By Michael Freeman, Managing Editor
Twenty-three upperclassmen sat in a spacious classroom, surrounded by dozens of desktops, but not one student’s attention was focused on a computer screen. Instead, all were engaged in a class discussion about the film Milk, a critically acclaimed movie about Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California. The class watched the movie for a homework assignment.
“One of the scariest things about the movie was the TV clips,” said Joseph Clingan, senior theatre major from Austin. “That was real footage. That was how they treated them; that’s what they said word for word. And it made me sick the first time I saw it.”
The discussion then shifted to Christians’ general attitudes and actions toward homosexuals.
“I was immediately struck by the way Christians were portrayed,” said Luke Baty, senior music major from Orchard Park, New York. “Just going at homosexuals and attacking them with all this Scripture and saying how everything they do is wrong. If anything, the movie caused me to sit back and give me pause and respond with a little bit more insight into the homosexual world. The way Christians treat homosexuals is tragic and frankly not Christian.”
A few minutes later, students began to debate what the role of Christians, specifically the church, should be in regards to homosexuals.
“The church is not only a place to worship God, but a place to find somebody else who is oppressed,” said Megan Hale, junior English major form Abilene. “There is really no other place for people of all different ages and gender to come together and discuss things like that and not be persecuted.”
Dr. Steven Moore, associate professor of English, halted the discussion and reeled the class in to share his opinion. Such is a typical class period for the Multicultural Literature class, which meets Mondays and Wednesdays from 3-4:20 p.m.
The upper-level English course is open primarily to English majors, but this semester non-majors also were allowed to enroll.
“I think that’s good to have non-English majors interested in taking a multicultural literature course,” Moore said. “Even though it’s designed specifically for English majors, we have those outside of our discipline who want to know about other cultures and want to know about minority voices.”
The course examines novels, poetry and movies that deal with issues and viewpoints from Asian, African-American, Hispanic, Native American and even Caucasian authors and actors. Socioeconomic, gender and sexual orientation topics also are discussed in the class. Students are assigned almost a dozen literary works by authors, such as Li-Young Lee, J.D. Salinger and Sandra Cisneros, during the semester. Students also are expected to write a 10-12 page paper on an issue affecting minorities, present critiques of the works they read and produce a creative and personal response to the works, which can include delivering a monologue, painting a scene or playing a song on the guitar.