“Dr. Theodore Everett, a philosophy professor at SUNY Geneseo, is honoring the campus’s Sexual Assault Awareness week in an unconventional way: by holding a lecture about how sexual assault is not a real issue on college campuses or the nation in general. The talk is entitled “Against ‘Sexual’ ‘Assault’ ‘Awareness'” — infuriatingly, it has not one but three sets of air quotes in its name. Because, you know, infringing on a woman’s bodily integrity and sense of safety and self-worth in a sexual manner is neither sexual nor assault; it’s mostly just women making a big deal out of nothing and/or lying for the fun of it. Against ‘Sexual’ ‘Assault’ ‘Awareness’: The Lecture is set to take place this Monday at 7:00 — which, not coincidentally, is also half an hour into the Womyn’s Action Coalition’s Take Back The Night walk. Awesome.”
Read the full story here,
Maybe it’s just that spring awakens my optimism, but I am renewed in my conviction that we can improve philosophy for everyone. Let us proceed with an explicit commitment to holding that retaining and recruiting women and minorities is not a mystery, or rocket science, or magic.
I say this partly because a colleague in philosophy recently asked for “anything useful to a department looking for best practices for recruiting and retaining women undergrads to a major – any major.” I liked the way she put that, because why would we look to philosophy, right? Scholars in other departments have already done what philosophers still struggle to do. So I sent her examples from Physics, from Computer Science, and from Dartmouth’s Women in Science program (involving science, math, and engineering). There are more like these, many sources to show that whenever a field or department really commits to doing something, they succeed. What doesn’t work is waiting for improvement to happen on its own.
There are clear patterns in all the success stories. The bulk of a department has to agree that recruitment is necessary and desirable, and there has to be a wide and deep cultural commitment to it. Outreach has to occur before the students get to higher education. And the intro class comes up in EVERY study. Philosophers can do this. We don’t have to have an “intro-major cliff.” Faculty commitment. Early outreach. Intro class.
A philosopher has noted to me that his concerted efforts to find a textbook in Philosophy of Law which features the voices of women and minorities has met with much frustration. He is intending to teach “classical debates” but he does not doubt that diverse points of view have been expressed in criticism of them. He’s likely right, but diversity, as it turns out, is not a hallmark of the major textbooks, even those edited by women. So he’s going further afield, using articles and monographs by Martha Minow and Catherine MacKinnon which he previously hasn’t tried. This is a good start, but he requests any input on readings others may have used in Philosophy of Law classes from many points of view, from women’s and de-centered perspectives.