Department of Gender Studies

Department of Gender Studies
Department of Gender Studies

Department of Gender Studies at Queen's University

Department of Gender Studies Strategic Plan (PDF, 9 MB)

Gender Studies department logoThe Department of Gender Studies logo is a symbol of our mission, as articulated in the 2019-22 Department Strategic Plan.

Colored stripes are arranged in stylistic reference to LGBTQ+ pride flags, with the six colors coming from the Queen’s University coat of arms.  The circle represents inclusion, togetherness, and that all of us – students, staff, faculty, administration – have a role in enacting the department’s mission.  The Queen’s Q centred on this background reminds us that our work begins here on campus.

History of Women's and Gender Studies at Queen's

The idea of creating a Women’s Studies Program took root in the early 1980s when the Principal’s Advisory Committee on the Status of Women at Queen’s established a Women’s Studies Sub-Committee chaired by Mary Maxwell in Sociology. One of the major objectives of this Sub-Committee was to investigate the feasibility of establishing an interdisciplinary women’s studies course. Both faculty and students served on this Sub-Committee and its work included presenting to the Principal a petition signed by 1000 supportive students, procuring an $8,000 grant from the Principal’s Development Fund, and corresponding with every Faculty and department in the University to solicit their support for and contributions to making this proposed interdisciplinary Women’s Studies course a reality.

The sticking point of course was not where to locate this course, the Faculty of Arts & Science being its logical home, but rather where to find the funding to pay the instructors. In the end, the first course, known as IDIS 200 - Introduction to Women’s Studies, was presented by two paid coordinators, Elizabeth Greene (English) and Katherine McKenna (History), and a roster of 16 professors who volunteered to give lectures, assign readings, grade essays and advise students. The faculty were drawn from Film (Lianne McLarty), Music (Bev Cavanagh), Philosophy (Lorraine Code), English (Susan Dick, Catherine Harland), Law (me, Bev Baines), History (Roberta Hamilton, Joan  Sherwood, Rosalie Stott), Nursing (Lynn Kirkwood, Rita Maloney, Sandra Rutenberg), Geography (Suzanne MacKenzie by then at Carleton), Sociology (Mary Maxwell), Psychology (Betty Solomon), and one community member, poet and filmmaker Bronwen Wallace.

First Women’s Studies course, IDIS 200 Introduction to Women's Studies, Fall 1985.

Finally in the summer of 1985 one last committee – the Ad Hoc Semi-Spontaneous Committee on the Future of Women’s Studies at Queen’s – was formed with the purpose of designing and establishing a Special Field Concentration in Women’s Studies. The draft was prepared by Mary Morton (Sociology) and Mary Maxwell (Sociology). By October this Committee consisted of 32 women faculty from across the campus. Three of their number – Susan Dick (English), Joy Parr (History), and Marie Surridge (French) – met with the Dean and received his support for the Special Field Concentration proposal, including funding of a course release for the coordinator, one-third secretarial time and $500 to prepare the proposal. The proposal was presented to the Arts & Science Faculty Board November 8, 1985 by Susan, Joy, Marie and Bev Cavanaugh (Music); it was shepherded through the Curriculum Committee by Bev, Susan and Joy (with Marie there in spirit) and went back to the Arts & Science Faculty Board December 13, 1985 where it was presented by Joy, Marie, Susan, and Roberta Hamilton (History).

Despite some opposition, Women’s Studies carried the day; a packed Faculty Board approved the Special Field Concentration which began in the 1986-87 academic year under the able leadership of the first coordinator, Roberta Hamilton (Sociology). That year Katherine McKenna and Joan Sherwood (History) coordinated IDIS 200 with a roster of 18 faculty members still volunteering to teach on an overload basis: Drama (Tracy Davis), Law (myself, Sheila McIntyre), English (Susan Dick, Catherine Harland, Bronwen Wallace), Sociology (Roberta Hamilton, Mary Morton), Nursing (Lynn Kirkwood, Rita Maloney, Sandra Rutenberg), Film (Brenda Longfellow), History (Joy Parr), Classics (Lucia Nixon), Economics (Nancy Olewiler), Philosophy (Christine Overall), Psychology (Betty Solomon), and Religion (Pamela Young).

