Tag Archives: female

Wendy Murphy Comes to the University of Virginia

The Office of Civil Rights’ mandated procedures for
investigating sexual assault are tilted heavily against the accused party. The
institution can
hire “neutral fact-finders” who produce the equivalent of a
grand jury presentment, deny the accused an advisor of his choice, add
witnesses that the accused student does not request, forbid the students from
cross-examining his witnesses, and judge the student according to a 50.00001
percent preponderance of evidence standard, an approach that mocks even the
pretense of due process.

It is remarkable, then, that one such accused student at
the University of Virginia was exonerated of the charges brought against him.
Unfortunately, what happened next was unsurprising.

The accuser hired an outside attorney–none other than controversial
victims’ rights lawyer Wendy Murphy–and filed a complaint with the Office of
Civil Rights. Murphy’s argument, as expressed to c-ville.com, comes close to
saying that a failure to convict amounts to an OCR violation. “The preponderance standard is simple,”
she told the newspaper. “When her accusations are deemed credible, and his
denials are not described with the same glowing terminology, she wins.” But
under the UVA system, the investigators (serving as the equivalent of a grand
jury) have the authority to deem an accuser’s claims “credible.”
For the
OCR even to consider such an absurd claim would be highly problematic.

The second disturbing element of this story comes from
the article itself. Penned by Graelyn Brashear, the article often appears as
little more than a press release for Murphy. Even though the accuser publicly
reiterated her allegations through a posting on Murphy’s facebook page–which
Brashear notes, was “widely
circulated among students,” c-ville.com kept her identity secret.

Nor does Brashear
inform her readers about what the UVA procedure actually entails. Beyond
referencing the shift toward a preponderance of evidence standard (which the
reporter comes close to celebrating, describing universities lacking the
standard as “holdout schools,” even as she notes concerns from FIRE and the
AAUP), Brashear doesn’t reveal that accused students can’t have an attorney
cross-examining witnesses, that the university considers the equivalent of a
grand jury or the police as “neutral,” or that the university is willing to
abandon even a circumscribed right to cross examine regarding some witness
statements. Given that most people outside the academy (indeed, most academics)
have little knowledge about the details of campus due process, it seems likely
that readers of Brashear’s article came away with the belief that the campus
judicial system resembles not the Kafka-like system envisioned by the OCR but
instead the Law and Order rules that
most citizens at least somewhat understand.

Most troubling, here’s how
Brashear described Murphy: “Wendy Murphy, an adjunct professor at the New
England School of Law and a frequent media commentator on issues of women’s
rights, has a reputation as a firebrand. ‘I’m an activist with my feet in the
courts,’ she said. Her battle cry is blunt: ‘The law is designed to facilitate
and perpetuate violence against women and children,’ she said.”

Virginia is a member of the ACC, and, of course, Murphy
has some experience with handling allegations of sexual assault at an ACC
school. In the Duke lacrosse case, the ubiquitous media commentator repeatedly
made false statements of fact about the case (nearly 20 of them in 2006 alone)
coupled with myriad unsubstantiated claims and bizarre interpretations of law.
These statements weren’t made in secret–and they received widespread attention,
including from the American Journalism
Review
.

Yet Brashear mentions none of this, and instead treats
Murphy as a wholly credible figure. Imagine, for instance, if the intro
paragraph had at least acknowledged that Murphy had a record of playing fast
and loose with the truth on claims of campus sexual assault: “Wendy Murphy, an adjunct professor at the
New England School of Law and a frequent media commentator on issues of women’s
rights, has a reputation as a firebrand, although in at least one high-profile
campus matter, the Duke lacrosse case, she repeatedly misstated both factual
items and questions of law, always in such a way that favored the accuser in
that case.”

Such a portrayal, it seems,
isn’t what cville.com thinks its readers should receive.

Why Are There Still Preferences for Women?

Using federal statistics, Laura Norén has prepared a series of graphics showing gender distribution among recent recipients of undergraduate, M.A., and Ph.D./professional degrees. The charts are visually striking, especially since all three sets of charts show movement in an identical direction. According to Norén, by 2020, women are projected to earn 61 percent of all M.A. degrees and 58 percent of all B.A. degrees—figures far above the percentage of women in the total population. There’s no indication that this trend will reverse anytime soon.

The Norén chart reminded me of figures revealed in CUNY’s recent faculty “diversity” report. As I previously noted at Minding the Campus, the demographic breakdown of CUNY’s faculty (and there’s no reason to believe that CUNY’s figures differ from those at most major public institutions) has shown a similar progression.

Between 2000 and 2010, the number of women increased from 42 to 47 percent of the all CUNY faculty. (The total had risen five percent in the previous decade, as well.) Because of the nature of tenure—only a small percentage of faculty positions come open every year—a five percent overall gain in a decade suggests disproportionate figures in hiring. And, indeed, that was the case—while the CUNY diversity report only broke down gender-hiring patterns for a couple of years in the decade, in 2005, the most recent year for which data was available, 55.5 percent of the new hires were women. If current patterns hold, women will be the majority of CUNY faculty in 2020 and be nearing the 60 percent mark by 2030.

There’s nothing necessarily troubling with these patterns in and of themselves. Undoubtedly the growing numbers of female students—and female faculty members—in part reflect the broader opening of higher education toward women that has occurred since the 1960s. And in a nation where women form 50.8 percent of the population, a fair-minded campus admissions and hiring process could easily yield majority-female enrollment or hires.

