I’m…. I don’t know. I’ve stayed far away from this one, because while I understand and agree with everything you said; That the administrators have a duty to you know…. administer. That they were wrong to try to close the college for the reasons stated, that it was lazy, and cowardly, that in a vacuum this victory is a great thing…. I just can’t get past the fact that this school caters exclusively to women, directly breaks title IX, and generally feels ick to me. I just don’t think that it’s right for this school to operate the way it does.
This ‘victory’ comes directly on the heels of Tim Hunt, who was arguing for sex-segregated laboratory space, saying in part “what happens? You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and then they cry when you criticize them.” What he was saying, in context was that workplace relationships make the workplace more complicated than it needs to be…. What the media ran with was “He said that women cry and shouldn’t be in the lab!” It was a horribly awkward statement, and the idea of sex segregating labs is of… let’s say…. dubious merit… at best. But the blowback from this was so intense that Dr. Hunt, a Nobel prize-winning laureate who discovered the protein responsible for cell division, thus contributing directly to cancer research in a way more meaningful than any other living human being on Earth, was forced to resign. And this was also called a victory.
So let’s juxtapose that for a second. Sweet Briar sex segregates itself, and that’s OK. Hunt suggests sex segregating labs, and is harangued out of his job.
To this, Amy Tabb, a Sweet Briar alum, replied..
This is a tough one. I’m a SBC alum who also has a PhD in Engineering. Dr. Hunt’s comment was pretty idiotic, he may have meant it in jest, but he chose the worst possible time to deliver those comments. The rapid backlash has a lot to do with the speed of social media, and the backdrop of Biology labs where the PI has the power to kick you out, give you a dead-end project, or help you publish enough to get your own lab.
In the same week at the Dr. Hunt comments, in Science magazine’s (yes, THAT Science) advice column concerning an advisor who kept on looking down a post doc’s shirt during their meetings, the advice columnist — a woman — advised the post doc to suck it up because the advisor’s influence on the post doc’s career was too great to risk offense. And yet Biology has great numbers of women getting PhDs. I don’t know what the problem is, but clearly there is one. I mean, come on, people, it is 2015!
To address your other points, attending a single-sex college is the choice of the student. There ARE men’s colleges, still, though fewer since the military academies (such as VMI) were made co-ed, as they should have been since they are publicly funded. The remaining schools are privately funded. There are historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) too, and they are privately funded.
My experience at a women’s college is that all that static about gender norms is removed — what to study, career choice, how to act, etc., giving me a lot of freedom to decide how to spend my adult life.
“Hunt’s comment was pretty idiotic, he may have meant it in jest, but he chose the worst possible time to deliver those comments.”
Agreed. 100%. But do you think that it’s appropriate to remove a Nobel laureate from his lab for stumbling over a bad joke?
“There ARE men’s colleges, still, though fewer since the military academies (such as VMI) were made co-ed, as they should have been since they are publicly funded. The remaining schools are privately funded. There are historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) too, and they are privately funded.”
Awful argumentation. Both variants of Rationalizations 22 and 24, and factually untrue. I called out women’s only schools because we’re talking about SBC, but any group that caters exclusively to people based on race or gender would be on the top of the list of organizations I think are inherently unethical, that other groups might be doing the same thing doesn’t make the behavior right…. Which is why it’s important to differentiate between what’s “Right” and what’s “My right to do”.
As to the facts of gender and racially segregated colleges…. 48. That’s the number of women’s colleges in America. Compare that to 3 men’s colleges and 0 exclusively black colleges. (HBCUs started accepting people from different races decades ago.) I’d also, as a matter of splitting hairs argue that no college is exclusively privately funded, between bursaries, scholarships and assistance programs, I’d genuinely be surprised if there was a college out there that didn’t accept some kind of public money if we considered indirect payments. I know that isn’t how we look at it, but the taxpayer is basically awarding students money to give that money to organizations that discriminate, and that sits poorly with me.
“My experience at a women’s college is that all that static about gender norms is removed — what to study, career choice, how to act, etc., giving me a lot of freedom to decide how to spend my adult life.”
Your experience, and I’m sorry, because this is probably going to be offensive… But your experience is weak. Even if you want to argue that you didn’t have that freedom outside of a segregated environment (which I reject on it’s face…. between 55 and 60% of the college population is female currently, and women are in every. single. field. I’d bet that if there was a situation where a woman in a normal college felt that she was being discouraged from chasing her goal in almost any imagined way it would be front page news and someone would get fired.), what you’re describing isn’t freedom… it’s something akin to laziness, with undertones of entitlement. The college experience isn’t just learning what’s in the books, it’s also learning how to deal with people in an adult setting, segregated colleges bypass that learning.
I held back on Humble Talent’s Comment of the Day because I wanted the get his context posted here first, which I did to some extent in Women and Education, Part 1. HT began with this, in response to my salute to the Sweet Briar alumnae for winning their battle to foil the school’s board and keep the all-women’s college open:
To this, Amy Tabb, a Sweet Briar alum, replied..
Now here is Humble Talent’s Comment of the Day, in response to Amy, in response to Humble Talent, on the post Ethics Heroes: Sweet Briar Alumnae and their Supporters. I’ll have my own post on the topic of “gender segregated” higher education in Women and Eduction, Part 3.