Saving Women’s Studies at UNLV: Please help

A message from Lynn Comella, an alum of UMass, who is currently in the Women’s Studies department at UNLV:

April 11, 2010

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

As many of you are aware, Nevada has been hit especially hard by the economic downturn. Revenue from gaming and tourism – the two biggest sources of state revenue – is down by double digits; Nevada ranks number one in the country for foreclosures; and unemployment in Clark County, as of February 2010, hovers at 13.9%. The effect of the recession on the Nevada System of Higher Education has been just as dire. Since I arrived on campus in Fall 2007, state funding for UNLV has been cut by over 30%. The latest round of budget cuts – which are certainly not the last – has forced the hand of the administration to initiate a university-wide program review geared toward “vertical cuts,” or the elimination of entire academic units.

UNLV’s Women’s Studies Department is one of eight academic units on the chopping block. Eliminating Women’s Studies would save UNLV less than $300,000. But the hidden costs would be immense and irreversible, especially to UNLV’s stated mission to “nurture equity, diversity, and inclusiveness.”

UNLV has no Ethnic Studies Department, so Women’s Studies does double and, at times, triple duty to fulfill the mandate of equipping students to navigate an increasingly diverse society and global economy. If the Women’s Studies Department is eliminated, non-tenured faculty, including myself and my colleague Dr. Anita Revilla – one of only two Chicana professors in the College of Liberal Arts – will lose our jobs.

I ask that you please take a moment to send an email to UNLV’s President, Neal Smatresk, to voice your support for Women’s Studies at UNLV. The administration needs to know that people all over the country, both within and outside academia, are watching what transpires at UNLV. (I have attached a “fact sheet” detailing what would be lost if UNLV?s Women’s Studies Department is eliminated.) Las Vegas – of all places – needs a heartbeat of feminism; and UNLV students and faculty deserve the benefits that come from a vibrant, intellectually engaged, and diverse Women’s Studies Department.

Thank you for your support – and please feel free to circulate this note.

Lynn Comella
Assistant Professor
Department of Women’s Studies
University of Nevada, Las Vegas


Why UNLV Needs Women’s Studies: Diversity and Inclusion

Eliminating Women’s Studies would save UNLV less than $300,000. But the hidden costs would be immense and irreversible, especially to UNLV’s mission to “nurture equity, diversity, and inclusiveness.”

Eliminating Women’s Studies would save UNLV less than $300,000

The current overall cost of the WS department is: $629,857

If WS were eliminated, UNLV would still have to pay salaries totaling: $339,000

By eliminating the department, UNLV would thus save only: $290,857

We Need Women’s Studies to Nurture a Diverse Student Body Equipped for a Global Economy

  • A 1998 Ford Foundation Survey found that almost 70% of American voters believe that “preparing people to function in a more diverse work force” and “in a more diverse society” are two of the top four goals of higher education.
  • Research shows that students who take diversity courses develop the “more tolerant racial and gender attitudes” key to success in a diverse society and global economy, with students enrolled in Women’s and Ethnic Studies courses showing the greatest gains.
  • At UNLV each year, at least 2,262 students fulfill their General Education diversity requirement by taking WS courses, a total of 11,624 students in just the past 5 years.
  • Among WS faculty who teach these courses is Dr. Anita Revilla – winner of 4 UNLV teaching awards and one of only 2 Chicana professors in the College of Liberal Arts. If WS is eliminated, Dr. Revilla will lose her job, and UNLV students will lose an excellent teacher.
  • Dr. Revilla and her WS colleagues founded and now mentor several organizations that represent and support underrepresented causes and students, including Hispanics (MEChA and UCIR), Asian Pacific Islanders (ROAR), students of color (Allied Students of Color, a group that is now inactive, but that helped create both UNLV’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion and the UNLV Multicultural Center), and female victims of violence (the Vagina Warriors, who stage yearly performances of The Vagina Monologues to raise both awareness and money for community organizations).
  • Though WS currently has only 26 majors, 88% of those students are women, 50% students of color, one of the highest proportions of any UNLV program or department.

We Need Women’s Studies to Nurture a Diverse and Representative Faculty

  • If WS is eliminated, UNLV will lose Drs. Lynn Comella and Anita Revilla, 2 female faculty members approaching tenure, including 1 of only 2 Chicanas in CoLA on the tenure-track.
  • UNLV will lose the only department on campus composed entirely of female faculty, half of whom are women of color.
  • In CoLA alone, 14 women faculty resigned between 2003 and 2009. 5 were women of color.
  • A 2009 Harvard survey of faculty from underrepresented minority groups across the nation found that “lack of diversity” ranked second only to “compensation” among the factors attracting them to, and encouraging them to stay, at a particular university.