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1st Undergrad Lesbian, Gay Studies Course

Shanghai's Fudan University said yesterday that it is introducing an optional undergraduate course in lesbian and gay studies, the first time a Chinese university has offered one for non-medical undergraduates.

Set to start in September, the course will examine the health, legal and social issues relating to same-sex orientation, said Sun Zhongxin, an associate professor of sociology who will lead the course.

"We hope this course, which is an optional one open to the whole university, will introduce the study of sexual orientation to more and more students," Sun told China Daily.

The course was designed for an intake of 100 students, but the number signing up has far exceeded that, Sun said, adding that the faculty is going to make additional places available.

Jiang Liming, a Fudan student about to enter her fourth year, said the course was a hot topic on the campus.

"I know that many students signed up for it and people now talk about it a lot," she told China Daily. "I do not have to attend that course for credit hours because I've got enough, but if I have time I will go there to learn something new."

Sun said students' interest in topics related to sexuality was the main reason for the course to be introduced.

Fudan University offered a small-intake lesbian and gay studies course for graduates in 2003. Many undergraduates were also interested and applicants for that course numbered more than 1,500, according to Sun.

Some students wrote to professors saying they learnt "tolerance, understanding and a correct life attitude" from the course.

The new undergraduate course has been sponsored by the Hong Kong-based Chi Heng Foundation, which says its mission is "to create a harmonious, equal, and healthy society."

Teachers of the course will come from outside the university because, so far, Fudan has limited experience in teaching the subject, Sun said.

In the past two years Fudan has invited established scholars to give lectures for the graduate lesbian and gay studies course, including Li Yinhe, a renowned Chinese Academy of Social Sciences sociologist.

"Even if students select the course merely out of curiosity, it's still a good thing; more students will become educated in this area and contribute to academic study," said Sun.

(China Daily August 16, 2005)

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