In a report titled "A Chilly Campus Climate for Women?" published in 1983 by the Project on the Status and Education for Women of the Assn. of American Colleges, researchers identified 35 ways women students experience discrimination in university classrooms, ranging from a tendency of professors to interrupt women more often than men to sexist jokes in lectures.
Now "Chilly Campus" (Part II) is out, and finds that things are even worse outside the classroom. "We know that professors often treat women differently in the classroom," project director Bernice R. Sandler said in the report, "but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Outside of class--in conferences, lab work, campus employment, extracurricular activities and a host of other settings--women are even more likely to be singled out, avoided or otherwise treated as if they're interlopers on 'male turf.' "
Behind these studies is the distressing finding that a great many women actually lower their academic and career aspirations during their college years. The report attributes this to overt and subtle forms of discrimination that devalue women as academic and social peers in a campus setting.
The report is an overview of research around the country in a number of areas including academic advisory services at colleges, lab and field work, internships, campus employment, health care, campus safety, student government, social relationships and athletics.
Discouraging Behavior of Advisers
One woman graduate student told of having her meeting time with her adviser used up by a male student who came by to arrange a tennis match; both men ignored her. "From the status of the competent colleague, I had tumbled to the status of chair," she said. Studies have found that there has been little change in the attitudes of male advisers and academic counselors. Among the subtle behaviors of advisers that discouraged women were: counseling students toward sex-stereotypical careers; discussing their own work with men but not with women; viewing marriage and a family as negative for women who plan careers, but a symbol of maturity for men; not remembering the career plans women had discussed with them in previous sessions; launching into a "beginner's discussion" about a major or field on the assumption that the woman knows nothing about it; getting to know male advisers on a personal basis while limiting conversations with women to required meetings.
In looking at projects such as lab and field work conducted with other students and with faculty, the study found that male students tend to exclude women from their informal study groups and project teams. Faculty members may be less likely to choose women as research or teaching assistants or to collaborate on research, publishing or conference presentations. Women on projects may be treated as the project "secretary" or a date rather than a colleague--one student who was the only woman on a lab team said she was "never allowed to touch anything and only got to take notes." In addition, lab and field work is frequently the setting for sexual harassment, the report said, such as sending obscene messages on computers. Some women reported such intimidation that they refused to go to labs unless they were with other women students.
Steered Into 'Female' Jobs
Campus employment tends to reflect the discrimination in the larger society. Women who were working while going to school reported being steered into "female" positions, receiving lower-level assignments than men and sexual harassment on their jobs. In internships--employment in students' fields of study--women faced barriers such as not being informed of internship possibilities. Women interns were less likely than men to receive mentors in the sponsoring organization and more likely to be assigned tasks requiring limited ability.
The report's look at social life found many traditional campus activities alive and well--wet-T-shirt contests and such. On a more serious level, it was found that men may dominate co-educational housing units, creating a "locker room atmosphere." Housing options for women are more limited--on some campuses fraternities manage themselves, but sororities must have house mothers as if the men were adults and the women were children. It was found that residence hall advisers do not respond as seriously to concerns raised by women. Sexual harassment and even rape continue to be addressed with a "boys will be boys" attitude--on one campus, male students accused of rape were "punished" by being required to take a course in women's studies.
The report, "Out of the Classroom: A Chilly Campus Climate for Women?," written by Sandler and Roberta M. Hall, associate director for programs at the project, also deals with the additional kinds of discrimination experienced by minority women, older women and disabled women. It is available for $3 from the Assn. of American Colleges, PSEW, 1818 R St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20009. (The earlier paper, "The Classroom Climate," is also available for $3.)
A recounting of the "glorious time" teaching at Berkeley in the turbulent 1960s highlights an oral history by the late poet and English professor Josephine Miles, which has recently been released by Berkeley's Bancroft Library.
The 245-page volume was completed by Bancroft's Regional Oral History Office five years ago, but Miles had asked that it be sealed until her death. She died May 12 at age 73.
Described by the university as an inspirational and beloved teacher, Miles obtained her graduate degrees at Berkeley, taught there from 1940 to 1978, held the title of professor, and was also the author of more than 50 volumes of poetry and the winner of two National Book Awards.
In her history, Miles recounts her literary life, which began with her first poem, at age 7, about soldiers returning from World War I. But she deals most extensively with her life as a teacher. Despite fears of violence--Miles described teaching with tear gas filling the air, the frequent presence of police and helicopters on the campus, and once finding an arsenal of guns and bombs in the apartment of a student where her class met--Miles said the 1960s were "the most glorious time in teaching for me" and the students of the 1960s the most motivated she had encountered in her career.
"There was a kind of heaviness to the early '50s," she said in the history, "a heaviness of the students . . . they were harder to teach." Miles said she sensed the change, open protest coming from the students, in the early 1960s before the Free Speech Movement of 1964. " . . . they were looking for an enemy, really. These kids were looking for somebody to fight and they found this in the war in Vietnam--justifiably."
It was these students Miles viewed as alive, bright and the hope of the future, the leaders of the '80s. Student-faculty relations changed, became more informal, and students' politics changed her own, Miles said. "The students were . . . sort of saying, 'you're a liberal, and that's not a good thing to be; you've got to be a radical. But we know you mean well, and we'll teach you more about it if you'll teach us about Milton."
Of the students of the 1970s, Miles said in her history, " . . . I don't know. Their strongest quality is panic over jobs and panic over grades that lead to jobs. It's very hard to teach people who have to have A's.
"So much positiveness of the '60s will some day, I hope, come out," Miles said.
A copy of the Miles history is also available at the Department of Special Collections at UCLA where she did her undergraduate work, and additional copies are available for purchase by research collections.