In 1988-89, the Special Field Concentration was augmented by Minor and Medial programs; and a new course, WMNS 100 - Introduction to Women’s Studies, was added to the curriculum and taught by Katherine McKenna. WMNS 200 was renamed Topics in Women’s Studies and continued to be taught by a roster of many volunteer faculty lecturers for at least a decade after its inauguration, including among its coordinators Haideh Moghissi (Political Studies), and then Karen Weisbaum.

1989 was a very important year because it was the first year that we awarded the first Kathleen A. Herman Prize, a prize that has been awarded annually since that time. Also in 1989 Joy Parr became the new coordinator of Women’s Studies. Joy regrets she cannot be here tonight but she asked that we recognize what a treasure Terrie Easter Sheen was, is, and will be to the Women’s Studies enterprise. Terrie joined Women’s Studies in 1986 and as Administrative Assistant to the Department over the intervening years has been an invaluable and irreplaceable source of support and encouragement to students, faculty, heads and staff.

In 1990 Mary Morton became the third coordinator of the Program and was instrumental in the addition of two fourth year courses – a special topics course and the Race, Class and Gender in Comparative Perspective course. In 1991 the members of the Women’s Studies Special Arts & Science Task Force were persuaded to regularize the Women’s Studies Program into an entity with base budget funding and its own faculty. In 1994 Audrey Kobayashi (Geography) became the first Director of the newly named Institute of Women’s Studies.

In 1999 Sue Hendler returned to become Director of the Institute of Women’s Studies and then in 2003 it’s first Head. Sue recognized that it was important for Women’s Studies to become a department within the Faculty of Arts and Science. She oversaw the growth of the Department in terms of courses and concentrators (we had by then added a Major degree program). In addition under Sue’s leadership the LGBT, now Sexual and Gender Diversity (SXGD), Certificate was created; she wrote the first draft proposal for a Master’s degree in Women’s Studies; and she navigated through the departments first Internal Academic Review.

The Department of Women’s Studies continues to grow. We now have four fulltime faculty, and four jointly-appointed faculty members. In addition we have one contract and thirty-four cross-appointed faculty. The 2009-10 academic year marks the beginning of graduate studies in the Department of Women’s Studies as the new M.A. program in Gender Studies begins in September. Women’s Studies has come a long way from its beginnings twenty years ago. In 2008-09 we have 120 concentrators, and in 2009 we had 11 Major and Medial BAH graduates.

Excerpts from speech made by Bev Baines, Head of the Department of Women's Studies on the occasion of the 20+ Anniversary of Women’s Studies, Agnes Etherington Art Gallery, March 6, 2008.

Draft Constitution of the Department of Gender Studies

The purpose of this document is to set out the governance and administrative structure of the Department of Gender Studies (GNDS), the rules and procedures under which the various departmental committees operate, and the faculty members’ workload standard.


The role and responsibilities of the Department Head are specified in the Collective Agreement (CA) between the Queen’s University Faculty Association (QUFA) and the University, Article 41.

As per Article 41.1.2, “The function of the Head is to coordinate, facilitate, recommend upon and expedite matters pertaining to the operation of the Department, to ensure that departmental policy is carried out, and to demonstrate initiative and leadership in the conduct of departmental business. To that extent, Heads report administratively to their Deans in addition to representing their departments.”

Specific duties include overseeing or representing the interests of the department regarding the following: budget; appointments; renewal, tenure, and promotion; curriculum, course planning and timetable; grade approvals and appeals; annual reports and merit; leaves; visiting scholars and departmental speaker series; human resources; spacing planning; health and safety; strategic planning; and alumni relations and advancement. The Head or a delegate represents the Department at the Committee of Departments and Faculty Board meetings. While many of the duties of the Head may be delegated, in whole or in part, to individuals and committees within the Department, final responsibility for their performance and final decision making power rest with the Head.