Yet these statistics do raise profound, and troubling questions about the nature of campus race/ethnicity/gender “diversity” programs. If women are the substantial majority of students at all levels, and increasingly emerge as the majority of faculty members, what possible rationale could exist for programs, of any type, that grant gender-based preferences to women? Regarding the student population, at least, and the faculty population in the near future, women are no longer an underrepresented minority. To my knowledge, however, no university anywhere in the country has modified either its admissions or its personnel policies to take into account statistics such as those graphed by Norén.

Take, for instance, the University of Michigan’s affirmative action policies. The policies include such banalities as a requirement that “university publications relating to employment . . . include articles covering the University’s affirmative action programs, including progress reports and employment data on minorities and women. Pictures will include minorities and women.”

But other requirements are more direct. “Special attention will be given,” according the guidelines,“to extending and strengthening efforts to increase the number of women” in faculty positions. “Recruitment practices will focus on creating a feeling[emphasis added] conducive to attracting minorities and women.” And faculty search committees “will utilize methods which are most likely to result in the inclusion of qualified minorities and women in the applicant pool.” Such requirements might once have been needed. But in an academy in which women are moving toward majority status?

Despite all of these policies, moreover, the university preposterously maintains that “Applicants for employment are considered and placed without regard to . . . sex.” And with federal courts clearly in mind, the guidelines add that goals and timetables for hiring more women at Michigan “are not to be construed or used as a quota system.”

There’s nothing particularly unusual about Michigan’s policies, just as there was nothing unusual about CUNY’s faculty hiring data; such patterns are common throughout higher education. And there’s no reason to believe that any statistics will lead to these policies being repealed.

Norén’s chart unintentionally highlights a point made in several of the Fisher briefs: that it’s entirely possible that even outright quotas might lead to a fairer higher education system than our ever-shifting “goals and timetables,” which can easily be shielded from transparency.

“Diversity” and the Gender Gap in Economics

Both Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education have articles this morning about a new survey of Economics PhDs that finds a dramatic gender gap on policy questions.  Among the findings, women economists are:

  • 20% more likely than men to disagree with the notion that the United States has too much government regulation;
  • 24% more likely than men to believe that the size of the U.S. government is either “too small” or “much too small”;
  • 41% more likely than men to favor a more progressive tax structure.

The Chronicle article is tendentiously titled “Gender Gap in Economics Shows Analyses Aren’t Objective,” but nothing in the article or the survey’s press release linked above supports that conclusion. Do “objective” analyses always agree? Did the 78 male and 65 female economists who responded to the survey receive similar training — for example, did they attend more or less marked-oriented Phd programs in the same numbers? As the Chronicle noted, the survey’s lead author, Ann Mari May, professor of economics at the University of Nebraska, is executive vice president and treasurer of the International Association for Feminist Economists. Is feminist economics objective, or is no economics objective?

According to Prof. May, the results “showed little gender disparity on matters of theory and methodology. But when you get to policy questions in economics,” she said, “then you’re sort of heading into an area where people might have different experiences that lead them to see different things in the data.”

Prof. May is not at all reticent about proclaiming her own conclusions about the lessons her research teaches.

Women accounted for about 35 percent of doctorates in economics awarded by U.S. universities in 2010, up from 27 percent in 2000, Ms. May said. “If we learned anything from this study,” she said, “it’s the importance of making sure that you have diverse viewpoints at the table when you’re debating these things amongst experts.”

That’s a pretty big “if.” If Prof. May is to be believed, for starters, a male might well see “different things” in her data. If it’s true that women economists are nearly 25% more likely than men to believe the size of the U.S. government is “too small” or “much too small,” for example, some would no doubt argue that there are far too many women economists.

If more women economists are needed “at the table” (what table is that, other than the voting booth?) when “these things” are being debated “amongst experts,” then surely economics departments should make concerted (though no doubt “holistic”) efforts to recruit and produce more women PhDs, no? But if “diverse viewpoints” are the goal, why rely on a weak proxy like gender? Why not just recruit and produce by viewpoint quota?

The question of whether or not we (whoever “we” are) need more women economists sitting around the proverbial table, like the question  of the proper size of the U.S. government or the degree of progressivity of the tax code, has no objectively (or should that be “objectively”?) correct answer, and it is nothing more than academic hubris to think that the views of scholarly “experts” who tend these fields deserve special deference on policy questions.

When the questions on the table address policy choices freighted with politics, values, ideology, rather than assigning seats to economists based on gender (or race or ethnicity) I would prefer to have no economists at all.

Affirmative Action, the Bishops and Women’s Colleges

Affirmative Action, the Bishops and Women's Colleges.jpgHere’s something to think about when debating the position of the Catholic bishops on religious liberty and contraception: all-women colleges are allowed under Federal law to discriminate against men in admissions, at least on the undergraduate level. Because they are private, these colleges are free under the law to design their mission (the education of women) and their undergraduate admissions system (no men) their own way.

Until the 1970s, Wellesley College, where I teach, had several graduate programs in the sciences (and in other fields before that).Then federal law dictated that graduate programs in both private and public institutions could not discriminate on the basis of sex. Rather than admit men into those formal degree programs, Wellesley dropped its graduate program. This may be a special case, but it suggests one of the most precious freedoms in a democratic and pluralistic society, namely, the right of private educational institutions to preserve a space for their own design about how to educate their central mission.

Continue reading Affirmative Action, the Bishops and Women’s Colleges

The New VAWA–A Threat to College Students

Cross-posted from Open Market.

Provisions are being added to the 1994 Violence Against Women Act that could undermine due process on campus and in criminal cases, as civil liberties groups like the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and civil libertarians like former ACLU board member Wendy Kaminer have noted. The changes are contained in a reauthorization of the Act that is likely to pass the Senate over objections from some Republican senators like Charles Grassley of Iowa, who has also objected to the lack of safeguards against fraud in the law and the misuse of millions of dollars in taxpayer money. (Even if the Senate’s reauthorization does not pass the House, programs set up by the 1994 law will continue to operate.)

