Center for Women

Photo Credit: Michael Baez | Daily Texan Staff

Celia Santiz Ruiz spoke at an event hosted by the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies on Friday and shared her experiences as the president of Jolom Mayaetik, a women’s weaving cooperative in Chiapas, Mexico.    

“Jolom Mayaetik” is Tsotsil for “Mayan Women Weavers.” The cooperative was formed in 1996 with 250 indigenous women who wanted to gain a better price for their woven work. Ruiz said, as president of the cooperative, she focuses on keeping younger women out of trouble in Mexico by teaching them the art of weaving. 

“We, as mothers, also have to be careful about our daughters so that they don’t take the wrong path,” Ruiz said. “We want to keep the cultural heritage of the weaving so that they don’t lose that ability.” 

Josefina Castillo, program director for Austin Tan Cerca de la Frontera, said many Chiapaneca women experience domestic violence. According to Castillo, younger women are encouraged to seek out education at the high school and college levels in cities such as San Cristóbal in the Chiapas state. There they are able to properly learn about domestic violence and realize they are being mistreated. 

“They come back and see the conditions and rebel against it,” Castillo said. “They become empowered as women because they are able to access education.” 

Ruiz said she has made it her mission to promote the cooperative’s work for fair profit, while also allowing women to gain social justice against domestic violence.

“Traditionally, [men] have to give you permission,” Ruiz said. “But we have learned that we can manage ourselves.”

Ruiz also shared her personal decision to leave her husband.

“I feel good being by myself because I have the opportunity to go places,” Ruiz said. “If I was still with my husband today, I wouldn’t be here right now.”

The Center for Women’s and Gender Studies received a $50,000 contribution from a nonprofit charitable organization to sustain and expand a leadership program for female students. 

The INSPIRE Women’s Leadership Program is a three-year program that focuses primarily on women in majority-male fields of study. Many of the program’s students are also the first generation in their family to attend college.

“The idea around this is to look at underrepresented fields for women in terms of them having a successful university experience,” said Mollie Marchione, an associate director for the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies.

The Creekmore and Adele Fath Charitable Foundation, which created the grant, is a private nonprofit charitable organization based in Austin.

The grant money will help the program pay its graduate students’ salaries, as well as travel expenses for their upcoming trip to the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders in College Park, Md., and Washington, D.C. The money will also help with the program’s retreats and receptions, as well as the solicitation of speakers for the students. 

“This grant was just a lump sum, so we can start using that money right away,” said Nancy Ewert, a program coordinator for the center.

Despite the recent influx of money, the program still has many expenses to take into consideration.

“It seems like we’ve gotten a lot of money, but we pay three graduate students to facilitate the program,” Ewert said. “We pay their salary and we also send the students to a conference in Washington, D.C.”

Female students can apply for the program during their first year at UT and join during their sophomore year upon acceptance. There are 32 students in the program. Ewert said INSPIRE has small class sizes so the students can receive individual attention from the program’s graduate assistants.

“The whole idea of INSPIRE is to keep it small,” Ewert said.

Marchione said the program’s small class sizes have produced successful graduation rates.

“We’re getting great results in terms of classes coming through and graduating on time and even early,” Marchione said.

Jaclyn Capistran, an exercise science and allied health professions senior in the program, said INSPIRE has helped empower her as a woman.

“I love being in the program because every time we meet I feel inspired to speak up and like I can change the world, no matter my place in this school in regards to being a minority and a woman,” Capistran said. “I truly feel empowered, and that I can make a difference in anything I choose to do.”

UT Austin LGBTQ Certificate

Lisa Moore, Interim Director for the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, is a part of the advisory committee for the new LGBTQ certificate program.  Students will be able to join the program in the fall of 2014.

Photo Credit: Jarrid Denman | Daily Texan Staff

The College of Liberal Arts Policy and Curriculum Committee unanimously approved an interdisciplinary certificate in LGTBQ and sexuality studies, predicted to launch in the fall of 2014. 

The certificate is designed to give students the opportunity to take classes from a variety of departments in the College of Liberal Arts that focus on the LGTBQ community. Two more committees must approve the certificate before it can become a definite addition to the College of Liberal Arts’ curriculum.  

