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Department of Women’s Studies gets new name

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What’s in a name? To the Department of Women’s Studies, it’s everything.

“The name we have doesn’t really reflect the work that we do anymore,” said Jill Bystydzienski, professor and chair in the Department of Women’s Studies, which is now the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies.

The names of undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees and minors will also be changed accordingly.

“In the ‘60s and ‘70s, the focus was clearly on women,” Bystydzienski said. “Then gender became a more important thing, such as how different policies and organizational patterns may be gendered.”

Bystydzienski said the emergence of masculine women and feminine men also played a role in adding sexuality to the department’s new name.

“More work was being done on gender and also different kinds of masculinities, and that exploration started to include sexuality,” she said.

The name change has been a long time coming. Bystydzienski has been involved in discussions about the change since she arrived at OSU four years ago.

On May 7, the department’s faculty voted unanimously in favor of the change. From there, it had to be approved by the College of Arts and Humanities, the Office of Academic Affairs, the University Senate and the OSU Board of Trustees, who approved the name change Oct. 29.

Among things that still need to be updated are the department’s website and stationery.

“It’s going to take awhile to change all of our documents,” Bystydzienski said. “We hope that by fall 2011, we will have everything changed.”

Another update will change book labels at campus bookstores. The label at the OSU Barnes and Noble now reads “WOMSTDS.” Brad Clucus, the bookstore’s textbook manager, said he’d never thought about the name being misconstrued as humorous, saying he thought it was “WOMSTU.”

“I haven’t even heard about the name change,” Clucus said, adding that the current label is “whatever is on the university’s website.”

Clucus said once the abbreviation is changed and the book orders are submitted, Barnes and Noble will change its labels.

Bystydzienski said student feedback has been positive and that OSU is in “good company” of other schools who have undergone similar name changes.

“By our count, at least 45 other departments have changed their names,” Bystydzienski said, naming Yale and Harvard as two examples.

Regarding the name change, Melanie Beaudette, a graduate teaching associate in the department, said, “Women’s studies at OSU is kind of late in the game. I’m glad they finally did it.”

Bystydzienski said she is not concerned about the name change causing confusion with the Sexuality Studies program at OSU.

“We intend to work collaboratively,” she said. “Obviously we have to have more discussions about how to distinguish the two.” 

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