Continue reading The New VAWA–A Threat to College Students

The White Male Shortage on Campus

animal-house.jpgSoviet ideologues were famous for adjusting Marxism to the zigs and zags of history, but they were pikers compared to today’s campus affirmative-action apparatchiks. The latest installment from university diversicrats is–ready for this–affirmative action for men, not black or Hispanic men, but white men (see here and here and especially here). Allan Bakke, come back, all is forgiven!

More is involved than the usual “fairness” via biological quota. The financial stakes are huge. Compared to women, white men disproportionally gravitate to wealth-generating fields–business, engineering and the sciences. This predilection will be no small matter in a few decades, and universities are justifiably nervous as the pool of future rich donors shrinks vis-a-vis those who majored in French literature.

What explains this male flight? Let me speculate a bit and offer a reason that dare not speak its name in today’s PC climate: universities are increasingly becoming feminized and many men, to use the anti-discrimination vocabulary, loathe a hostile working environment. In a word, males increasingly feel emasculated in today’s universities. Yes, being outnumbered by women may fuel certain male adolescent fantasies, but believe it or not, a young male who visits a school dominated by women will suddenly have second thoughts about predatory opportunities.

Feminization is most apparent in how schools now combat “boyish behavior.” The movie Animal House depicts this behavior perfectly–drunken frat parties, stupid pranks, clumsy intoxicated sexual aggression, coarse scatological language and countless other crude behaviors celebrating adolescent masculinity. It is not that these behaviors are condemned (and we can all agree that extreme versions deserve punishment). Rather, it is the form of the punishment that is anti-male. Miscreants are often social-worked, and for many young males, therapeutic punishment, complete with public confessions of dubious offenses, is a near-death experience. Imagine Bluto (the Animal House “hero” who famously said, “Grab a brew. Don’t cost nothing”) suffering the obligatory freshperson lectures given by a feminist counselor on non-alcoholic alternatives to beer and on the need for informed consent in all “intimate encounters, including same-sex ones.” Not even the mighty Bluto could survive being told that his manliness is merely socially constructed.

Support Services for Hetero Males?

Antagonism toward fraternities is the most visible outcropping of campus feminization. Recall the disastrous faculty-led imbroglio over the Duke Lacrosse team. What happened at Duke could probably happen almost anywhere given today’s faculty.

Further, add the abolition of male-dominated sports such as wrestling, while adding women’s teams, regardless of demand, in sports like rowing, to satisfy Title IX requirements. And don’t forget all the attention lavished on Women Studies Programs, everything from academic majors to expensive conferences and hefty speaker fees. And where are the support services for heterosexual males? Try putting Playboy in a college bookstore or decorating a dorm room with female pin-ups. These problems are almost inconceivable if the magazines in question were Out or the Advocate, two leading male homosexual magazines. Indeed, a student–let alone a Christian group–protesting gay magazines and homoerotic pin-ups would certainly risk being disciplined for impermissible hostility (and those complaining about Playboy may even benefit from this socially sanctioned outrage).

Underlying this public emasculation is a deeper, less visible faculty-led war on maleness that is currently concentrated in the humanities and social sciences but may well spread into the “hard” disciplines. (For the record, “feminine” and “masculine” here do not exactly correspond to biology. This is about psychology not anatomy. I know “male” female academics that drive their female colleagues crazy with their “male” mentality.)

Guys-Hanging-Out.jpgThis difference is about how to find truth. For males (and again keep in mind the non-overlap with biology), truth is discovered as follows. First, it is axiomatic that a single objective truth exists and this drives inquiry. Second, social niceties are subordinated to truth-seeking and uncivil, upsetting behaviors like sarcasm are therefore tolerable. Emotional feelings about what is right or wrong are irrelevant. Thomas Sowell once told me that he would never return to the classroom since he did not want to hear, “I feel….” Indeed, many males relish the verbal jousting and put-downs and these do not undermine personal friendship. Third, not all views are worth hearing and those wasting time will be forcefully and brusquely cut-off. Those able to marshal hard evidence prevail. In a nutshell, male truth-seeking is authoritarian.

By contrast, the feminine approach will stress social etiquette–woe to those who interrupts the speaker with, “there’s no hard evidence for that, so let’s move on.” And unlike a male-dominated discussion, everyone, regardless of background and expertise, is permitted to “share” their views and then is thanked for sharing. Consensus-building is central and those rejecting harmony will be castigated as disruptive. Personal relationship often shape discussions–one never disputes friends even if one sharply disagrees and being attacked, no matter how mild, can destroy a friendship. Needless to say, everybody taking a turn to speak can make for long, rambling meetings.

No Eyeball-Rolling–Niceness Counts

To make this concrete, consider a stereotypical male (a nerdy “John”) in a small liberal arts college enrolled in Economics 101 whose instructor (a knowledge facilitator, not a sage on stage) embodies the feminine approach. John wants to learn economics to become rich. The class begins with the instructor explaining that contemporary statistics-heavy economics is only one way of knowing, and this class will focus on alternatives to conventional knowledge. Moreover, there will be group projects to discover ways of making society more just by equalizing wealth and the group project will count for 50% of the final grade. The first two class periods are spent asking each student to explain what he or she hopes to learn plus their opinions on economic inequality. Nobody is criticized or told to stop talking, regardless of factual errors.

