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Saint Mary’s offers new religion course titled Queer Theology

During the 2021-22 academic year, professors Jessica Coblentz and Daniel Horan O.F.M proposed a new course to the Saint Mary’s College curriculum committee, entitled Queer Theology. The course Queer Theology, co-taught by Professors Coblentz and Horan, started its first half, Queer Theology I, this semester at Saint Mary’s, and will continue next semester with Queer Theology II. Coblentz and Horan spoke on the circumstances of its creation, emphasizing its intentionality to address a call for discussion within the Saint Mary’s community. 

“The unique thing about how this course came to be is that we were very intentional about being in conversation with students because the class was inspired by students’ desires to learn more about this,” Coblenz explained. “We were really intentional about asking them, ‘What do you want to study?’ ‘What are the questions that you have that aren’t being answered in other classes that you’re taking or in some of the extracurricular opportunities here at the College?”

To the same accord, Horan recalled his moment of recognition of a need for a course such as this.

“We had a campus event, and in the Q&A session, it became clear that students were very interested in perspectives of Christian theology that aligned with and arose from the experiences of those who identify as LGBTQ+,” Horan said. 

Horan further spoke on the attitude of the student body.

“There was a hunger, there was an interest, there was a desire to learn more about the work that’s being done around this topic,” Horan said. 

Coblentz, having taught a “Queer theology” course previous to her time at Saint Mary’s, expressed interest and determination toward the formation of the curriculum.

“We did our best, as experts in Christian theology, to sort of find opportunities to introduce students to ideas in academic theology that connect with their own organic interest,” Coblentz said.

She described some of what the course aims to cover as a whole.

“We’re exploring in the class how insights from Queer theory, sort of challenge and expand certain ideas in traditional Christian theology and also we’re looking at how ideas in Christian theology can challenge, expand and help reimagine different issues in Queer theory,” Coblenz explained.

As well as the content of the course, Horan shared another main element considered in the brainstorming phase, the importance of accessibility to the course. “A course like this had not been offered at Saint Mary’s or in the tri-campus community, at least to our knowledge, so we really had a chance to think from scratch, what would a course like this look like?” Horan continued. 

 “How could we make it a course that was accessible and available to the greatest sort of number of students who are interested in taking it, recognizing that students have very full plates,” he said. 

The structure of the course is unique in the aspect that each semester is worth one and a half credits. Aimed to accommodate those who have an interest in taking this class but may have a full schedule or minimal room, the course is offered on Wednesday evenings. It is a year-long course available to students to take one semester or the other or both in combination to get the equivalent of a regular course in credits.

“We wanted to do something a bit innovative even in the offering of the course, and that’s where the one and a half credit per semester kind of, part one part two structure came in,” Horan said. 

Horan discussed the importance this course plays within the Saint Mary’s and tri-campus communities.

“I think it is important because there is, first of all, an important area of this field of study that doesn’t or hasn’t traditionally, in the tri-campus area, received much attention in a formal academic sense. I think the second reason is that it’s important because these are pressing questions of our time, right?” Horan said. 

Horan continued and addressed the specific relevance the course plays within the setting of a Catholic college.

“So, at a Catholic college, our mission, our vision for education is rooted in that quest for deeper knowledge about the human person, about the world, about God, about what we see and what’s more than what we see. And so, in that regard, something like Queer theology fits in very comfortably and ideally.” Horan said. “The intersection of dialogue is a big part of what this course is about.”

Coblentz also dived into the conversations within the class that have been sparked since its start this semester.

“But I think what we’re exploring and Queer theology are some ways of bringing Christianity to bear on our lives that are often overlooked, that often aren’t introduced to students, and I think that weather students end up agreeing or disagreeing with the authors we read in class I think it’s often really productive and fruitful and exciting to reconsider whether faith has something to offer in this regard. Something to offer that maybe we haven’t thought about before,” Coblentz said. 

Her overall passion for this course and its contents stems from the meaning she hopes others will find in it.

“This dialogue where we’re challenging ourselves to grow in understanding to expand our horizons to rethink things that some of us have taken for granted, that’s what all theology classes on our campus aim to do,” Coblentz said. 

Contact Cora Haddad at chaddad01@saintmarys.edu.

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Saint Mary’s hosts first event for the Period Project

Attendants of Wednesday night’s “Period Party” could expect a full room of Saint Mary’s students and community members, celebrating a new addition to the Saint Mary’s campus, the Period Project. Bingo was played, stickers and informational pamphlets were distributed, and music was blasted throughout Rice Commons located in Saint Mary’s student center.  

SGA President Angela Martinez Camacho and Vice President Josie Haas pose with other students at the Period Party

Liz Baumann, the Director of Student Involvement and Advocacy at Saint Mary’s opened the event with a word about the mission of the Period Project.  “We want to ensure that each student has access to basic needs on campus. The Period Project at Saint Mary’s College aims to provide free menstrual products to all students and campus community members” Baumann said. 

Baumann expanded on this mission to include the conversation surrounding periods, “We want to decrease period stigma and increase education and access to products on campus” Baumann stated. 

She commented on the hopeful longevity of this project, and the impact it has had on the Saint Mary’s community this year so far. “Products are also available across campus in bathrooms in every building. We hope that this project can continue to grow.”

“These products will help students who are seeking additional necessary support through campus. Be sure to look out for more events in the upcoming months,” Baumann continued. 

Baumann addressed the societal need for access to period products citing a 2021 BMC women’s health study “One in ten college students report that they cannot afford pantylines, pads, tampons, and other menstrual hygiene supplies.” Baumann said.

She talked about how the Period Project’s goal is to help provide these products. “Our goal is to provide free menstrual products in every building on Saint Mary’s campus. Additionally, we aim to keep a substantial supply of menstrual products in the Mother Pauline Pantry on campus for students to access them throughout the academic year” Baumann continued. 

Saint Mary’s sophomore, Isa Grace Guthrie expressed her thoughts on the conversation of periods themselves, “Periods need to be destigmatized. There’s a lot of misunderstandings and misconceptions about periods and I’m really glad that we’re having this conversation here at Saint Mary’s” Guthrie said. 

Junior Megan Maurer stated her excitement about the event and particular admiration of Baumann’s enthusiasm for the cause.

“I think this is a really cool thing. I love Liz [Baumann]. And I love that she’s very passionate about this and I think her passion makes everyone else feel better” Maurer said. 

Emily Sierkowski, a junior at Saint Mary’s, discussed her thoughts on the impact of the period party. “I just think that it’s really amazing that we are really advocating for our periods since we are all girls and we all have them. So it’s really nice that we’re recognizing it and celebrating it instead of dreading it,” Sierkowski noted. 

Liz Baumann commented on the success of the Period Party, “The party had much more attendance than we ever could have imagined. I ran out of everything, which is a great problem to have,” Baumann said.  

She continues on to speak of her perception of the student body and their advocacy towards this topic. “But I think that also speaks to the importance of the Period Project and how much our students do want to talk about periods, talk about their bodies, have access to products and decrease the stigma,” Baumann explained.  

Bauman expressed her thanks to Saint Mary’s Student Government Association as well as her excitement for future Period Project events. “I’m excited to continue to plan events, and we’re grateful to SGA for making this event so perfect,” Baumann finished.

Cora Haddad

Contact Cora at Chaddad01@saintmarys.edu