Union’s history of gender and ways it can take to make the environment more inclusive

Nuo Chen, Contributing Writer

From taking courses in the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies department, I learned about the current definition of gender. It is a set of social and psychological characteristics that society considers proper for its males (masculinities) and females (femininities). Gender is pertinent in many aspects of my life. For instance, I have noticed that society commonly associates suits with males and skirts with females.

As an interdisciplinary minor in Sociology, Chinese, and Gender, Sexuality & Women Studies, the issue surrounding gender is an aspect that I am mindful of here at Union. Founded in 1795, Union College was an all-male institution. The College only started admitting women in 1970, 175 years later than when it was founded. As a woman, I wonder how Union is doing in terms of supporting women on campus today, both in its student population and faculty recruitment. 

According to the Union College Office of Institutional Research, efforts have been made in the trend of recruiting female students. In addition, the ratio between male and female faculty is becoming more balanced. This commitment to increasing awareness of diversity within the concept of gender is demonstrated through the education offered. 

Besides the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies department, the Psychology Department offers courses such as PSY 245: The Psychology of Gender Roles. I have the opportunity to be involved in the course this term and work on projects that are centralized around the understanding of gender beyond the binary concept (male and female). For example, one of the assignments I am working on is the “Gender Photovoice Project.”  The goal is to raise awareness of inequality and the influence of gender on everyday life through the combination of photography and writing. 

The misconception often happens when individuals, including myself, associate gender expression with gender identity, which is an individual’s internal sense of their gender that is not visible to others. Gender identity can be developed throughout one’s life experiences. During my years at Union College, I have witnessed the changes that had happened in making the community a more inclusive place through the resources provided. 

For example, did you know that bathrooms have transitioned into gender neutrality in ISEC and other academic buildings on campus? If you are facing any gender-based discrimination, do you know that the Title IX office will be there to support you? From these facilities, you can tell that the Union is committed to playing an active role in reducing prejudice toward individuals of different gender identities, but I think this is only the beginning. For example, my friend studying STEM has noticed that there are far more men than women in the classroom. Other departments also have gender divides in student enrollment. I think what really needs to happen in the long run is a collective effort that requires each of us to be welcoming to the diversity among our peers, regardless of how we appear on the outside. That happens not just with institutional change, like how the Union began admitting women, but also with individual mindset shifts in how we perceive others.