Matters go badly for John. The instructor repeatedly chides him for belittling the ideas of others by rolling his eyes and making facial expressions of disbelief. His insistence on finding a single best possible solution to an economic problem becomes repetitive to the point where the instructor suggests that he seek help at the school’s counseling center to manage his anger. John’s recourse to statistical data is interpreted as just showing off. By the third week is he no longer blurting out “What about trade-offs and opportunity costs?,” since nobody pays attention. He discovers that the Internet offers multiple sites explaining economics, he finds a nerdy on-line discussion group, stops attending class and eventually drops out.

Thanks to his Internet contacts, John joins a small start-up and three years later patents a program to detect lying on the Web. It is widely licensed and John is an instant multi-millionaire. Though rich as Croesus he never sends a nickel to his “alma mater.”

This depiction is, of course, an exaggeration but not by much. And this anti-male atmosphere will probably escalate as fewer and fewer males even apply. Meanwhile, those males who do attend and graduate will probably be ghettoized in such traditionally male fields as business, engineering and the sciences (and one wonders how long these majors will survive outside of major universities).

Reversing this pattern, assuming that gender equality is a problem requiring a solution, will be exceedingly difficult. The traditional affirmative solution of lower admission standards to achieve diversity is politically risky. What judge will rule that today’s complex diverse world economy requires students to learn how to interact with white males?

It is equally hard to imagine universities attracting more white males by making the campus more white-male friendly. Will Deans subsidize a fraternity as a “while-male theme house” or sponsor beer-blast toga parties to achieve a critical mass of white males to lessen their social isolation? (But Brandeis did make a faint attempt to attract more males: it gave free baseball caps to the first 500 males who applied.).

Make no mistake–the numbers are indisputable but the source of the problem is unspeakable. No university wants to admit that sex differences are real and often intractable. Men and women are not interchangeable and as many (but not all) women feel uncomfortable in an uber-macho setting, many males (but not all) similarly reject an environment dominated by female values.

The Chilly World of the Campus Male

male-college-students.jpgMales are keenly aware that when they go to college they are entering a hostile environment. Freshman orientation alone has had a distinctively anti-male cast for years: heavy emphasis on date rape, stalking, unwanted sexual attention, and sexual harassment amount to an unmistakable message that males are patriarchal oppressors and potential sex criminals. The lesson is quickly taught: only women are vulnerable, and men are the cause of their vulnerability. At one elite university, at least, the first thing a female freshman gets from the administration is a whistle to blow in the event that a rape-minded male accosts her. The freshman male is likely to acquire a new feeling about himself: he is the designated potential perpetrator until proven innocent.

Continue reading The Chilly World of the Campus Male

The Feminist War on Fraternities

no means no.jpg

The Pope Center’s Duke Cheston has issued what is essentially a call for the abolition of college fraternities, adding a conservative battle cry to a war which hitherto has been largely waged by liberals: feminists, political correctness-besotted campus administrators, and, lately, the Obama administration’s Education Department. In an essay for the Pope Center’s website he wrote: “For the sake of students…colleges should find a way to drastically change fraternity culture–and soon–or get rid of them.” Cheston argues that fraternities, widely regarded as incubuators of binge drinking and–at least in the minds of some feminists (and, apparently Cheston himself)–a campus culture of rape. Citing an incident in which a college friend had shrugged off an alleged rape committed by one of the friend’s fraternity brothers, Cheston wrote: “joining a fraternity had encouraged my friend to think that rape wasn’t that bad.”

Cheston also links to an op-ed article I wrote in June for the Los Angeles Times in which I decried a “scorched-earth war against college fraternities” that I said threatened the freedom of speech and association, not just of members of Greek societies but of all college students. “Left out of Allen’s analysis, however,” Cheston wrote, “is the question of whether or not fraternities are a net positive influence on students.”

Continue reading The Feminist War on Fraternities

Romance Hinders Women in STEM Courses?

Another day, another bunch of dollars thrown at studies lamenting “the gender gap in science and technology fields.” The most recent comes from the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Women in STEM: A Gender Gap to Innovation.

From its Executive Summary:

Our science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce is crucial to America’s innovative capacity and global competitiveness. Yet women are vastly underrepresented in STEM jobs and among STEM degree holders despite making up nearly half of the U.S. workforce and half of the college-educated workforce. That leaves an untapped opportunity to expand STEM employment in the United States, even as there is wide agreement that the nation must do more to improve its competitiveness.

Continue reading Romance Hinders Women in STEM Courses?

Quarantining the PC Pathology

ant.jpgLet’s face it, our noble efforts to detoxify today’s PC-infected university have largely failed and the future looks bleak. This is not to say that the problem is incurable–though it is–but it calls for a solution different from the current approach.  Here’s how.

Begin by recognizing that all our proposed cures impose heavy burdens on foes. For example, demanding an ideologically balanced faculty means fewer positions for PC zealots to fill. Asking them to abandon anti-Americanism requires revising lectures and reading assignment, no small task for those working 24/7 for social justice. And the assignment may be beyond their intellectual abilities. Why should tenured radicals surrender life-time employment to prevent professorial abuses? In a nutshell, our side insists on painful reform from within, all of which have zero benefits to the PC crowd. Victory requires measures that appear as net benefits, not bitter medicine.

My solution arrived one day in a casual conversation with a fellow political scientist. He recounted that when his university initially proposed a separate Department of Women’s Studies, the faculty objected.  Resistance was futile, however, and the separate department came to pass. There was, however, a silver lining in the defeat–with all the department’s strident feminists exported to an autonomous homeland, intellectual life suddenly improved dramatically. No more silly quarrels about inserting gender into international relations, no more struggles over subtly-hidden, invisible sexism and so on. Civility and reason reigned.

