The following is an unsigned editorial published by The Daily Princetonian on Feb. 4, 1980, during the tenure of Elena Kagan ’81 as editorial chairman.
Over the past few years, the field of women’s studies has gained ever-increasing recognition and acceptance at universities throughout the country. But at Princeton, little has been done to include this discipline in the mainstream of the university’s curriculum. While other Ivy League institutions have created women’s studies programs and while Princeton students themselves have shown a growing interest in the field, the university has steadfastly clung to an inadequate and outdated approach to this expanding discipline. Happily, there is now a way to change all this. If the recently formed advisory committee on women’s studies recommends the creation of a full-fledged women’s studies program, the university may be persuaded to close this gap in its curriculum.
A formal women’s studies program is necessary for two reasons. First, more and more Princeton students are being shut out of one of their academic interests because of the sever lack of women’s studies courses. According to the Women’s Center, more than 200 senior theses have been written in the last five years on women-related topics, evidence of a clear interest in the field. Yet the only women’s studies courses offered this semester are two crowded student-initiated seminars taught on a one-time-only basis. Because of this, students wishing to pursue women’s studies must either go to Rutgers to find the courses they need — or simply give up. Only a formal program led by a full-time coordinator will ensure that this inadequate smattering of seminars be replaced with an organized and expanded course of study.
Furthermore the university ought to recognize the legitimacy of women’s studies irrespective of student demand. Traditional academia has, for the most part, failed to establish a base of knowledge about women and their roles. Women’s studies can fill this gap and, at the same time, serve as a truly valuable intellectual approach to a great variety of older disciplines, whether history, politics, literature or art. Perhaps professor Janet Martin and Jonathan Arac said it best when they wrote that those who have no contact with this field are people who “remain unaware of half of history — who have (been forced to accept) the male bias of traditional higher education, and are handicapped as individuals and as members of society.”
It is clearly time for the university to welcome the discipline of women’s studies into its curricula. The new committee can facilitate this process by recommending that a formal women’s studies program be established. Maybe then the university will realize that this discipline is not a passing fad but a legitimate and necessary approach to scholarship.
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