District approves LGBTQ+ degree, spurs talks

By Michael Santone, Associate Editor

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Beginning next semester, Contra Costa College sister school Los Medanos College, located in Pittsburg, will be the first campus in the district to offer its students an associate of arts/transfer degree (AAT) in social justice with an emphasis in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender studies.

Unlike a traditional associate of arts degree, the AAT degree guarantees a student who completes the requirements enrollment at certain CSUs that offer a degree in their field of study.

LMC English and LGBT studies professor Jeffrey Matthews is also spearheading the development of integrating LGBTQ issues into social justice studies.

He said, “The AAT degree emphasizes many social justice issues, but the program would start with LGBTQ studies first, followed by African-American and Chicano studies.”

Matthews said he started working on this years ago and, with the help of faculty, decided to go ahead and create the curriculum for a social justice degree with areas of emphasis in the struggles of minorities.

“Everything mushroomed and grew out of my initial design to create LGBTQ courses,” he said. “It’s been a long process that we had to figure out as we went along.”

A traditional AA degree in social justice, which Contra Costa College offers, does not guarantee acceptance to a CSU but does provide a general education elective course outside a student’s field of study.

The LGBTQ transfer degree will follow a more focused educational plan, which was approved by the state, with courses specialized to the social justice field.

Matthews said there are three core overview courses, which include interdisciplinary courses for a social justice degree.

“Students who major in LGBTQ studies would take courses along the lines of LGBTQ literature, and studies like gender studies, history of sexuality and social justice,” he said. “Not a lot of community colleges are offering this type of degree and study.”

Matthews said faculty members at LMC are also working on creating a social justice degree with an emphasis in Asian-American studies.

“But that is a little more behind than the other areas,” he said. “These things grow out of faculty interest.”

Faculty and staff throughout the district, Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, CCC and LMC, have the power to create programs with a specialized focus.

But the curriculum must meet student learning outcome benchmarks and be approved by the California Community College Chancellor’s Office and the district Governing Board.

Governing Board Trustee Gary Walker-Roberts said the board approved the curriculum for the LGBTQ social justice degree to be offered at LMC on Dec. 14 at Governing Board meeting.

“It will interest a new audience of high school students to go to LMC,” Walker-Roberts said,

At CCC, the discussions about establishing a social justice degree in fields of study like LGBTQ studies has yet to develop a leader.

During the Associated Student Union meeting on Feb. 8, Student Life Coordinator Joel Nickelson-Shanks asked CCC President Mojdeh Mehdizadeh and district Chancellor Fred Wood if a LGBTQ AA transfer degree could be offered at CCC.

Mehdizadeh said while it is possible, the initiative to create a program begins with students and faculty.

“Our faculty manage the course and program offerings here at CCC,” she said to a ASU Board of 12 members. “I can’t say that we have a faculty leader that is ready to develop the program of study today.”

She said CCC is a college that is open to look for opportunities that serve its community and she said, just the focus we have with the Alphabet+ club, and the conversations we’ve been having.

“Ensuring we are not only supporting our LGBTQ community but also educating our entire community, is something that is in alignment with the college’s strategic plan and mission,” Mehdizadeh said. 

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