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Cossman’s SDS start date delayed

Program facing possible financial crunch

THE FUTURE OF SEX. Law professor, Pink Triangle Press board member and Xtra columnist Brenda Cossman has postponed her start date as director of U of T's Centre for Diversity Studies. Credit: Josh Meles

The new director of the University of Toronto’s Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies (SDS) won’t be taking over the position until July. In an email, incoming SDS director Brenda Cossman wrote that, due to other commitments, she won’t be taking on her new job until the summer.

She didn’t respond to a subsequent request for an interview.

Cossman is a professor at the university’s faculty of law, a former Xtra columnist, and a board member of Pink Triangle Press, which publishes Xtra. In a Sep, 2008 article, Xtra reported that Cossman would be taking over from former SDS director David Rayside in January. Rayside retired in 2008 after running the SDS program since 2004.

“I think Brenda will be a good addition,” he says. “I think Brenda and Scott (Rayter) will be a dynamo team (at SDS).”

Rayter is listed on the SDS website as acting director. Rayter was previously associate and acting director of SDS in 2003 and 2004. He’s teaching four courses this semester, in addition to his responsibilities as acting director.

“There’s not time enough in a day to do all (I) need to do,” says Rayter.

“The university has been amazingly supportive (of the SDS program) Everyone is amazed at the kind of support we get,” he adds, although Rayter says SDS will likely face a financial pinch when U of T releases its next budget.

“The budget cuts for next year will be appalling,” Rayter says, adding the university will be making cuts to all departments.

The SDS program was created in 1998 at University College on the U of T’s downtown campus. In July 2004 the Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies was created. Until 2004 Rayter says the program went “cap in hand” to the university and members of the community for financial support.

In 2001 a $200,000 donation from Mark Bonham, a Toronto businessman and U of T alumnus, created the Mark S Bonham Endowment in Sexual Diversity Studies. This donation allowed SDS to create its own courses.

Rayside says he wanted to create a foundation for the program. He is optimistic SDS will come out of the current economic situation in good condition.

“These are extremely tough times, but once the current financial crisis is over (SDS) will be well positioned,” he says.

Last fall the centre added a graduate degree and a PhD program, which counts Canadian director John Greyson among its students. In September 2008 the program held a fundraiser at Integral House, the home of Dr James Stewart. The fundraiser collected $100,000, which will go to fund the work of SDS graduate students.