Lisa Moore, the interim director of the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies and member of the faculty advisory committee for the certificate, said its approval feels long overdue. 

“UT is still the only one of the top ten public universities in the country that doesn’t offer equal benefits to LGTBQ employees,” Moore said. “I think that creates a climate where it has not been easy to get this work done … I honestly think that there is kind of a feeling that we don’t want to draw attention to anything controversial going on at the UT campus, so that might be one reason why it’s been so slow here for this to happen.”

Having contributed to numerous existing LGTBQ programs at UT, Moore said she has looked forward to the establishment of an undergraduate concentration for a long time.

“We have talked to different administrators over the years about doing this, and this was the first time that we really put something through at the college level,” Moore said. “It was unanimously accepted, so that was really great. In the past we’ve gotten the message that it wouldn’t go through if we suggested it, so we have had to wait.”

Moore said she thinks students from a wide variety of backgrounds and fields of study will be interested in pursuing the certificate because of the relevance of the LGTBQ community in students’ daily lives.

“I think there will be some students who are going to find [the certificate] very personally affirming because it will relate to either their own experience or the experience of family or community members they’re close to,” Moore said. “I think there are going to be students who take it for intellectual and academic reasons, students for whom it’s a personal interest and many students who are going to be both.”

According to Moore, the faculty advisory committee for the certificate has reached out to several professors about teaching classes for the certificate.

“We already have a lot of professors committed to this field,” Moore said. “I’ll be teaching a class I often teach, which is an English class called ‘Gay and Lesbian Literature and Culture.’ I’ve taught that class for a long time, and now it gets to count for somebody’s concentration, which is fantastic.”

Randolph Lewis, an American Studies professor and member of the Policy and Curriculum Committee, said he believes students deserve the chance to receive a certificate in LBGTQ studies and experience the strength of UT’s faculty in this field. 

“I can’t speak for the entire committee, but I was very impressed by the quality of the LGTBQ and sexuality studies certificate proposal when we saw it two weeks ago,” Lewis said. “With established programs from Yale to small state colleges, it’s an academic area of growing interest among students, and I see no reason why UT should be left behind.”

Jackie Salcedo, an undergraduate academic advisor at the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, said UT is long overdue in establishing a certificate in LGTBQ studies.

“This is something that students have been demanding for quite some time,” Salcedo said. “The University of Houston has had an LGTBQ minor certificate since around 2007 and the University of North Texas in Denton has had one since around 2004. It’s 2013. UT is supposed to be the flagship university of the state, so let’s get it going.”

Associate professor of sociology Gloria González-López talks about her research on sexuality and immigration at “Pizza Party Politics” Monday afternoon. “Pizza Party Politics” is a three-part series hosted by the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies that looks at the political issues of the election from the perspective of gender identity.

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

The presidential debate last week focused almost exclusively on issues of healthcare and the economy. But for voters who want a discussion about social issues like women’s rights and immigration, the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies is providing an alternative forum.

The Center for Women’s and Gender Studies is hosting a series of lectures that examine this political cycle’s issues through a lens of gender identity while placing them in historical context.

In the second of three discussions in their “Pizza Party Politics” series, UT researchers discussed the often-overlooked racism involved in the early suffrage movement in Texas and the role that sexual violence plays in current discussions of immigration reform.

Anthropology professor Martha Menchaca said early Texas suffragists often campaigned on an anti-immigrant platform, capitalizing on the racism of white male political leaders who wanted to drown out the Hispanic voice in the electorate.

Associate sociology professor Gloria González-López, who has written several books on the issues of immigration and sexuality, said national debates often gloss over sexual violence within the immigrant community, assuming candidates mention immigration issues at all.

“Issues of sexual violence within transnational families have been overlooked,” González-López said. “I have been more and more concerned about the lives of Central American immigrant women who come into the U.S. and, in the process, are exposed to all sorts of sexual violence. But talk about sexuality involving immigrant men and women is largely absent from the discourse.”

Christine Adame, a 2012 UT alumna, said she came to the event to better understand political immigration issues through the lens of gender. 

“I’ve been watching the debates but hearing less about immigration, and I wanted to be able to analyze it from the perspective of gender issues,” Adame said.

