Home > Burns My Shorts, Ludicrous Language, Outrage of the Week, Sex Discrimination, What They're Saying > Twenty Years Of Sexual Harassment (and other news)

Twenty Years Of Sexual Harassment (and other news)

Science policy, 20 years of sexual harassment, French women students as prostitutes: a round-up of stuff from the Chronicle:
Dan Greenburg of Brainstorm complains that the U.S. has no national science policy. Some commenters say “that’s a good thing”.
Over at Chronicle Careers, Julie Vick and Jennifer Furlong talk about how to write good letters of recommendation. They include this advice:

The dean also talked about an issue that merits more discussion in academe: the difference in recommendation letters written for men and women. He suggested that people writing reference letters read a 2003 article in Discourse and Society, by Frances Trix and Carolyn Psenka, “Exploring the Color of Glass: Letters of Recommendation for Female and Male Medical Faculty.” They found that letters for male faculty members were longer and included more repetition of strong words like “outstanding,” “excellent,” and “superb,” compared to the letters for their female counterparts. The letters for men also tended to refer more to their research and professionalism, while the letters for women tended to emphasize their teaching and training, effectively portraying them “as students and teachers, whereas the men are portrayed more as researchers and professionals.”
It is important to pay attention to the language you use when describing male and female candidates, and make sure you are providing as unbiased an evaluation of both as possible.

Follow the link and take a look at that publication. If you are a female grad student/postdoc, perhaps you can surreptitiously leave a copy on your advisor’s desk (or at least a copy of the Chronicle item, if you think she/he won’t read a long article). If you are in a position to recommend someone, read the article, and for god’s sake please don’t praise your female student’s appearance.


My vote for outrage of the week: over at the Chronicle news blog, you can read about 20 years of sexual harassment. The professor was allowed to resign (not fired), however,

According to the student newspaper, the university found Mr. Bender guilty of sexual harassment, but it is allowing him to teach two online courses this semester under the agreement that he “refrain from having private and/or personal interactions with university students,”

Oh good. We wouldn’t want to get his ass out of there too fast. Hey, after 20 years, what’s another semester?
Twenty years of sexual harassment is but one of the reasons universities could benefit from having a diversity officer. The Chronicle news blog reports on a publication that clarifies their role and advises on how to hire a diversity officer. One piece of key advice is to have the diversity officer report directly to the provost or president. Read the comments if you want to see resistance to diversity in action.
Diversity officers might also play a role in helping universities respond to Sallie Mae’s practices.

Two borrowers of student loans have filed a lawsuit against Sallie Mae, accusing the lender of charging higher interest rates and fees to minority students.
In the lawsuit, Sasha Rodriguez, a Hispanic woman in Connecticut, and Cathelyn Gregoire, an African-American woman in Florida, assert that Sallie Mae discriminates against minority borrowers by taking colleges’ default rates into account when setting interest rates. Institutions that serve large numbers of minority students often have higher default rates than other colleges do.

In other news, you can read about French women students prostituting themselves for book money. Here’s something annoying: the news blog refers three times to “students”: once in the title and twice in the body of the post. Yet it is women students who are prostituting themselves. This is a case of using gender inclusive language when gender-specific language would be more appropriate. It isn’t all French students who are engaging in prostitution; it’s the women students, and that has a particular meaning. One wonders what the men are doing for book money, and whether women turn to prostitution because those other avenues are closed off to them.
And finally, if you want to read a textbook example of the in-group circling its wagons to protect its power and exclude those who don’t meet the in-group’s distorted norms, check out this post by Dr. Free-Ride that deconstructs a response to the recent ethics controversy in paleontology. It’s a sad – and infuriating – example of identifying with the oppressor.

  1. MTran
    February 7, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Zuska, not to be OT, but could you take a look at a long discussion going on over at Bad Astronomy? The heading is “I Can Haz Respect?”
    It’s about newscasters constantly referring to presidential candidate Sen. Clinton as “Hillary” while referring to male candidates by their last names or by honorific (e.g., “Obama” rather than “Barack”, or “Senator McCain”, not “John.”) It seems that most of the posters think this is okay since she was basically asking for it.
    I don’t post often and one of my posts is awaiting moderation because of my browser’s anti-script habits. But I thought your comments could be more helpful than my own.

  2. February 10, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    With regard to the French news, this is probably all originating from bad translation (very bad in this example?), since French words are most of the time genderly non-neutral when it comes to human things. On the other hand, I know it happens all the time when you try translating from or into English, that you wonder how far you have to fix losses of information like these… Not always an easy issue.

  3. February 11, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    MTran, I’ll just say on record here that newscasters referring to Clinton as “Hillary” while calling the other candidates by last name is sexist, demeaning, and belittling. And no, it doesn’t matter that her campaign refers to her as Hillary. What, are the newscasters on her campaign staff? I didn’t think so. Then refer to everybody the same.
    I’m not sure I have the time/energy to take on political issues right now…I’m barely keeping up with my blog duties.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: