The C.W.C.P. is
an attempt to
establish a
ground
breaking
feminist
program
within a
patriarchal
structure.

However, there have been significant hurdles. As with any new venture, difficulties were inevitable. Policies and procedures were still being developed. For us in the first class, the excitement of being in the forefront was tempered by frustration with problems. There has been a high rate of attrition, and some of the concerns centered around issues such as: the mandatory attendance policy, changes in the program completion date, methods of evaluation, accessibility of resources, and multiple problems with the applied project. Students questioned the appropriateness of the heavy work load for part-time students. This issue in particular reflects the all too common circumstance of long work days for women. Most of the staff and students had work commitments beyond the program as well as home responsibilities. Student workplaces had different responses to this problem. Some employers were supportive and arranged schedules accordingly. Others were less so, requiring students to make up missed time or disregarding student needs altogether. Some placements were comfortable with the course's feminist perspectives and were open to new ideas. Others were critical.

In this context it is important to remember that the C.W.C.P. does not exist in a vacuum. It too has to consider a variety of institutional realities. The C.W.C.P. represents an attempt to establish a ground breaking feminist program within a patriarchal university structure. One issue illustrates the type of dilemma which can arise. In the third year of the program a man applied for entrance to the C.W.C.P. Given the university position that courses should be available to anyone who meets the academic prerequisites, he was accepted as a student and will complete the course. However, after lengthy consideration, a decision was made that enrolment of men is not the best interest of the program; women need to be with other women in this educational experience. Although certain measures have been instituted to make this decision acceptable to the university, it remains a difficult problem.

Women's programs in general have fought long and hard to gain credibility. Maintenance of rigorous standards, then, is a must, but this effects decisions regarding many concerns expressed by students. Some instructors are willing to accommodate requests for flexibility in methods of evaluation or due dates for assignments; the issue of advanced standing has remained problematic. The program has attempted to change in response to the needs of those involved; however, many students feel that there has been a breakdown in the feminist process of valuing women's experience. It may also be true that, at times, students have not been sufficiently aware of constraints faced by instructors and administration.

In order to carry out a comprehensive program review, new intakes were suspended in the fall of 1993. The program resumed in September of 1994 with an enrolment of forty-four students. The review led to significant changes. Purposes are set out more clearly, an information session is offered before registration, and the theoretical aspect is somewhat less demanding. The curriculum has been revised to provide more attention to the issues of immigrant women.

One major change in delivery is evident. In response to low rural enrolment and the costs of running more than one section of a course, the scheduling format has been totally revamped so that an evening pattern prevails. Unfortunately, this change has negative implications for students who live far from the city. However, the program has been expanded to a regional college in Northern Alberta, and beginning this year, twelve C.W.C.P. students are enrolled in Grande Prairie.

Plans are being made for expansion to other colleges and universities. The C.W.C.P. looks forward to an exciting future in which women across Canada will benefit from this unique learning opportunity.

Carol Arkinstall is a former teacher with life-long involvement in learning and teaching. She received her Bachelor of Education from the University of Alberta and taught elementary students for twenty years. She has done extensive volunteer work in women's issues and is a founding member of the Peace Country Crisis Association which has established a crisis line, built a shelter for battered women, and provides ongoing public education.



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