Continue reading Quarantining the PC Pathology

The Yale Sex Harassment Controversy

yalezetapsi2.jpg

The academic gender wars are back in the news, with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights announcing an investigation into a Title IX complaint against Yale University.  Sixteen current and former Yale students claim that the university discriminates against women by allowing a sexually hostile environment to flourish.  Is there really a problem with the sexual climate at Yale?  And if so, is it much more of a two-way street than the complainants allege?

An evaluation of the charges is complicated by the fact that the specifics have not been publicly released.  Some details, however, can be gleaned from the complainants’ statements as well as a Huffington Post article by Yale research fellow Claire Gordon, a former director of the Yale Women’s Center who declined to co-sign the complaint but summarized the draft.

Gordon paints a shocking picture of virulent misogyny: fraternity pledges shouting chants that celebrate rape and necrophilia; pledges from another frat chanting “Dick, dick, dick” outside the Women’s Center — so intimidating a female staffer that she had to go in through the back door — and having themselves photographed with a sign that reads “We love Yale sluts”;  an email circulated among athletes and fraternity members rating 53 female freshmen on how many beers a man would need to drink to have sex with them.  All this outrageous behavior, Gordon and the complainants assert, is treated as little more than boys-will-be-boys hijinks. 

Continue reading The Yale Sex Harassment Controversy

Another Report on MIT’s Female Faculty by Its Female Faculty

The latest MIT report on the status of its faculty women– earlier ones appeared in 1999 and 2002–finds impressive progress and “an overwhelmingly positive view of MIT,” but the key word in the seemingly endless stream of reports on women in STEM fields, “marginalization,” inevitably pops up as well, this time in reaction to “the incorrect perception that standards of hiring and promotion are lower for women.” These faulty perceptions, the report says, “can erode the confidence of women faculty.”

At the time of the 1999 report, the new report states, “President Vest remarked to some of us that it would be relatively easy to fix resource inequities that arise from marginalization, but more difficult to prevent the marginalization that occurred as women advanced in their careers. This comment turned out to be prescient,” as evidenced by several statements from MIT women that were included and discussed. Typical was the following:

“Undergraduate women ask me how they should deal with their male classmates who tell them that they only got into MIT because of affirmative action.” This comment prompted some women to note that when they win an award or other recognition it is not uncommon for a colleague on the selection committee to say, “it was long overdue that the award be given to a woman,” indicating that gender was a significant factor in the selection. These kinds of statements deprive the awardee of the satisfaction of knowing that it was purely because of respect for her accomplishments that she got the award.

Continue reading Another Report on MIT’s Female Faculty by Its Female Faculty

Do Female Students Need ‘Stereotype Inoculation’?

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Are you a female STEM student (or wannabe STEM student) suffering from a stereotype infection? Then, according to new research recently described in Inside Higher Ed (“Inoculation Against Stereotype”), you should take a course from a female instructor to inoculate yourself.

The research, based on a study at U Mass Amherst by Nilanjana Dasgupta, associate professor of psychology  and some graduate students there,
found notable benefits for female students (and for male students as well, though to a lesser degree) to being taught by women — and may point to strategies that would keep more women in STEM fields. The idea behind the research is that certain strategies “inoculate” female students against the sense that they don’t belong or are not likely to succeed in math and science courses.
 
…. Dasgupta said that the evidence suggests that women who are exposed to women doing math and science successfully end up with “stereotype inoculation” in which they gain confidence. The obvious solution from the new research — which Dasgupta said wasn’t realistic — would be to have only women teach introductory STEM courses.

Continue reading Do Female Students Need ‘Stereotype Inoculation’?

Highly Stressed Students and the Aimless Curriculum

AnxiousFemale.jpgWhen news came out recently that this year’s college freshmen rank their emotional well-being at record-low levels, observers in the media and the ivory tower began to wring their hands. Just how depressed are young men and women on campus? According to researchers at UCLA who conduct the annual “American Freshman” survey, the percentage of students who described their emotional health as above average fell to 52 percent from 64 percent in 1985 when the survey first began.
The experts interviewed on this trend suggested that the country’s financial woes were to blame. Brian Van Brunt, president of the American College Counseling Association, told the New York Times that “today’s economic factors are putting a lot of extra stress on college students, as they look at their loans and wonder if there will be a career waiting for them on the other side.” Denise Hayes, the president of the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors, told the Chronicle of Higher Education: “College tuition is higher, so [students] feel the pressure to give their parents their money’s worth in terms of their academic performance.”
But the idea that money is behind all of the anxiety of college students seems an insufficient explanation, at best.

Continue reading Highly Stressed Students and the Aimless Curriculum

Title IX Claims More Victims

Supporters of Title IX such as the National Coalition for Women and Girls In Sports regularly claim that “loss of male collegiate athletic participation opportunities is a myth.”
Tell that to the University of Delaware, which announced in January:

that it is downgrading its men’s cross country and outdoor track and field teams from varsity to club status — as part of an effort to comply with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The university’s announcement said that, in the past, it has sought to comply with Title IX by expanding women’s athletic options, but that budget realities make it impossible to add more women’s teams. Men’s teams needed to be eliminated because the university now plans to demonstrate compliance with Title IX by meeting a proportionality test under which an institution should have roughly the same percentage of female undergraduates and female athletes. Currently, 58 percent of the university’s undergraduates are female, while only 51 percent of athletes are. After the two teams are eliminated, 57 percent of athletes will be female.

To the naked, untrained eye the “proportionality test” may look like a quota, but fortunately we have the NCWGE to assure us that’s not the case:

Does the three-part test establish quotas?
No. The three-part test [which includes the “proportionality test” as “Prong One”] imposes no numerical requirement even remotely analogous to quotas. Because athletic teams are gender-segregated, individual educational institutions must decide how many athletic opportunities they will allocate to each sex. Thus, schools are required to make gender-conscious decisions related to allocation of opportunities. Far from imposing quotas, the three-part test is merely a measurement, a benchmark for determining whether schools distribute sex-segregated athletic participation opportunities fairly. Courts have repeatedly recognized that the three-part test in no way creates quotas.