The undergraduate and graduate programs are represented by a governance structure that includes the Head (“normally” 5-years, renewable once as per the CA), the Undergraduate Chair (3-year term with option to renew), and the Graduate Chair (3-year term with option to renew). The Undergraduate and Graduate Chairs advise the Head on departmental matters, including budget planning, timetabling and enrollments, and committee appointments and nominations; they also comprise, with the Head, the Teaching Fellow/Term Adjunct Appointments Advisory Committee.

The following constitute the formal mechanisms by which members of the Department render advice and assistance in the operation, administration and evolution of the Department:

A. The Departmental Meeting

B. Standing Committees under the QUFA Collective Agreement
     1. Renewal, Tenure and Promotion (RTP) Committee
     2. Appointments Committee
     3. Adjunct Appointments Advisory Committee
        (also serves as Teaching Fellow Appointments Committee under the PSAC 901
        Collective Agreement)

C. Standing Departmental Committees (advisory to the Head)
     1. Undergraduate Studies Committee (including administration of SXGD)
     2. Graduate Studies Committee
     3. Awards Committee
     4. Unit REB

D. Ad Hoc Committees

E. Liaison and Other Appointments
     1. Library Representative
     2. QUFA Representative
     3. The Other Kingston Project
     4. Journal of Critical Race Inquiry
     5. SGS Fellowships Committee
     6. Research Leaders Fund Committee

To facilitate appointments for those committees and positions not governed by the Collective Agreement, the Head presents a slate of nominations via email, or at a meeting in the Spring, for formal approval. Nominations from the floor are entertained at this time and an election held if necessary. Elections for the RTP and Appointments Committees are organized by the Head as per the CA and must be held before May 1 each year. All standing committee positions commence on July 1 each year.


  1. The Departmental Meeting is the principal forum for the discussion and deliberation of matters pertaining to the academic programs and general administration of the Department.
  2. The meeting is chaired by the Head or the Head's Delegate.
  3. Meetings are open to all tenured and tenure-track departmental faculty members, continuing and term adjunct faculty members, postdoctoral fellows, cross- and joint-appointees, staff, graduate and undergraduate students.
  4. A quorum for the Departmental Meeting consists of 50% of all those who are expected to attend department meetings (e.g., tenured and tenure track faculty and staff).
  5. When matters are brought to a vote, tenured and tenure-track faculty, continuing adjunct faculty members, two term adjunct faculty member representatives, two staff members, two undergraduate representatives, one master’s student representative, and one doctoral student representative are entitled to vote. The graduate student representatives are nominated by their fellow students and the undergraduate student representative is nominated by the GNDS DSC.
  6. Departmental meetings are held once per month during the Fall and Winter terms, although special meetings may be called if necessary. The Administrative Assistant is responsible for calling for items for the agenda at least one week in advance of the meeting, setting the agenda in consultation with the Head, and distributing the agenda package and minutes at least two working days in advance of the meeting. The Undergraduate Assistant is responsible for taking minutes.
  7. Most of the business of the Department is transacted in the Departmental Meeting. At the discretion of the Head of Department, special committees may be appointed to advise on particular questions. An annual retreat is usually held in May.


  1. Committee on Renewal, Tenure and Promotion
    Note: The operation of this Committee is governed by the Collective Agreement between QUFA and the University, Articles 18, 24, 29, 30 and 32. This Committee is advisory to the Dean of Arts and Science and not to the Head of Department.
    1. The Committee on Renewal, Tenure and Promotion (RTP) and the Appointments Committee (see below) consists of three members of the bargaining unit, excluding the Head, who are elected by secret ballot. The Committee should include a cross-section of disciplinary representation where possible. The RTP Committee may be the Appointments Committee as per Article 25.5.1.
    2. The members of this Committee serve for a term of one year, although they are not excluded from membership in ensuing years. The election process is detailed in Article 30.2.1.
    3. Following consultation with the Committee and on their behalf, the Chair of the Committee (who is elected by members of the committee) may invite one additional member to the Committee from units cognate to GNDS.
    4. The Chair of the Committee solicits written student opinions:
      • In all undergraduate classes taught by the candidate in the previous two years, feedback from all students in classes of 25 or less, and according to a graduated scheme for classes larger than 25, will be solicited;
      • All graduate students previously supervised or taught by the candidate.
    5. The Head, in consultation with the candidate and the Committee, ascertains outside professional opinions and evaluations according to the procedures established by the Collective Agreement.
    6. For renewal, tenure and promotion, a positive recommendation requires a simple majority of the Committee.

