now are choosing to go beyond supplementing their college education with a few women's studies courses and are turning instead to a fully realized major. As we continue our discussions regarding long-range planning and the future of the Women's Studies Program at Oberlin, we will build our future based on insights generated by NWSA's FIPSE grant. In our original assessment design, we claimed that we intended to investigate "some of the distinctions and tensions, as well as the commonalities, among students and faculty members of diverse racial, ethnic, class, gender and sexual identities." Three years later, this statement continues to challenge and engage. 1. Thanks go to the members of the Women's Studies Program Committee over the last several years for their participation in and support of the assessment project and to the authors and compilers of the various documents upon which the report draws: Carol Lasser. Gloria White, Chandra Mohanty, Sandy Zagarell and Claudia MacDonald. Thanks to Mary Andes, student assistant on the assessment project; and special thanks to women's studies minor and computing center consultant Sue Patterson, for recovering what seemed for a while to be permanently lost text. 2. A. Jaggar and S. Bordo, eds., Gender/Body/Knowledge (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1989). 174 FACULTY QUESTIONNAIRE OBERLIN COLLEGE 1. Some of the goals of Oberlin's Women's Studies Program are: O student self-empowerment O recognition of differences O collaborative learning O understanding the relationship between race, class, gender, and sexuality. Which of these goals do you consider most important? Are there others you would add? 2. Which of the following activities in your opinion are the most important to the future of the Women's Studies Program? Please rank from 1=least important to 7=most important. ___ change program status to department ___ raise funds from alumni to create an endowed chair in women's studies ___ lobby administration and trustees for more support, financial and otherwise, for the program ___ improve the representation of women of color on the faculty and staff and among students ___ increase the visibility of the program address questions of difference and diversity within the women's studies curriculum ___ increase number of full-time faculty (currently one person) 3. What impact do you think the Women's Studies Program has on Oberlin College? 4. What significant learning experiences do you think women's studies courses offer students? 5. Do you believe that women's studies courses differ in pedagogy --in how students learn--from non-women's studies courses? Yes No If yes, how? 6. Have you ever taught a course that was cross-listed with women's studies? Yes No 7. Have you ever taught a women's studies-related course? Yes No 8. Do you include any of the following perspectives in the courses you teach, whether or not they are women's studies courses? Perspectives on: O Gender O Class O Race O Sexuality (most of the time, some of the time, rarely, never) 9. Do you ever approach your subject with an integrative analysis of gender, race, class, and sexuality? Yes No (Please explain) 10. Which of the following teaching techniques do you use? O lectures by teacher O presentations by individual students O discussions led by teacher O discussions led by individual students O discussions led by groups of students O other: 11. Are you faculty or administration? 12. How many years have you taught at Oberlin? 13. Do you teach in the conservatory or the college? 14. In what division of the college do you teach? 15. Are you female or male? 16. What is your race/ethnicity? 17. We welcome your comments about the Women's Studies Program as we plan for the future. STUDENT SELF-STATEMENTS Student Self-Statement #1. 1. Do you expect this class to address questions of race? Do you expect this class to address questions of gender? Do you expect this class to address questions of sexuality? Do you expect this class to address questions of social class? 2. Do you expect this class to take a feminist approach? What does this mean for you? For example, does it mean: a. inclusion of women authors, artists, scientists, etc., in the syllabus b. discussions of systems of race, gender, and class c. an analysis of power relations in terms of hierarchy, oppression, and exploitation d. other: 3. What kind of learning environment do you expect? For example, only lecture, only discussion, both lectures and discussion, student-led discussion, faculty-led discussion? other? 4. What kind of learning environment do you prefer or learn best in? 5. If you expect discussion, do you expect to be actively engaged in discussion or do you expect the teacher to lead most of the discussion? 6. What do you hope to learn in this class? Student Self-Statement #2 1. Does this class address questions of race? How? Does this class address questions of gender? How? Does this class address questions of sexuality? How? Does this class address questions of social class? How? 2. Is this class taking a feminist approach? Please explain. 3. Collaborative learning is defined as a pedagogical style that emphasizes cooperative efforts among students and faculty members. It is rooted in the belief that learning is social in nature and stresses common inquiry as a basic learning process. Do you think collaborative learning has taken place in your classroom? In what specific ways? 4. Since true collaborative learning means working with and learning from people who are different from oneself, how have you negotiated and mediated those differences? 5. What are some of the significant things you are learning in this class? Student Self-Statement #3 1. Has this class addressed questions of race? How? Has this class addressed questions of gender? How? Has this class addressed questions of sexuality? How? Has this class addressed questions of social class? How? 2. How would you characterize the most important things you have learned in this class (in terms of content and process)?