So a quota is not a quota. What would we do without the NCWGE and those “Courts” to force us to admire the emperor’s new clothes?

Male Market Share and the Distortions of Women’s Studies

gender.bmpHas something finally changed in the sexual politics of academia? For more than a generation the verities of feminist theory and female interests have dominated administration policy, including who gets accepted to college and who graduates.
Anyone who has taken part in academic life for the last thirty years is well aware of the organizational power of women’s studies departments. That power has yielded a tacit veto on initiatives they feel are neither philosophically nor practically in sync with their views. Efforts to study the behavior of men have tended to be smoothly integrated into “men’s studies” which can be harshly but fairly described as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the established women’s industry. For a common example, a review of the current course offerings of the University of Toronto reveals some 40 courses explicitly focused on women and their activities. There are two concerned with men specializing in homosexual and transgendered men.
This is clearly a reason for the growing disenchantment and ineffectiveness of male students which has led to a disproportionate ratio of female to male graduates is at least 40% male to 60% female. From their first day of school, males are less successful than females. Even in nursery school, four of five students expelled are boys (how does anyone get expelled from nursery school?) and the overwhelming number of victims of Ritalin are boys.

Continue reading Male Market Share and the Distortions of Women’s Studies

Women Earn More PhDs than Men Do—Time to Rejoice?

It was a “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby” moment at the Council of Graduate Schools, which reports that last year the number the number of women receiving doctoral degrees exceeded the number of men with newly minted Ph.D.’s for the first time in U.S. academic history. In 2009, according to the council’s report dated September 14, women received 50.4 percent of all doctoral degrees awarded in the U.S.: 28,962 in comparison to men’s 28,469.
This represents the culmination of a long-term trend, in which females, who represent a slight majority of the population (51 percent) have come to represent a definitive majority of all students pursuing higher education, from freshman year to doctoral hood. Undergraduate college enrollment is now 57 percent female and graduate-program enrollment 58.9 percent female. According to the Council of Graduate Schools, women received 60 percent of all master’s degrees awarded in 2009 (ninety percent of all advanced degrees awarded these days are master’s degrees).
The current 3-2 women-to-men ratio at all levels of higher education, coupled with the fact that even the Ph.D. is no longer a male bastion, has been a cause for great rejoicing in some feminist academic circles. Stephanie Coontz, a professor of history and family studies at Evergreen State University in Washington, told Newsweek that the new figures from the Council of Graduate Schools represented the final nail in the coffin of the “PhT’ or “putting husband through” syndrome in which college-educated women used to sacrifice their own intellectual aspirations in order to support their husbands through graduate school. There was also predictable feminist grousing. Catherine Hill, director of research for the American Association of University Women, complained to Newsweek that while women may be receiving the majority of Ph.D.’s, they are still a distinct minority in the ranks of tenured professors. Hill expressed hope that universities would equalize the tenured gender ratios by adopting “family-friendly” policies that give parents raising children extra time to produce the scholarship that is typically a prerequisite for a promotion to tenured rank.

Continue reading Women Earn More PhDs than Men Do—Time to Rejoice?

A Dose of Poetic Justice at Cornell

During a conversation at an academic conference, a professor from an Ivy League school refers to two female graduate students as “black bitches.” After the students report the incident, the professor apologizes — but it takes another two months, and vociferous protests from the campus black community, for the university officials to acknowledge the issue publicly, announce mild sanctions against the professor, and state that an investigation was underway.
This is a true story currently unfolding at Cornell University. It is a story with a twist: the offending professor is himself black and teaches in the Africana Studies department, and the incident occurred at a conference on black intellectuals. And, in yet another twist that some have called karmic, the professor, Grant Farred, has now become a target of a rabid campaign that has all the hallmarks of a politically correct witch-hunt — four years after he was at the forefront of a similar campaign at Duke University during the now-infamous rape hoax in which three white lacrosse team members were accused of assaulting a black stripper at a party.
Professor Farred’s recent gaffe, while hardly commendable, seems to have been little more than a tacky attempt at humor — humor which, compounding the irony, was probably rooted in the identity politics of black “authenticity” expressed through vulgar slang. Farred had invited the women, both of them his advisees, to a February 5-6 conference at the University of Rochester titled “Theorizing Black Studies: Thinking Black Intellectuals.” The women arrived late, walking into the conference room in the middle of a panel. After the session ended, Farred came up to them, thanked them for making the drive to Rochester and then added, lowering his voice, “When you both walked in, I thought, ‘Who are these black bitches?'”

Continue reading A Dose of Poetic Justice at Cornell

Feminist Scholar Can’t Condemn Stoning of Muslim Women
(That Would Be Intolerant)

In his impressive recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on the formerly banned Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan’s first appearance in the United States, Peter Schmidt includes one tidbit that I found particularly interesting.

After noting that Ramadan faced a surprising number of critical questions from a Cooper Union audience thought to be overwhelmingly friendly, Schmidt added that Ramadan also

received support for his positions where it was not entirely expected. Such was the case, for example, when the discussion turned to the longstanding controversy over Mr. Ramadan’s refusal to call for an outright ban on the stoning of Muslim women for adultery, and insistence that there should instead by a moratorium on stoning, in general, while Muslims jurists discuss whether it should continue. A fellow panelist, Joan Wallach Scott, a professor of social science at the Institute for Advanced Study, in New Jersey, who identified herself as a feminist, said, “I actually think that his solution to the problem is not a bad one,” because an end to stoning cannot be imposed on the Muslim world by the West.