Last week’s presidential debate touched mostly on health care and the economy, while the third and final debate will focus exclusively on foreign and domestic policy. If the candidates go head-to-head on birth control, abortion, immigration and other social issues, it will have to be during the 90-minute debate Oct. 16 in a town-hall style discussion. Adame said this was another reason she decided to come to the discussion.

“I don’t feel like these issues are getting enough attention,” Adame said.

Nancy Ewert, program coordinator for the center, said the lack of mainstream attention to social issues was one reason the center decided to host the discussions.

“Gender issues are very important in this election, because really, they affect every other issue,” Ewert said. “We want to give a deeper perspective on things that usually people only hear in sound bites.” 

The third talk in the series will focus on reproductive rights, the Affordable Care Act and same-sex marriage, and will be held at noon Oct. 29 in the GEB fourth-floor conference room.

Printed on Tuesday, October 9, 2012 as: Forum expands on social issues

The Center for Women’s and Gender Studies received a $100,200 grant, which will initiate a program for women’s empowerment, encouraging a more active participation in politics.

The Embrey Family Foundation gave the grant and will start a nationwide program called the National Education for Women’s Leadership summer program at UT for the first time, according to a press release. The six-day program will bring together undergraduate women from across the state in order to learn more about policymaking.

“We want a diverse group with many interests and non-traditional majors,” said program coordinator Nancy Ewert. “The purpose is [to] get more women interested in politics, so this will benefit anyone interested in policymaking.”

According to the program’s curriculum, activities will include speaking with successful women in a variety of roles in the public sphere, learning about women’s political participation, exploring ideas about leadership and politics and participating in hands-on skill-building exercises. The Embrey grant has made this program possible by covering costs such as housing, food, program materials and staffing.

Applications to attend this program will open in November 2011, with the deadline of March 2012. For the 2012 session, the program will initially accept only 20 students, followed by 30 students for the 2013 session.

Printed on September 8, 2011 as: Program aims to develop women's interest in politics

Sarah Weddington, the lawyer who fought and won Roe v. Wade in 1973, learned last month that she will be able to return to teach at UT in the fall. The University let her go in February due to lack of funds.

Photo Credit: Tamir Kalifa | Daily Texan Staff

When students and faculty learned last semester that famed lawyer Sarah Weddington had been laid off from the University’s faculty, they rushed to support her, incredulous at the possibility of losing the woman who fought and won the 1973 case Roe v. Wade which legalized abortion in the U.S.

On May 16, Liberal Arts Dean Randy Diehl met with her to offer reinstatement of her position. Weddington said she jumped at the chance to continue working with students. She said she credits her previous students for making her return possible by writing letters to The Daily Texan and the dean to raise awareness about her situation and to set plans in motion for her return.

“There’s really magic in the sense of UT allowing me to work with some of the smartest students in the University,” Weddington said. “I have been so fortunate, because I’ve had the opportunity to have smaller classes. The positive side of that is you really get to know your students. It is such a delight to stay in touch with them.“

Weddington has taught at the University since 1986 and told the Texan in April she would never leave voluntarily. A 25.9-percent cut to the budget for the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies meant the center lost funding to pay many adjunct professors, including Weddington.

Michelle Bryant, an assistant director of public affairs, said there was much support at the University from students, colleagues and friends of Weddington for her return, and the dean was glad to reinstate her to the position.

“The dean made funding this position a priority, and he personally called to invite Ms. Weddington to return,” Bryant said. “The position will be funded through the College of Liberal Arts’ central administration, and the class will be administered by the government department.”

Bryant said Weddington has been offered a year-long contract, the same as that of all UT professors, and that she will be paid the standard part-time rate of $40,450.

Weddington said she will teach her Gender-Based Discrimination course in the fall, but her plans for the 2012 spring semester are still up in the air.

“Randy Diehl said he would like for me to teach a much larger class in the spring with a teaching assistant,” Weddington said.

Robert Hutchings, dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, approached Weddington about teaching classes in the spring, Weddington said. She will meet with Hutchings next week.

Weddington said she never focused on retirement or found it particularly interesting, and teaching at the LBJ school would be a reason to stay at the University for an even longer period of time.