Election: By May 1 each year.
Term: 1 year.
Commencement: July 1 each year.
Work completed: December 15 of the same year.

  1. Appointments Committee
    Note: The operation of this Committee is governed by Articles 9, 24, 25 and 32 of the Collective Agreement between QUFA and the University.
    1. The Appointments Committee is comprised of the Head (or delegate) as Chair and voting member, two additional tenured or tenure-track faculty members as voting members, and one undergraduate and one graduate student representative as voting members nominated by their respective departmental student councils. The election process is detailed in Article 30.2.1. The RTP Committee may be the Appointments Committee as per Article 25.5.1.
    2. Upon authorization by the Dean to advertise for a new faculty position, a description of the new position, including the area of specialization, is drafted by the Appointments Committee and discussed and approved by the Department at a Departmental Meeting. The Appointments Committee then begins its work as per Articles 25.5 and 25.6 of the QUFA Collective Agreement.
    3. The Appointments Committee reviews applications for the position and prepares a shortlist. The shortlist is presented to the Department and the applicant file of shortlisted candidates is made available to all members of the Department except in cases of conflict of interest.
    4. The Appointments Committee interviews short-listed candidates and invites all members of the Department to meet the short-listed applicants when they visit the Department to be interviewed and to make presentations. (Collective Agreement 25.6.1e).
    5. Following the completion of interviews, the Committee Chair solicits written opinions from faculty, staff graduate and undergraduate students regarding the merits of the interviewed candidates.
    6. The Appointments Committee meets to make a decision once it has received and considered all written submissions. A positive recommendation requires a simple majority of the Appointments Committee.
    7. The Head reports the recommendation of the Appointments Committee decision to the Department and makes a recommendation to the Dean of Arts and Science for his or her consideration.

Election: By May 1 of each year.
Term: 1-year.
Commencement: As soon as authorization to appoint is received.
Completion: As soon as a candidate formally accepts an offer and the search is closed.

  1. Adjunct Appointments Committee
    Note: The operation of this Committee is governed by Articles 9, 24, and 25 of the QUFA Collective Agreement and by Article 12 of the PSAC 901, Unit 1 Collective Agreement.
    1. The Head, the Graduate Chair and the Undergraduate Chair act as the Teaching Fellow and Term Adjunct Appointments Committee.
    2. The Committee assesses the need for term adjunct and teaching fellow (TF) positions, reviews applications, and decides on appointments.
    3. The Head reports the decisions of the Committee to the Department and makes the appropriate recommendations to the Dean of Arts and Science for his or her consideration.

Commencement: July 1 of each year (the needs assessment usually begins at the start of the Winter term with appointments processes usually occurring in April and May).
Term: To coincide with administrative term.
Completion: As soon as all positions are filled.


  1. Undergraduate Committee
    The Undergraduate Committee is comprised of the Undergraduate Chair plus one other tenured or tenure-track member, one DSC representative, one non-DSC representative, one graduate teaching assistant representative, and the Undergraduate Assistant. The Head is an ex-officio member of the Undergraduate Committee. The Head is copied on all committee correspondence and meets as necessary with the chair or the committee as a whole.

The Undergraduate Committee is responsible for:

  1. Reviewing the curriculum and operation of the undergraduate program, recommending policies to the Department for its development, and reporting its deliberations to the Departmental Meeting.
  2. Reviewing all proposals for undergraduate program changes and new undergraduate courses and course changes; making appropriate recommendations to the Department; and presenting them to the Faculty of Arts and Science Curriculum Committee.

