Issue Date: August 14, 2006
Title IX for chemistry
My congratulations to Richard N. Zare for his recent article on the state of women in the academic community (C&EN, May 15, page 46). Such a forceful stating of the facts of the case was needed and long overdue. I would like to call your attention to one bright spot in the area. The Gordon Research Conferences (GRC) is a premier scientific organization participating in the development of fundamental research and technology in biology, chemistry, and physics. GRC is governed by a 12-person, elected board of trustees. This distinguished board now consists of eight women and four men. The elections are open, competitive, and merit-based. GRC celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, along with the full participation of its women participants.
Carlyle B. Storm
Director emeritus, Gordon Research Conferences
It's so unfortunate that the article "Sex, Lies, and Title IX" follows the feminist line and encourages women to believe they are victims of a discriminatory society.
The gender police have already ruined college sports for many men, forcing the senseless elimination of 171 wrestling teams to reduce the overall proportion of men to women on college athletic teams. Fresh from that attack on masculinity, they want to apply this same mindless mentality to math and science departments, which are predominately male because men are more interested in those fields than women and score significantly higher on math and science aptitude tests.
There isn't a shred of evidence that women are discriminated against in math and science. There are no separate tracks for men's math and women's math. There simply is a higher proportion of men than women who voluntarily choose math and engineering just as more men choose competitive sports. My husband and I tried our hardest to persuade all of our six children to take engineering in college. Four sons graduated in electrical engineering, but despite all our entreaties, our two daughters rejected our advice.
Math and science departments have traditionally been based on merit and have produced code-breakers and technology essential to winning wars and preserving our freedoms. Why should we accept anything less than the best in our classrooms or on our athletic fields? It's enough that the National Science Foundation already has an ADVANCE program that is spending $75 million over five years to lure more women into science and engineering.
The feminists want a quota-imposed unisex society regardless of the facts of life, voluntary choice, human nature, common sense, or documented merit. And they want to use the power of government to achieve their goal. Boo hoo. Bring on MIT feminist Nancy Hopkins to stage another tantrum and demand preferential funding for women to let them feel cozy in technical subjects.
The feminists hope that their whining and outbursts about alleged discrimination will intimidate men into giving them preferential treatment. The feminists want to rig the system so they will not have to compete with men but will compete only with other women for a quota of scholarship slots, resources, and professorships.
Why don't we hear from the Title IX extremists about spending taxpayer funds to force universities to attract more men into women's studies and the other soft liberal arts subjects that now have a big majority of women students?
Zare's commentary on title IX and demographic imbalance in higher education is accurate but incomplete. From watching my own students' choices, I have concluded that the uncertainties and demands of the current funding system scare all but the most aggressive and competitive individuals away from applying for research university positions. What industry or government agency would hire people guaranteeing salary but not operating funds? The economic waste would be ludicrous. However, the base operating research budget for all but chaired faculty and faculty in their first year or two at research universities is typically zero. Failure to obtain external support is fatal to the research of both the faculty member and his or her students. A pregnancy for a faculty member or spouse could easily delay papers and proposals, thwarting a nascent career.
It hasn't always been this way. Choices made at many levels in government and universities after the rise of National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health funding have made it thus. Focusing support on students, synchronizing funding to their training, and trusting that good training inevitably results in good science that benefits society and solves problems would alter the fiscal landscape, encouraging a broader demographic to consider academia. If Title IX is to leverage broader participation, changes in academic culture and funding will be components of a complicated and interlocking set of issues that must be addressed.
July 10, page 88: The term "ploughman's lunch" first appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1837.
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