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The Oracle

The student news site of Hamline University.

The Oracle

The student news site of Hamline University.

The Oracle

Dawn of two inclusive social justice courses for spring

Professor Sam Schmitt will be instructing two new Social Justice and Social Change courses in the Spring semester titled Trans Lives and Introduction to Fat Studies. These topics come at a time when diverse education is on the chopping block at some universities.

The courses, Trans Lives and Intro to Fat Studies are centered around transgender people’s history and social attitudes about fat, respectively. Professor Schmitt is resurfacing the Trans Lives course at Hamline after it hasn’t been taught in a few years and the Fat Studies course is one of the only ones to exist in Minnesota at this time. Schmitt spoke to the importance of having courses such as these offered.

“I was thinking about how powerful it would have been for me to have had this information, to know that my community has all these wonderful activists and intellectual history … The queer folks on campus and the trans folks on campus deserve to have access to this history and have it offered as part of their education,” Schmitt said.

The material of the courses themselves is crucial, but the importance of this work is only heightened by the tensions society is facing surrounding these topics. This is emphasized by Ryan LeCount, the head of the Social Justice and Social Change department. 

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“This work would be important, even in the event that we aren’t in this terrible time of backlash and threat and an absence of safety for our members of our community. This work is important for cis[gender] folks and trans[gender] folks. This work is important for everybody,” LeCount said.

Students on campus have also expressed excitement about taking  part in courses about topics they previously never got to learn about in an academic setting.

“My highschool didn’t have anything like it; it wasn’t talked about at all. So coming here and seeing that they have a bunch of classes … I think it’s really good to have it all available to any student that would like to learn about it because I know from my experience being from Southern Minnesota, it’s not really … the norm. So nobody really talks about it,” Angel Martinez, a first-year student at Hamline, said.

Students at Hamline, like Martinez, who have not had access to these topics before are a major priority when Hamline professors work through what courses they will be instructing each semester. 

“We spent a bunch of time, as we do every term, thinking about what student needs are, what interests are and what our capabilities of faculty look like. It [the course decision process] is very collaborative and starts with what students need, and right after that it’s what our amazing brilliant colleagues are excited about doing,” LeCount said.

Professors Schmitt and LeCount both expressed that even though great progress is continuously being made, there is still room for improvement.

“It’s great to have a course just on trans folks and our history, but I want to see more trans knowledge diffused throughout the curriculum elsewhere. I want to see that more acknowledged, the history of our people being more infused into other curriculum and not just treated as a special topic or as a pigeonhole that ‘this is where you say trans people’ and then you get your ‘real education’ over here. This is partially to call attention to the fact that we’ve existed everywhere in some kind of way,” Schmitt said.

LeCount additionally mentioned that they approach these things with thought and care about who is teaching these courses. It is important to ensure that when learning about topics such as these, they are taught by someone who knows what they are doing.

“This is not just randomly we go, yes someone should totally do that [teach these courses]. We happen to have a brilliant scholar and a fantastic teacher [Sam Schmitt] who does this work, and that’s really important.”

  1. Registration will begin during the week of Nov. 13 and these courses are available to any Hamline student with the desire to take them as there are no prerequisites for either of them.

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