NMSU women’s studies program changes name to gender and sexuality studies

In an effort to reflect national and international trends and the changes within the academic discipline, New Mexico State University’s women’s studies program, part of the department of interdisciplinary studies in the College of Arts and Sciences is now known as gender and sexuality studies.

Head and shoulders of a woman near a tree
Manal Hamzeh, associate professor of gender and sexuality studies, was one of the professors initiating the name change from women’s studies to the broader gender and sexuality studies. (Courtesy Photo)
Head and shoulders of a woman
Laura Williams, assistant professor and director of gender and sexuality studies, is one of the professors who initiated the name change from women’s studies to the broader gender and sexuality studies. (Courtesy Photo)

Two faculty members in the department – Manal Hamzeh, associate professor and Laura Anh Williams, assistant professor – initiated the move last spring citing the shifts and developments within the larger field of study.

“Our curriculum has always worked toward inclusivity and this name change merely reflects this sense of involvement,” Williams said. “Women’s studies is defined by commitments to social justice and the concept of intersectionality, the study of how categories of identity and difference like gender, sexuality, race and nation are interconnected and overlapping; gender and sexuality studies engages with and further interrogates these commitments.”

“The name change will hopefully signal the inclusive approach of the department that welcomes students identifying with all genders,” said Hamzeh. “That is, gender and sexuality studies is not about and for women only. It is for all students on this campus.”

The name change, which was unanimously supported by faculty in the department, began its journey through various committees last spring and was ratified by the NMSU faculty senate in January of this year. The program is the core academic unit of the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies.

“The name change reflects how the discipline and our program already do the work of moving beyond the traditional and narrower scope implied by ‘women’s studies.’ It responds to our students interests, career ambitions and needs,” said Patti Wojahn, associate professor of English and head of the interdisciplinary studies department. “Additionally, it will give the department more visibility and should enhance our ability to recruit students to the various degrees we offer.”

The women’s studies program at NMSU began in 1989 and has continued to grow over the past two and a half decades.

Wojahn explained this step aligns with the evolution of the program to a fully online degree at NMSU. She added the name change would help the unit to grow through collaboration with other departments across campus, making the program more competitive with similar academic degrees offered by peer institutions.

For more information please visit https://genders.nmsu.edu.


The mosque that disappeared


By Robert C. Koehler

We committed a quiet little war crime the other day. Forty-plus people are dead, taken out with Hellfire missiles while they were praying.

Or maybe not. Maybe they were just insurgents. The women and children, if there were any, were . . . come on, you know the lingo, collateral damage. The Pentagon is going to “look into” allegations that what happened March 16 in the village of al-Jinah in northern Syria was something more serious than a terrorist takeout operation, which, if you read the official commentary, seems like the geopolitical equivalent of rodent control.

The target was “assessed to be a meeting place for al-Qaeda, and we took the strike,” a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command explained. The strike involved two Reaper (as in Grim Reaper) drones and their payload of Hellfire missiles, plus a 500-pound bomb.

The target, at least according to human rights organizations and civilians on the ground, was a mosque during prayer hour.

“U.S. officials said the strikes . . . had killed ‘dozens’ of militants at a meeting of the terrorist group,” according to the Washington Post. “But local activists and a monitoring group reported that at least 46 people died, and more were trapped under rubble, when the attack struck a mosque during a religious gathering. . . . Photos from the area showed rescue workers pulling mangled bodies from a mound of rubble.”

One local resident told AgenceFrance-Presse: “I saw 15 bodies and lots of body parts in the debris when I arrived. We couldn’t even recognize some of the bodies.”

During the 30 seconds of attention the story garnered, the controversy was whether it was a mosque that was hit or a building across the street from a mosque. The Pentagon even declassified a photo of the bombing aftermath, showing that a small building near the ghastly bomb crater was still standing. However, according to The Intercept: “Activists and first responders say the building that was targeted was a part of the mosque complex — and that the charred rubble shown in the photo was where 300 people were praying when the bombs began to hit.”

Anyway, the news cycle moved on. My initial thought, as I read about the bombing, which was not described as a massacre or slaughter in the mainstream headlines, but remained an “incident,” is that the media have a default agreement on morality: Killing’s OK as long as it’s emotionless, coldly rational and strategic (even if mistakenly so). This is the American way. Coldly strategic murder can be reported in such a way that it fits into the global infrastructure of safety and the control of evil.

But killing is bad if there’s passion involved. Passion is easily linked to “extremism” and wrongthink. The man killed this month by police at Paris’ Orly Airport, for instance, had cried, “I am here to die for Allah — there will be deaths.”