Susan Heinzelman, director of the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies was the first to notify Weddington that there would no longer be funding for her to continue teaching. Heinzelman said she is a tremendous supporter of

Weddington’s work and she is glad Weddington was asked back to the University.

“Weddington is a great professor and a supporter of women’s rights,” Heinzelman said. “She is very active in anything to do with reproductive and health care rights for women.”

Physical culture and sports junior Pedro Villalobos is one of two assistants working with Weddington this summer. He said working with Weddington taught him more than any of his classes in his three years at UT.

“I am dealing with everything I have been taught about in class,” Villalobos said. “The magnitude of Dr. Weddington’s work makes it so that this is a real learning experience.”

Adjunct professor Sarah Weddington successfully argued Roe v. Wade before the Supreme Court and served in the House of Representatives, Department of Agriculture and White House for the Carter administration.

Photo Credit: Tamir Kalifa | Daily Texan Staff

In 1967, 22-year-old attorney Sarah Weddington joined forces with the Women’s Liberation Movement and took on one of the most perpetually controversial Supreme Court cases in American history — Roe v. Wade.

She was the first woman to represent Austin in the Texas Legislature and the first woman to hold the title of General Counsel to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She served in the White House as an adviser to President Jimmy Carter before coming to UT to teach in 1988.

After 23 years at the University and more than a dozen state and national leadership awards, UT officials told Weddington, an adjunct professor in the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, that she would no longer have a job at the end of the spring semester.

Weddington said she was aware of the looming budget crisis but was surprised to hear her position was in jeopardy.

“I always thought that tenure for me was not that important because I thought as long as you were really good at what you do and did a lot to work with your students, you’d be OK,” she said. “Now I know I was wrong.”

Weddington said she received an email on Feb. 8 from Susan Heinzelman, Center for Women’s and Gender Studies director, telling her there would not be funding for her to continue teaching. The email said the center was facing a 25.9-percent cut totaling more than $58,000 and would have to cut faculty positions. According to the UT employee salary database, Weddington makes about $40,000 per year for part-time employment.

Heinzelman said because of the 25-percent budget cut spread over three years, the center has no money to hire any teaching faculty this year, though in the past it has hired three to five adjunct professors a year, Heinzelman said. The money that remains is allocated to fund an incoming cohort of about 10 graduate students.

“She is a wonderful teacher, she’s incredibly supportive to the students, and she is very important in terms of the history of feminism and women’s reproductive rights,” she said. “But we have gradually lost the support of the college over the last several years, even before this current budget crisis.”

Heinzelman said it is important to note that no one person or entity is to blame because the bleak economy is taking a toll on the whole University.

“It’s a horrible situation to be in and we are very distressed,” she said. “I have tried to secure funds for her appointment but that has been unsuccessful.”

Weddington currently teaches two undergraduate courses that are in high demand, said Jo Anne Huber, director of government undergraduate advising. She said it is not uncommon for Weddington’s classes to fill within a few hours of opening for registration.

“We opened our door at 8:30 and at 8:35 a student came in wanting to be on her list,” she said. “I had to tell him we weren’t signing people up because we weren’t sure she would be teaching in the fall and he was very disappointed.”

Alumnus Eric Cuellar, one of Weddington’s former students, wrote a letter to President William Powers Jr. saying the University would benefit from keeping Weddington.

He said Weddington’s “Leadership in America” class, which he took in spring 2010, was the best class he had during his time as an undergraduate at UT. Cuellar said he spent more time in her office than he did in any other professor’s at UT, and he believes he is a stronger leader for having taken her class.

“Being around a person like that is an experience that I wish every UT undergrad could experience,” he said in the letter. “I will never forget Dr. Weddington and her class as long as I live, and I hope you do not forget her either.”

Although she is identified as a world-renowned speaker and was named one of Time magazine’s “Outstanding American Young Leaders” in 1980 for her many national accomplishments, Weddington said it is teaching that will “leave a hole” in her life once she moves on.

“I’ve really loved teaching because I’ve gotten to work with wonderful, talented students and I’m really proud of all the things they have gone on to do,” she said. “That’s what I’ll miss, and believe I would not be leaving here voluntarily.”