Edited By sj Miller and Nelson M. Rodriguez
Chapter Sixteen: Queering South Mississippi: Simple and Seemingly Impossible Work
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Queering South Mississippi: Simple and Seemingly Impossible Work
KAMDEN K. STRUNK, DOUGLAS R. BRISTOL, AND WILLIAM C. TAKEWELL
Our purpose in writing this is to recount and analyze the push for queer-positive policy at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) over the past several years, understanding the spaces that opened for such work, and why such spaces rapidly open and close on the USM campus. We cannot begin to tell the story of our experience working for queer-positive programming and spaces, and the challenges we have encountered in that work, without first contextualizing that work within the institution of the University of Southern Mississippi, the system in which it exists, and the state of Mississippi. The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, hovers near the 15,000 mark in enrollment and has campuses in Hattiesburg and Long Beach, plus some small research sites along the Gulf Coast. It, like many institutions of higher education in Mississippi, has constant budget shortfalls, and a cycle of enrollment/financial emergencies, while struggling to find consistent quality of students and enrollment numbers. It exists in a system that places it alongside the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) and Mississippi State University for budgeting and evaluation purposes, an unfortunate reality in many years.
Forces against change and progress can be particularly salient in the Deep South, where calls to tradition, appeals to faith, and staunch opposition...
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