The Undergraduate Chair, with the support of the Undergraduate Assistant and the Undergraduate Committee, is responsible for:

  1. Taking an active leadership role, in consultation with the Head, in curriculum visioning, design and implementation.
  2. Preparing annual degree lists for the Spring and Fall convocations and recommending them to the Head for approval, together with nominations for prizes and fellowship awards.
  3. Assisting the Head in producing a list of departmental undergraduate course offerings each year, updating the undergraduate calendar copy and website, and communicating policy/procedural changes and updates to the School.
  4. Acting as an academic advisor to undergraduate students and making decisions regarding admission, registration, coursework choices, applications for transfer of credit, and letters of permission.
  5. Coordinating faculty, student and staff volunteers for open houses and other undergraduate promotional events.
  6. Providing guidance and support to instructors on student matters related to Faculty regulation and policies.
  7. Liaising between the Department and the Faculty of Arts and Science by communicating and meeting with the Dean of Studies and others where relevant and appropriate.

Commencement: July 1 of each year.
Term for faculty members: 3 years.

  1. Graduate Committee
    The Graduate Committee is comprised of the Graduate Chair plus two tenured or tenure-track faculty members, one graduate student representative, and the Graduate Assistant. The Head is an ex-officio member of the Graduate Committee. The Head is copied on all committee correspondence and meets as necessary with the chair or the committee as a whole.

The Graduate Committee is responsible for:

  1. Reviewing the curriculum and operation of each of the MA and PhD programs, to recommend policies to the Department for their development, and to report their deliberations to the Departmental Meeting.
  2. Reviewing all proposed new MA/MSc/PhD graduate courses and course changes, to make appropriate recommendations to the Departmental Meeting, and, upon approval by the latter, to present them to the appropriate Graduate Council.
  3. Recommending regulations on academic matters pertaining to the MA and PhD degrees offered by the Department.
  4. Assessing applications to the graduate program.
  5. Administering applications for fellowships and scholarships to the appropriate funding agencies and adjudicating internal award decisions.

The Graduate Chair, with the support of the Graduate Committee and the Graduate Assistant, is responsible for:

  1. Liaising between the Department and the School of Graduate Studies by attending, or delegating attendance at, the Arts Graduate Council.
  2. Producing each year, in consultation with the Head, a list of graduate course offerings and the graduate calendar copy for the MA and PhD programs.
  3. Recruiting and communicating with prospective graduate students; coordinating the assessment of all graduate student applications according to the procedures established by the Gender Studies Graduate Committee; and forwarding the recommendation on each application to the School of Graduate Studies.
  4. Establishing provisional supervisors for all first-year graduate students.
  5. Recommending applicants for teaching assistantships to the Head as per Article 12 of the PSAC 901, Unit 1 Collective Agreement.
  6. Monitoring the progress of MA/MSc/PhD graduate students.
  7. Coordinating faculty, student and staff volunteers for open houses and other undergraduate promotional events.
  8. Organizing the departmental Graduate Orientation and other professional development activities.

Commencement: July 1
Term for faculty members: 3 years


  1. Ad hoc committees may be established either at the initiative of the Departmental Meeting or the Head.
  2. The size of the committee, its terms of reference and deadlines shall be defined by the initiators of a particular ad hoc committee.  Student representatives shall be designated by the appropriate student bodies.
  3. Faculty members will be selected by secret ballot.
  4. Ad hoc committees shall elect their Chair and shall normally report their findings and/or recommendations in writing to the voting members of the Departmental Meeting in advance of the agenda deadline.


Individuals will be appointed to specific liaison positions of importance to the operation of the Department in both the university and the community at large. Such positions include:

  1. Library Representative
  2. QUFA Representative
  3. The Other Kingston Project
  4. Journal of Critical Race Inquiry
  5. SGS Fellowships Committee
  6. Research Leaders’ Fund Committee
Statement on Professionalism and Appropriate Behaviour

The Department of Gender Studies is circulating the following Statement to all members of the Department, and in particular all those involved in teaching as faculty or teaching assistants.