Professor Scott is considerably more than just “a feminist,” as she coyly described herself. In fact, she personifies the preconceptions and biases of academic women’s studies and is one of the nation’s leading feminist theorists and historians. Just ask her. Her posted biography claims that she

Continue reading Feminist Scholar Can’t Condemn Stoning of Muslim Women
(That Would Be Intolerant)

Duke’s Mixed News

In the past few days, Duke announced resolutions of two disputes that had bedeviled the university. First, in response to a protest from FIRE, the university overruled the Women’s Center’s refusal to host an exhibition sponsored by a Duke pro-life organization. In a perfect irony, announcement of the reversal came from Women’s Center Director Ada Gregory, last heard from hypothesizing about the danger that Duke’s female students face because they go to school with smart male students: “The higher IQ, the more manipulative they are, the more cunning they are . . . imagine the sex offenders we have here at Duke—cream of the crop.”
Then, Duke settled a lawsuit filed by former lacrosse coach Mike Pressler. Pressler was an early victim of Duke’s Alice-in-Wonderland approach to the lacrosse case—he was fired, and only then did the university conduct an investigation of his conduct. (That investigation concluded he had done nothing wrong, and had responded appropriately every time an administrator raised the issue with him of behavior by his players.) Even then, Pressler sued only when—days before AG Roy Cooper declared the falsely accused players innocent—he was attacked, in print, by Duke’s then-director of public relations.
Duke tried to have Pressler’s lawsuit thrown out on technical grounds, but lost that argument—meaning that depositions would have to go forward, and then the case would go to trial. Perhaps the University would have won at trial, perhaps not. But regardless of the verdict, subjecting key Duke administrators to cross-examination under oath would have risked a public relations nightmare for Duke.

Continue reading Duke’s Mixed News

Duke’s Mixed News

In the past few days, Duke announced resolutions of two disputes that had bedeviled the university. First, in response to a protest from FIRE, the university overruled the Women’s Center’s refusal to host an exhibition sponsored by a Duke pro-life organization. In a perfect irony, announcement of the reversal came from Women’s Center Director Ada Gregory, last heard from hypothesizing about the danger that Duke’s female students face because they go to school with smart male students: “The higher IQ, the more manipulative they are, the more cunning they are . . . imagine the sex offenders we have here at Duke—cream of the crop.”
Then, Duke settled a lawsuit filed by former lacrosse coach Mike Pressler. Pressler was an early victim of Duke’s Alice-in-Wonderland approach to the lacrosse case—he was fired, and only then did the university conduct an investigation of his conduct. (That investigation concluded he had done nothing wrong, and had responded appropriately every time an administrator raised the issue with him of behavior by his players.) Even then, Pressler sued only when—days before AG Roy Cooper declared the falsely accused players innocent—he was attacked, in print, by Duke’s then-director of public relations.
Duke tried to have Pressler’s lawsuit thrown out on technical grounds, but lost that argument—meaning that depositions would have to go forward, and then the case would go to trial. Perhaps the University would have won at trial, perhaps not. But regardless of the verdict, subjecting key Duke administrators to cross-examination under oath would have risked a public relations nightmare for Duke.
The settlement of the Pressler lawsuit doubtless previews how the University might handle the far more serious lawsuit that Duke faces—the civil motion filed by 38 members of the 2006 men’s lacrosse team, along with several of their parents.
As in the Pressler lawsuit, Duke has aggressively sought to have the suit dismissed before the discovery phase, employing some creative legal arguments in the process. My favorites: (1) the assertion that the university doesn’t consider itself legally bound by the terms of the Student Handbook, which among other things precludes discrimination; and (2) these “anti-harassment policies must be balanced against principles of academic freedom” (or when race/class/gender professors choose to go after their own students to advance their pedagogical agenda, such actions should fall under the definition of “academic freedom”).
Neither claim, I should note, appear in Duke’s promotional materials or on its admissions department webpage. Apparently Duke isn’t eager to inform prospective parents that the University’s promises that faculty will treat students with respect aren’t worth the scrap of paper on which they’re printed.
Duke’s motion for summary judgment remains pending. If the University loses, it will face a highly unappealing choice—settle before trial; or allow many of its key administrators from 2006 not only to be deposed, but to hand over internal administration e-mails from spring 2006. The public relations damage from such a move would be horrifying for any institution, much less one eager to remain among the nation’s elite.
By the way, I noted there was mixed news for Duke: on the “good news” front, benefiting from a quite easy draw, the men’s basketball team reached the Final Four.

