- Dr. John "Jack" Colllins
In fall 1972, Instructor Dan Allen from City College of San Francisco's English Department developed one of the first gay literature courses in the country. When Allen stepped down a few years later due to illness, another instructor, Dr. Jack Collins, expanded CCSF's incipient gay and lesbian studies program to first two and
then four courses. Among the initial offerings was a popular film class that attracted one hundred students. This, in the words of Dr. Collins, "impressed the college." The high enrollment rates and the support of a gay CCSF board member paved the way for the establishment in 1989 of the first Gay and Lesbian Studies Department in the United States. (The name was changed to Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Studies Department in 1996.) The initial courses were offered off campus at a San Francisco middle school. Almost three decades later, courses are offered at a middle school in San Francisco's Noe Valley/Castro neighborhood. This places the department in a
neighborhood with a high concentration of gay men and women and contributes to CCSF's general philosophy of bringing locally appropriate educational opportunities into San Francisco's diverse neighborhoods.
Since its inception, the department has sought to expand its reach through collaboration with other "mainstream" departments, such as labor studies and anthropology. The current list of offerings includes interdisciplinary courses in biology (The Biology of HIV), English (Selected Topics in Gay and Lesbian Literature), sociology
(Dying and Death in Society), history (Lesbian and Gay American History), and other disciplines. In addition to adding expertise to the department's faculty, these offerings also help build support for the Gay & Lesbian Studies Department among the rest of the CCSF faculty. The department is also developing new courses to meet the needs and interests of people of color.
The department's enrollment has declined over the past several years from its peak in the late 1980s. The faculty interprets this trend as a reflection of local demographic changes and is responding by offering courses that address new issues of interest and concern to San Francisco's gay, lesbian and bisexual communities, including older students who want more cultural courses and lesbian and gays of color who want education that addresses their particular situation and issues. In addition to course offerings, the department works closely with the School of Liberal Arts, which offers Funding Advice Contact Person(s)
Because of their high enrollment, the initial courses more than paid for themselves. Indeed their ability to generate funds for the college was noted by CCSF decision-makers and helped pave the way for establishing the department. The department and its students have also been supported by a $50,000 endowment from Dan Allen, the program's founder, who died some years ago. The endowment has paid for speakers and student scholarships.
"The development of a department contributes to establishing a
whole academic field. It is very exciting to be part of this building
process and to witness a continuing evolution that reflects the
changing needs of the community."
The Dan Allen Endowment is an example of how a member of an underrepresented group can financially contribute to a department, but contributions can also be used for stipends for instructors or professional development. In seeking support and momentum to launch a program like the department at CCSF, program developers may want to consider whether they can raise funds from within their own community. In addition to providing a financial
boost, such generosity is noticed by college decision-makers and may pave the way for additional college support. Instead of starting out by attempting to launch a department, an underrepresented group could begin by developing and offering one or a few classes. This strategy makes the startup cost manageable, tests the community's interest, and offers founders the opportunity to build momentum and a support base within and outside of the college. Do not develop an "embattled mentality" when you are attempting to launch or manage a department that serves an underrepresented group (1).
Dr. Jack Collins, is Chair Emeritus, Gay Lesbian and Bisexual Studies Dept,
City College of San Francisco, and can still be seen on campus passionately teaching English 1B Advanced Composition! (The Classics, Poetry, FIction, From Poe to Shakespeare and Beyond!) ....but only if YOU REGISTER EARLY!
(1) History Excerpted from "We Could Do That! : A Users Guide to Diversity Practices in California Community Colleges" Promoting Diversity Practices Project, City College of San Francisco.
""We Could Do That !" was researched and written to promote awareness and discussion about diversity models and to create a network that connects current practitioners and aspiring diversity advocates and activists."
Dr. Philip R. Day, Jr., Chancellor City College of San Francisco
The Promoting Diversity Project of City College of San Francisco is Funded by a Grant from
the Chancellor’s Office of the California Community Colleges.
Office of Institutional Research, Planning & Grants
City College of San Francisco
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San Francisco, California 94110
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