To maintain appropriate, professional and inclusive standards, it is always inappropriate to:

  • comment, especially negatively, on the physical appearance/attractiveness of students, colleagues, staff or yourself
  • use language, gestures, humour,  sarcasm or innuendo which could be interpreted to suggest that bias, discrimination, preferential treatment, sexual practices, or other non-academic criteria, will be used in evaluating academic work or  professional duties
  • stereotype people, or use gender, racial or classist stereotypes in teaching or interactions with students
  • use humour or sarcasm which, regardless of intent, could be interpreted to be offensive. Issues such as cultural or religious practices; sexual practices or preferences; race, sexual, gender or class identities; political commitments and/or academic projects should not be subjects of jest or sarcasm
  • act in an unprofessional manner, including any of the above, at events organized by and/or for members of the Department; this includes social events, on or off campus.

It is advisable to:

  • remember that there is an expectation not only of fairness, but of the appearance of fairness; ensure that criteria are transparent and expressed clearly
  • reflect on and understand the specificity of your knowledge regarding inclusive/exclusive practices and respect the specificity of the knowledge of others
  • reflect on and understand that oppressive practices involve trauma and violence, and that university classrooms include those who experience such trauma and violence; discussions need to advance learning while being mindful of the risk of triggering such experiences
  • maintain a high level of professionalism and set a positive example of inclusive, respectful conduct at all times, especially at university or departmental events
  • remember that there is an expectation of collegial behaviour; take seriously suggestions or complaints from colleagues or students about behaviour or comments, and consider ways to  improve collegial relations
  • apologize for, and refrain from repeating, any inappropriate or unprofessional behaviour or remarks about which colleagues or students have indicated discomfort
  • refrain from socializing with individual students to avoid an appearance of favouritism and risk to yourself or the student(s)
  • encourage students to write in an inclusive manner including gender and race neutral language
  • educate students on equity issues through your course syllabi, and through introductory lectures and tutorials to set a positive tone
  • avoid financial interactions, provision of gifts, or recruitment of services that could be interpreted to influence academic assessments or professional relationships
  • avoid personal comments in email correspondence
  • keep your office door open when meeting with students, unless confidentiality merits otherwise
  • ensure that you are fully informed about acceptable norms and practices (see brief list of resources below); if you are unsure whether your behaviour or comments could be considered offensive or in violation of university policy, take advantage of the expertise available and get the information
  • avoid wearing fragrances or perfumes that could create an unhealthy atmosphere for those with scent sensitivities

You have a responsibility to:

  • guide classroom discussions to facilitate an inclusive atmosphere, and intervene when discussions turn to issues that may make some students feel unsafe
  • understand that all teaching faculty and teaching assistants are perceived as representative of the Department of Gender Studies, and this extends beyond the classroom to include official events on and off campus
  • appreciate people from diverse backgrounds and/or with diverse capacities; demonstrate your interest to welcome those who are marginalized by class, race, gender, ability and/or sexuality, but do not force public identification as this may increase their marginalization
  • remember that behaviour matters, and that a standard of excellence in teaching, supervision and research requires a similar standard in professional and mature behaviour
  • keep in mind that participation in university-related activities or programs often demands judgment about unexpected situations; every effort should be made to address situations that are perceived to be potentially damaging to the climate of teaching and learning in the department in a prompt and professional manner, respecting the rights of all participants and confidentiality where appropriate
  • remember that silence on the part of colleagues or students should not be interpreted to suggest compliance or comfort; there are risks, or the perception of risks, involved in speaking out when a climate conducive to prejudice or discrimination arises; if in doubt, seek advice
  • create conditions that indicate a willingness to listen and hear concerns from colleagues and students regarding any of the above; let colleagues and students know that these issues are important to you, and that you are willing to be supportive and act accordingly
  • work towards creating an inclusive and anti-oppressive environment in the classroom, the tutorial, the lounge, the office, the hallways and in all other public spaces on campus

This document was passed by the Gender Studies Department Committee in January 2012.