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  • Expanding the circle: Creating an inclusive environment in higher education for LGBTQ students and studies ed. by John C. Hawley
  • Erin L. Castro and Kari J. Dockendorff
John C. Hawley (Editor). Expanding the circle: Creating an inclusive environment in higher education for LGBTQ students and studies. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2015. 366 pp. Hardcover: $95.00. Paperback: $26.95. ISBN13: 978-1-4384-5461-0

Higher education has historically been a hostile place for queer people. Present day conditions, [End Page 467] while improved, continue to be hostile for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people as well as for individuals who identify and are identified as part of this community. Yet, seemingly inevitably, colleges and universities have also been queer places, spaces of deconstruction and inquiry, performance, resistance, non-conformity, and desire. If, as Sedgwick (1990) reminds us, we are all structured by queerness (with some of us more directly implicated than others), then how do we negotiate this tension; that is, how do we build upon the queerness of colleges and universities while recognizing the persistence of hostility?

Expanding the Circle: Creating an Inclusive Environment in Higher Education for LGBTQ Students and Studies is a collection of essays, case studies, and research that aim to assist higher education professionals in serving LGBTQ students. The strength of this edited volume is its diversity of authors, with chapters written by community organizers and activists, a novelist and playwright, two rabbis, a registered nurse, and a number of professors and professional staff working in or retired from higher education. The collection aims to offer examples from institutions that can “‘expand the circle’ of acceptance” (p. 2) and, according to the back cover, provide a model “of inclusion for all of higher education.” Providing such a model in an edited volume is a difficult undertaking. A handful of individual chapters within the text are strong, but the collection as a whole falls short of providing higher education professionals with a comprehensive, accurate, and adequate depiction of urgent issues facing queer and trans* students in higher education.

Beginning with a well-written and organized introduction, the book is divided into four parts: (1) “Changing Institutional Structures,” (2) “Case Studies,” (3) “Changing Student Perceptions,” and (4) “Expanding the Circle.” The first section begins with a chapter assessing the perceived institutional support of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people at public universities in the U.S. through institutional website analysis. Additional chapters in this section explore the current state of LGBT/LGBTQ studies programs and curricula and trace the relationship between transgender theories and praxis.

Chapter 3, “Queering the Academy: A Case Approach to LGBTQ Studies,” documents the origin and development of LGBTQ programs and curricular changes at Colgate in 2009, Kent State in 2001, and Napa Valley in 2012. Described as the “queering of academic programs over the past twenty-five years” (p. 78), Merryman and Valente connect significant grass-roots movements at each of the individual colleges with localized politics that together led to the development of curriculum changes at varying levels for each institution, including an introductory course and undergraduate minors in LGBTQ studies. While the authors do not describe their analysis as explicitly organizational in nature, Merryman and Valente’s chapter provides necessary insight into the inter workings of institutional organization, particularly the administrative channels of interdisciplinary collaboration and bureaucratic locations of LGBTQ studies programs. The addition of LGBTQ and queer studies programs to contemporary hetero- and cis-centric curricula in higher education is an important step toward expanded equity and has potential to provide a model for other institutions to follow.

Section Two is a collection of four individual cases that document institutional attempts to become more inclusive of LGBTQ students. Marine, McLoughlin, and McCarthy’s (Chapter 8) discussion of Queering Harvard Yard stands out within this section as a well-written and carefully researched essay that traces the history of queer inclusion at Harvard. Beginning with the statement, “Harvard has a very queer history when it comes to BGLTQ people,” the authors document a complex and, at times, disturbing history throughout the chapter, reminding us that for more than 375 years, “Harvard has been a relatively...