On Women, STEM and Hidden Bias

If only Carole Carrier and her peers felt more aggrieved, the new report released by the American Association of University Women on women in science would make more sense. On the day the AAUW report was released, Carrier, a 34 year-old mechanical engineer who works part-time, was walking down the street in early spring with her 20 month old son, Luke, and her mother, Anita. They were on their way to see the spring flower display in the municipal greenhouse when we all stopped for a neighborly chat. “I’ve never experienced bias,” said Carrier, her pale eyes registering surprise when I described the gist of the report. Standing on the sidewalk, I summarized its main points: that women avoid going into STEM careers (science, technology, engineering and math) because hidden cultural signals have persuaded them that women don’t have what it takes to succeed in those fields. The few women who do buck these stereotypes then tend to abandon their career plans due to implicit gender biases and university science programs that make women feel unwelcome. Hence, a ratio of women in physical science and math that won’t budge past 20 percent, and the title of the report,”Why So Few?”
But Carrier, like many female engineers and scientists I’ve spoken to over the past five years, was frankly puzzled about why anyone might see her as a victim. All along she has felt her choices were entirely her own. She always liked math and was encouraged by her parents, especially her father, who also likes numbers, to study Pure and Applied Science. Then she went into a Forestry program, but she switched out of that because “it was too touchy-feely. It was like, is this environment good for squirrels? I needed to go into something where there’s a right answer.” So she transferred into agricultural engineering, and told me she enjoyed it immensely—the university program, as well as the work that came afterwards. So, what about the AAUW’s conclusion that women avoid studying engineering because role models are scarce, and university programs are hostile to women? “Hostile environment? Not at all. We had excellent professors. Many female professors, too.” There were also many other young women in the program, she said, because students could specialize in food or water treatment and most of the women planned to work in the developing world. Not Carole. “From university I went to work at a cement company because of my love of heavy machinery. They have their own open pit mine, and it was fantastic! I loved every minute of it. I loved the work, and the people there. We worked extremely well together. I started out as a mechanical engineer working on reliability issues, then worked on production, then on machinery output.” The company was good at staff development, offering courses and the opportunity to advance, she added, and she “mixed well” with employees, and was well-liked, especially on the shop floor, where she considered other employees’ real life expertise as instructive as her academic training. She even had an octengenarian male mentor. Hers seemed like an unequivocally happy story, so thin on the ground these days.

Continue reading On Women, STEM and Hidden Bias

The Misguided Push for STEM Diversity

Sometimes it seems as though the most heavily researched, richly funded area of American science today involves studies of why there aren’t more women in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and efforts to induce, recruit, and retain more of them.
In her article for Minding the Campus, Susan Pinker deftly punctures the omissions and evasions of the most recent such study, the AAUW’s “Why So Few?”, pointing out how that study’s predictable bogeymen of “stereotyping” and “unconscious bias” denigrate the choices many women freely make.
There is nothing new about this attempt (dare one call it patronizing?) to deny and denigrate women’s choices. A generation ago, for example, in its spectacularly unsuccessful attempt to hold Sears, Roebuck responsible for the “underrepresentation” of women in such jobs as installing home heating and cooling systems, (EEOC v. Sears, Roebuck and Co. 628 F. Supp. 1264 (1986), 839 F.2d 302 (1988)), the EEOC submitted testimony from an expert witness (Alice Kessler Harris, a prominent women’s historian) that discrimination was the only possible explanation for such “underrepresentation” because “where opportunity has existed, women have never failed to take the job offered…. Failure to find women in so-called non-traditional jobs can thus only be interpreted as a consequence of employers’ discrimination.”

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Standpoint Theory Arrives At The Court

One of the key contributions of second-wave feminism to the academy is what is known as “standpoint theory,” which asserts that members of oppressed groups have special “ways of knowing” based on their group’s unique experiences. The problem standpoint theory attempted to address is how to respond to the apparent monopoly of knowledge and power held by men (usually called “white men” in these discussions). Since women were for centuries excluded from education and professional activities, how could they gain traction for their views and rapidly enhance their present status?

The easiest way to deal with this problem is to consider the source of an idea an adequate gauge of its validity and significance. This is known as the “genetic fallacy,” a form of ad hominem or ad feminam argument. Valorizing the viewpoints of hitherto marginalized groups is an obvious instance of this fallacy. It also discourages challenges to one’s point of view, since any challenge can be represented as an attempt to demean that group’s experience, out of which it presumably speaks.

In the more academic-sounding form of “standpoint epistemology,” by which one’s racial or sexual identity provides a person with experiences that define how he or she thinks, deference is routinely paid to the special perspectives of minorities. While not wanting to get embroiled in biological essentialism or in the view that acquired experiences are inherited (or transmitted through some sort of collective unconscious), proponents of standpoint theory have turned it into a staple of feminism over the last few decades, and it has been of great utility as well to other identity groups. Its objective, as feminist scholar Sandra Harding, one of the founders of feminist standpoint theory, puts it, is to unearth the special powers that women’s lived experience can offer, the special knowledge that they can thus claim.

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A Room Of One’s (Rigorously Gender-Neutral) Own

Transgendered Students at Yale are pressing for gender-neutral housing, the Yale Daily News reports. Somehow, Yale, run by a Puritan cabal as it is, has failed to yet provide it, and cites further difficulties in moving forward with such a plan:

Administrators say they remain committed to meeting the needs of their students and have cited Yale’s unusual system of residential colleges as a complicating factor in moving ahead with such a move. But members of Yale’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, pointing to what they say is a disturbingly low number of openly transgender students on campus, are pushing the University to do more to make Yale feel welcoming to transgender students. Yale is currently one of only two Ivy League schools not to offer its undergraduates gender-neutral housing, and unless that changes, LGBT community members say, the University will get stuck in a self-perpetuating cycle that will make it difficult attract transgender students.

“It’s not mysterious what trans people want,” said Scott Larson DIV ’09, who is transgender and queer. “They want safety, they want accommodations, and they want to be part of a community that wants them to be there.”

Undoubtedly, transgender students are being furnished with safety, courtesy of the university police and the residential system; they are being given fine accommodations, and the “community” is clearly welcoming. The Daily News reports that (somehow, god knows) “applicants still find the school appealing because of its active queer population and renowned Women’s Gender & Sexuality program.” The Yale Co-op also hosts a “Trans Week” focused on issues of relevance to transgender students. The Dean of Administrative Affairs professed a willingness to work with any students who come forward with issues of concerns about housing. Yet this isn’t nearly enough for the protesting students. Not while, according to one student, gendered housing continues “amplifying oppression.”
Remember, at the modern university “unwelcoming” = “unwilling to provide any and all special requirements a group may desire.”