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Government Department Revives Women in American Politics Lecture Course, Following 2019 Climate Report Recommendation

The Center for Government and International Studies houses Harvard's Government department.
The Center for Government and International Studies houses Harvard's Government department. By Zennie L. Wey
By Meera S. Nair, Crimson Staff Writer

The Government department is reviving a lecture course on women in American politics for the spring semester, responding to a recommendation from its 2019 report on departmental culture.

The class, Government 1312: “Women in US Politics,” will be taught by lecturer Sparsha Saha. The course centers around the causes and effects of gender inequality in politics, the workforce, and the household.

In 2018, following multiple allegations of sexual harassment against former Government professor Jorge I. Domínguez, the department commissioned a “climate report” on gender and racial inequalities in its community and curriculum.

The final report, issued in 2019, found that “courses on race, immigration, identity, and gender politics are in high demand, yet largely missing from our offerings.” The report recommended that the department hire one new faculty member specializing in gender politics and one faculty member specializing in race and ethnicity.

Nara Dillon, Director of Undergraduate Studies in the department, wrote in an email that the climate report’s recommendation was a reason behind the decision to revive the class.

“In 2019, our department Climate Change Committee recommended diversifying the curriculum to include more courses on gender, race, and ethnicity,” Dillon wrote. “This new course on Women in Politics is one element in that effort, and we hope that both the course and the overall effort will continue in future years.”

The department previously offered two higher-level seminars on women in U.S. politics, but neither was a large lecture course nor have they been offered in several years.

Saha previously taught an expository writing course at the College on sexism and politics, but is new to Government 1312, which has not been offered previously.

Saha said that she hopes to examine women’s place in politics nationally as well as gender dynamics within Harvard’s Government department.

“Let’s look at our own department, you know, why do you have so few tenured female professors?” Saha said. “And it’s relevant to politics because this is the study of politics.”

Nine of the 34 tenured faculty in the Government department are women, according to its website.

Dillon said the course’s public engagement component — offered in conjunction with the Mindich Program in Engaged Scholarship — will allow students to go beyond the classroom and work “with and for women politicians and organizations that are trying to get more women in politics.”

“Students will be scattered all over the place and they won't be right here in Massachusetts,” Dillon said. “But we're hoping to keep as much of that going as possible and then hope to build on that in the future, because we do have a lot of women politicians here in Massachusetts.”

Government chair Jeffry A. Frieden said that he believes Government 1312’s focus on women provides insights that are necessary for a “good, well-rounded understanding of politics more broadly.”

“Women are more than half of society, so clearly understanding women’s participation in politics is absolutely central to understanding politics in every society,” Frieden said.

—Staff writer Meera S. Nair can be reached at meera.nair@thecrimson.com.

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FASPoliticsSocial Sciences DivisionGovernmentGender and Sexuality

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