This fits neatly into the moral certainty of the Western world. Compare this to military PR talk, also reported in The Intercept: “The area,” according to a U.S. Navy spokesperson, “was extensively surveilled prior to the strike in order to minimize civilian casualties.”

In both cases, the perpetrators foresaw dead bodies left in the wake of their action. Nevertheless, the American military machine carefully avoided the public’s, or the media’s, moral disapproval. And geopolitics remains a game of good vs. evil: as morally complex as 10-year-old boys playing cowboys and Indians.

What I had not foreseen was how quickly the story would disappear from the news cycle. It simply couldn’t compete with the Trump cacophony of tweets and lies and whatever else passes for the news that America consumes. This adds a whole new dimension of media indifference to the actual cost of war, but I guess no nation could wage endless war if its official media made a big deal out of every mosque or hospital it (mistakenly) bombed, or put human faces on all its collateral damage.

I write this with sarcasm and irony, but what I feel is a troubled despair too deep to fathom. Global humanity, led by the United States of America, the planet’s primo superpower, is devolving into a state of perpetual war. It has caged itself into unending self-hatred.

“The way in which U.S. militarism is taken for granted,” Maya Schenwar writes at Truthout, “mirrors the ways in which other forms of mass violence are deemed inevitable — policing, deportation, the genocide and erasure of Indigenous peoples, the exploitative market-driven health care system, the vastly inequitable education system and disastrous environmental policies. The generally accepted logic tells us that these things will remain with us: The best we can hope for, according to this narrative, is modest reform amid monstrous violence.

“We have to choose,” she says, “life-giving priorities over violent ones. We have to stop granting legitimacy to all forms of state violence.”

Yes, yes, but how? The necessity of war has not been challenged at official levels of power in this country in more than four decades. The corporate media grants legitimacy to state violence more by what it doesn’t say than by what it does. Bombed mosques simply disappear from the news and, voila, they never happened. Liars had a global forum to promote the invasion of Iraq, while those who questioned it had to loose their outrage from street corners. “Collateral damage” is a linguistic blur, a magician’s cape, hiding mass murder.

And Donald Trump is under the control of the militarized far right as well as his own clueless immaturity. Of course his new budget, released, as Schenwar points out, on the anniversary of the My Lai Massacre, ups the military allotment by $54 billion and gouges social spending. As we protest and write letters to Congress and express our shock and awe at what is happening, let us keep in mind that Trump merely puts a face on America’s out-of-control militarism. He didn’t create it.

For the protests against his budget cuts to be effective, for the roiling turmoil to matter, a new country must be in formation.

Robert Koehler, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Chicago-based award-winning journalist and editor.


13th annual J. Paul Taylor Social Justice Symposium to explore mental health issues

The 13th annual J. Paul Taylor Social Justice Symposium at New Mexico State University will bring to light a topic often hidden in the Las Cruces community.

Man standing with two women holding awards
Satya Rao (right), NMSU professor in public health services, is pictured here receiving an award along with Liz England-Kennedy from NMSU Chancellor Garrey Carruthers at the 2016 Teaching Academy Gala. Rao will receive the NMSU/Government Department Social Justice Award at the 13th annual J. Paul Taylor Social Justice Symposium at New Mexico State University. (NMSU photo)
Man standing with group of people at table putting food bags together
Lorenzo Alba (center), executive director of Casa de Peregrinos, shown with members of NMSU’s housing and residential life volunteers, will receive the Las Cruces Community Social Justice Award at the 13th annual J. Paul Taylor Social Justice Symposium at New Mexico State University. (NMSU photo by Emily C. Kelley)
Man wearing a suit standing talking to a woman
J. Paul Taylor, seen here at an NMSU College of Arts and Sciences homecoming reception in 2013, spearheaded the social justice symposium that bears his name. (Courtesy photo)

“Voices of the Invisible Majority: Social Justice and Mental Health” will begin on Tuesday, March 14 with a reception and awards presentation and will continue with a day of discussions, films and events on Wednesday, March 15 at the ASNMSU Center for the Arts, 1000 E. University.

“We chose this topic because we felt that this was an issue that would speak to our community, both on campus and in Las Cruces and the surrounding areas,” said Amy Lanasa, department head of NMSU’s Creative Media Institute and co-chair of the symposium.

This year the two-day event, hosted by NMSU’s College of Arts and Sciences, will showcase local experts tackling the tough subject of mental health and services in the region. The symposium named for J. Paul Taylor, a respected state representative and educator, started in 2005 when Taylor suggested strategies for bringing resources of the university to address problems faced by underserved populations in the southwest. Sandra Deshors, assistant professor of languages and linguistics, co-chaired the symposium with Lanasa.

