During tough economic times, programs for women tend to be some of the first to see cuts.
She said the loss of those services places women in an increasingly difficult position, as they scramble to feed their families on diminishing resources.
“This would be the absolutely worst time to end this program,” she said.
OU awaits budget
OU spokeswoman Catherine Bishop said the university has no plans to eliminate the program or cut essential courses. OU won't be able to set funding levels for campus departments until it receives its budget from the state legislature.
“There will be no decisions about cuts in any programs, including Women's and Gender Studies, until we find out if the state leaders will cover our fixed cost increases this year,” Bishop said. “We are hopeful they will.”
The university has sustained $100 million in budget cuts and unfunded cost increases over the past three years, Bishop said, meaning no area has been spared.
Jill Irvine, director of OU's Women's and Gender Studies program, said the cuts have hurt the program because the department is relatively small and the funding cuts hamper its ability to offer courses.
Funding cuts also affect the department's ability to play an active role on campus and in the community, she said, including raising funds for the Women's Resource Center and inviting guest activists to campus to offer workshops and guest lectures outside of class.
“First and foremost, it's an educational concern,” Irvine said.