I graduated from the San Francisco State University Sexuality Studies (SXS) MA program in May 2011. I have done everything in my power not to mention the department so as not to give any sense that I promote it. I thought that would be enough. But it's clear that it's not. Since graduating I have been approached by increasing numbers of members of the SFSU Sexuality Studies MA program cohorts who have expressed demoralization, frustration, and concern for their mental well-being as a result of being a part of the SXS program. I am compelled to publicly state that this is unacceptable and that it is the duty of the department to be responsible for its students. Though I am honored that people who do not know me feel that I am worthy of their trust, it is a great commentary on their perceptions of the department's failings that this is so.
I was so harmed by the program - what can only be called harassment from members of my cohort coupled with astounding indifference from faculty, a professor telling me in a meeting that I essentially didn't have the intellectual rigor to do well in her course, the head of the department at the time only soliciting opinions from and mentoring white men - that I did not feel safe enough to even attend my own graduation. Since graduating I have provided advice and support to nearly a dozen people from the SFSU Sexuality Studies department who have come to me because they felt dissatisfied, unsupported, under-stimulated by the curriculum or opportunities for research with a critical race lens, and/or felt unsafe and didn't feel like faculty in the department could be held accountable. I want to be clear that proactively ensuring the satisfaction and professionalization of students is a professional duty.
The San Francisco State University Sexuality Studies masters program touts itself as social justice oriented. In my opinion it is not. This SXS masters program touts itself as having a "commitment to community building." In my opinion it does not. The SXS masters program says that it is committed to "excelling in teaching graduate studies." If it is in fact committed to this goal I feel that it is currently failing.
I hope that this public stand empowers students in some way and encourages faculty to rethink what they've done that would compel so many of its students to come to a stranger rather than the people they share a classroom with everyday.
Keywords: SXS, Sexuality Studies, Masters, SFSU, San Francisco State University, graduate program
Virgie Tovar, MA is one of the nation's leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image. She is the founder of Babecamp (a 4 week online course focused on helping people break up with diet culture) and the editor of Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion (Seal Press, 2012). She writes about the intersections of size, identity, sexuality and politics. See more updates on Facebook.