“The panel presentations will include speakers talking about mental health and law enforcement, veterans’ issues and post traumatic stress disorder, mental health issues and treatment in our community,” said Lanasa. “As well as some guided meditation and a talk on the value of integrating mindfulness practice into our community.”

The opening reception begins at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 14 with the welcome and introductions by Enrico Pontelli, interim dean for the College of Arts and Sciences, followed by the presentation of Social Justice Awards.

For the first time this year, there will be two awards, one for a faculty, staff or student of NMSU and a second for a Las Cruces community member dedicated to the cause of social justice. Carrie Hamblen, CEO and President of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce will present this year’s NMSU/Government Department Social Justice Award to Satya Rao, NMSU professor in public health services. Rao has actively sought to reduce stigma and secrecy related to suicide and mental health through her engagement with the local hospital and hospice, working with NMSU and high school students, staff and teachers, and co-facilitating support groups for families in southern New Mexico.

Anne Hubbell, NMSU professor for communication studies, will present the Las Cruces Community Social Justice Award to Lorenzo Alba, executive director of Casa de Peregrinos, the emergency food program, which has 13 outlets to feed people throughout Dona Ana County. The program has more than doubled since he took over in 2011, distributing more than 2.5 million pounds of food in 2016.

The final event of the evening on March 14, Tommy Thompson, a staff member of La Clinica de Familia-Behavioral Health Specialties in Las Cruces, will give a keynote speech about social justice and mental healthcare reform at 6:30 p.m. Thompson is board certified in neuropsychology and medical psychology with prescriptive authority. He spent the last 15 years focused on the integration of behavioral health and community clinics across New Mexico.

The symposium continues on March 15 with three panel discussions in the morning: at 8:30 a.m. mental health and law enforcement issues, at 9:30 a.m. veterans’ issues and post-traumatic stress disorder and at 11 a.m. mental health issues and treatment in the community. A special introduction of J. Paul Taylor will happen at 10:45 a.m.

Afternoon sessions will begin at 1: 30 p.m. with a presentation titled “In Our Own Voice” followed by a talk at 2 p.m. about integrating mindfulness practice in diverse communities. A performance from a NMSU’s theater department will follow at 3:45 p.m. titled “The Invisible Becomes Visible,” written by NMSU faculty. At 5 p.m., an episode of the documentary series “Labeled,” produced by faculty from NMSU’s Creative Media Institute, will be screened. The goal of the project is to share the films in Las Cruces schools and to help the public gain a better understanding of mental illness by hearing about it from people who live with it.

After the film, the symposium concludes with remarks by co-chairs Lanasa and Deshors and a reception.

The J. Paul Taylor Social Justice Symposium is designed to grow upon existing university and community partnerships through reciprocal education, outreach and strategizing as part NMSU’s land-grant goals. Each year scholars, students, community participants and policy makers gather from across the state and region to explore, learn and work together on tactics for reform and justice.

Previous topics have included social justice for LGBTQ identities, justice for migrant youth and children, environmental justice and justice for children of detained and incarcerated parents.

The events are free and open to the public. For more information and schedules, visit the J. Paul Taylor Social Justice Symposium website at http://artsci.nmsu.edu/en/13th-annual-j-paul-taylor.

To view a live stream of the symposium, visit: Day 1 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grJEJFhgb0k and Day 2- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQ-1uGBkxzE.



SWEC: Coyote bill falls short, but we’ll be back

It’s all about persistence

The New Mexico legislature adjourned without passing SB 268, a bill to ban coyote killing contests in New Mexico. It was SWEC’s top priority bill this year, one of six good wildlife measures we supported. But we’re not fazed. We know this bill will pass eventually. Momentum and public opinion are on our side. We will be back at the Legislature in 2019 (next “long” session), stronger than ever and ready to try again. Read our full legislative report here.

Ready to Win a New Car?

SWEC is once again raffling off a brand new, super fuel-efficient 2017 Toyota Prius C. As in the past, we are only selling 500 tickets maximum, at $100 each. Drawing will be held on April 22nd at the Las Cruces Earth Day Event. You do not need to be present to win. Click here for more info and to buy your ticket now. If you are in Las Cruces area, we’ll be selling tickets at the Farmers Market every Saturday until the drawing. Come find us!

We’re hiring!

We’re looking for someone to take over management of a crew of six Youth Conservation Corps members in restoring wetland habitats along the Rio Grande and elsewhere in the Las Cruces area. (The current Crew Supervisor had to resign abruptly due to health problems.) This is a part-time (32 hours/week) position lasting until the project ends in July, 2017. Habitat restoration or youth project management experience preferred but not required. Click here for full job description.



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