Moving Forward: The Office of Women's Studies 1975-1980
While the Ad Hoc Committee proposed a Center and was instead awarded Office Status, there was no slowing down the progress of the Women's Studies program at OSU. While a smaller-than-desired step forward, the university's decision to create the Office of Women's Studies shows an underlying interest in bringing women together.
With the new status as an Office, Women's Studies was able to grant majors and minors through the Personalized Study Program and Individualized Study Program. In 1976, Lisa Lopez became the first person to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Women's Studies using said Personalized Study Program. However, there was not yet a standardized major pathway, which dissuaded many students from committing to a less organized and intuitive program.
With that said, OWS got immediately to work in their new headquarters in the Welding Engineering building. There, Pamela Unger took up a continued leadership position as interim Office Director as a part of the Interim Governing Board (IGB). Twelve women made up the IGB, all of whom worked tirelessly to promote and strengthen the Women's Studies program.
In just a year, the OWS was able to accomplish major milestones that garnered national attention to OSU's WS program. For one, the Women's Library was established on the second floor of the Main Library in 1977. The library was initially run by Abby Kratz who took up managing and organizing one of the only ten in the entire country. Furthermore, OSU's Women's Library was the only of its kind in the state of Ohio. The library is seen as a pioneer in the field, collecting texts of all kinds of mediums that all relate to women's experiences, issues, and histories. Furthermore, the Women's Library and OWS began a small feminist library review in 1977. In 1979, this became the Women's Studies Review. As a whole, the Women's Library increased awareness of the OWS's presence on campus and created a space for remembering and discussing women's history.
Furthermore, the Office wasted no time developing The Sojourner, the program's newsletter. In April 1975, the first issue of The Sojourner was published, featuring feminist op-eds, information about Women's Studies classes and faculty, as well as various resources for women on campus and the greater Columbus area. The Sojourner had over 800 subscribers after just one year, greatly spreading awareness about feminism and WS on and off campus.
Another hugely impactful event the OWS sponsored was the "Women and Sexuality" event in 1978. The event discussed homosexuality, choices and consent in a patriarchal society, and female orgasms. The topics of these events' discussions are controversial for today's standards, so such a move is risky. However, many queer students became more familiar and comfortable with the Office of Women's Studies as a result, leading to future expansions on campus to include lesbian/sexuality studies, queer studies, and gender studies more broadly.
With an increased presence came an increased budget (or, in the Office's case, a budget at all!). The university awarded the OWS 60,000 dollars in its first year. However, interim Director Pamela Unger noted that all of that money had run dry just six months into the program's operation. As the temporary Director, she requested 122,000 dollars instead to be able to hire more jointly appointed faculty members, as well as ensure job security for those already employed by the Program who were severely underpaid because of a limited budget.
Despite the many successes, there were a few administrative setbacks. As previously mentioned, Pamela Unger only signed on to be an interim Director with the intention to swiftly hand her position onto someone else. Instead, she served as a Director for eighteen months. Unger shared in a Lantern article titled "Still no full-time director for Women's Studies," that delays in hiring an acting Director of the Office slowed down the progress of the Women's Studies Program and impeded the growing credibility of WS on campus. The delays in hiring were obscure and shined a light on the issue bureaucratic operations can pose on the speed at which a program can gain traction.
Furthermore, the unwillingness of the university to efficiently hire an acting director and communicate with the Office speaks to its tentative embrace of feminism and Women's Studies. While Provost Albert J Kuhn was widely in support of The Office of Women's Studies, much of the faculty in charge of hiring and program approvals were men who disapproved of women's growing influence and representation at a research institution. However, in response to anti-feminist sentiments that declared separatism and feared anti-maleness, many conservative voices on campus called for a Men's Studies program. However, Unger famously, and controversially, stated in the article, "Interim Director Appointed, Women's Studies Organizes," that "We do have men's studies. That's the rest of the University."
However, in 1976 Mary Irene Moffit was appointed as the Director of the Office of Women's Studies by Provost Albert J Kuhn. As Director, Moffit and Barbara Rigney, who wrote the original proposal for consideration, were able to earn a Basic Education Requirement (BER) status for the Introductory WS course. The course was designed in 1976 and granted BER status in 1978. With a Women's Studies course being able to fulfill a BER, the program became more accessible to every student on campus with piqued interest.
From this Intro course, the OWS also learned extremely valuable information about students at OSU. There has always been an emphasis on serving the Ohio State community and student base, so in 1977 the Intro course delivered an evaluation form asking students various questions about the preconceptions and learning outcomes about feminism. Most interestingly, one of the questions asked students for suggested future topics of topics they still had questions about. One student asked for more discussion about black women's role in feminism, black feminism, and why many black women do not identify as feminists.
In 1979, a Lantern article was published discussing the dissonance between black women and feminism. While the article makes generalizations about black women not participating in feminism, a valid critique is made against the overwhelming emphasis on white women's experiences in feminist research and activism. The article quotes one woman who states “[black women] always had to work. Women’s liberation is just for rich white women who want something besides shopping and the Junior League.' While another named Patricia Williams says feminism is the only way for black women to gain equality in society. The unique positionality of the black woman and feminism being discussed on campus is a huge step forward. However, there is evidence that the program, and second-wave feminism in general, failed to center on women of color and employ an intersectional lens to address their unique social issues.
On the other hand, while most courses offered by the program were jointly listed and taught by other Departments, the OWS was able to create six courses in addition to the Introductory course in its first year. Along with new courses, the OWS was about to hire faculty members with joint appointments. The caveat was that all Women's Studies professors had to be tenured from Departments that were capable of hiring full-time salaried workers (a power the Office of Women's Studies did not possess). Mary Moffit was able to jointly hire Leila Rupp through the History Department and WS and Barbera Rigney through Comparative Studies and WS.
For four years, the Office of Women's Studies established itself and created strong university connections between other departments and centers. After four years, under Mary Moffit's leadership, the OWS wrote a proposal for Center distinction in May 1980. By now, the Women's Studies program's influence on and off campus was undeniable. Thusly the university granted the Office the formal promotion to Center, starting a brand new chapter for the program.