ST Breaking news: Professorship of gay studies

4 June 2009
Straits Times Breaking News (online only)
Source

Professorship of gay studies

BOSTON – IVY League university Harvard is to endow a professorship of gay, lesbian and transgender studies, the organisers said on Wednesday.

The Harvard Gay and Lesbian Caucus announced that the US$1.5 million (S$2.25 million), funded by members and supporters of the group, will ‘enable Harvard to regularly invite eminent scholars studying issues related to sexual minorities.’

The first visiting faculty member is expected to be appointed for the fall of 2010 and will teach at the university’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, usually in affiliation with the women’s studies committee, the announcement said.

The chair is to be named in honour of F.O. Matthiessen, a Harvard professor from the late 1920s until 1950, when he leapt to his death from a Boston hotel, apparently in part over the death of his lover, the artist Russell Cheney.

Visiting academics will be invited to teach issues related to ‘gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people – or to sexuality’ for one semester at a time each year, the caucus announced.

‘Creating the endowed chair makes it permanent. This is here for all time.

This discipline is now forever embedded in the intellectual fabric of Harvard University,’ says Mitchell Adams, a Harvard graduate and co-chair of the fundraising drive.

The other co-chair, Kevin Jennings, who was recently announced as President Barack Obama’s nominee for assistant deputy secretary of education, said Harvard’s establishment of the chair will have wide impact.

‘Harvard is the world’s premiere university, and when Harvard says this is a field important enough that we want an endowed professorship in it, it sends a signal to the entire field of higher education that this is an important field of study,’ said Mr Jennings. — AFP

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