What Rutgers Is Doing About What It’s Like

July 21, 2011 § 2 Comments

From Ruth Chang:

Some of the things we have done at Rutgers include bringing in an outside sex discrim/gender expert to talk to the dept, sending around sexual harassment policies to everyone in the department regularly, holding women’s teas, dinners, etc., holding teaching seminars for women, creating hiring committees whose remit is to make sure that movable women are known to us and to try to hire them, and, at the instigation of one of our women grads, having a meeting for women undergrads to talk about what it is like to a woman in philosophy. As undergrad vice-chair this year, I plan to hold a special meeting for women undergrads (which I’ve done on my own as a teacher, plucking promising women undergrads from my classes) to encourage them in their goals, whatever they might be) interested in graduate school in philosophy.Perhaps the most important thing the dept has done is to distribute climate surveys every now and again to keep tabs on things, to see how things might be improved, and to attempt to nip any potential climate issues in the bud.

I am appending here what I think might be near-final drafts of the climate surveys we used a few years ago. I say ‘near-final’ because due to various recent computer maladies, this is what I’ve been able to find. I’m pretty sure we used these or something close to them, and no doubt they could be improved. Our plan this year is to do another survey, and we’ll be rewriting. So any input would be most welcome!

There are two surveys – a ‘general’ one for all grad students and a more open-ended one for only the women grads. Everything was kept strictly confidential – we are large enough so this isn’t a problem – and only women faculty and the chair got to see the results — with the women faculty doing a further anonymizing of the results if necessary (I remember doing some of this). My memory is pretty bad about the general survey, but I know we gave the gender-specific one a few years ago and we got overwhelmingly positive replies. Part of the reason we haven’t been doing climate surveys every year is that the graduate community regularly reports their grievances to the faculty through a rep at faculty meetings and to the graduate director, and the grads have been very happy in the last few years, with the women grads being among the leaders in this regard. At any rate, the below is what I found on my hard drive, such as it is.

GENERAL SURVEY:

Self-Study Questionnaire

INSTRUCTIONS: For questions xx-xx please use the response scale below to indicate your level of AGREEMENT or DISAGREEMENT with each statement.

1 = Strongly Agree
2 = Agree
3 = Disagree
4 = Strongly Disagree
5 = Not Applicable or Don’t Know

Speaking up issues
Q51: [   ] I feel comfortable speaking whenever I want in seminars.

Q52: [   ] I feel comfortable speaking whenever I want in department colloquia.

Q53: [   ] I feel comfortable speaking whenever I want in small groups of faculty and students.

Q54: [   ] I feel comfortable speaking whenever I want in small groups of students.

Q55: [  ] I feel that I am sometimes unfairly excluded from philosophical conversations among graduate students.

Q56: [   ] I feel there is pressure to speak at colloquia, in reading or study groups, or in informal gatherings of faculty or students even when I do not feel inclined to speak or I have nothing to say.

Q57: [   ] I feel free to communicate any concerns I have about my studies, other students, or the department to an appropriate member of the department.

Q58: [   ] I wish faculty would pay more attention to students who are ‘quiet’ and do not tend to speak in class.

Sexism/hierarchy issues

Q59: [   ] There is some blatent sexist behavior by graduate students towards other graduate students.

Q60: [   ] There is pervasive subtle sexist behavior by graduate students towards other graduate students.

Q61: [  ] There is some blatent sexist behavior by faculty towards graduate students.

Q62: [  ] There is pervasive subtle sexist behavior by faculty towards graduate students.

Q63: [  ] Some faculty engage in sexist behavior towards other faculty members.

Q64: [   ] Some faculty engage in sexist behavior towards visiting speakers.

Q65: [  ] The practice of individual members of the faculty socializing with only some graduate students unfairly confers ‘star’ status on those students.

Q66: [  ] In general, male faculty find it more difficult to talk philosophy with women graduate students than with male graduate students, and this negatively affects the philosophical development of women graduate students.

Q67: [  ] I believe that there are pervasive subtle hierarchy cues (such as lack of eye-contact and tone of voice), unwittingly employed by faculty and graduate students, whose employment negatively affect the philosophical development of some graduate students.

Q67: [  ] There is an unhealthy sense of hierarchy or ‘pecking order’ among the graduate students.

Q68: [   ] There should be a hierarchy among graduate students according to perceived philosophical ability.

CHOOSE the answer that BEST describes your belief:

Q69: [   ] There is a hierarchy among graduate students according to perceived philosophical ability, and I believe that I am perceived to be in the
1. top 1%
2. top 5%
3. top 10%
4. top 25%
5. top half
6. bottom half
7. bottom 25%
8. bottom 10%
9. There is no hierarchy among graduate students according to perceived philosophical ability.

Q70: [  ] Whether or not there is a hierarchy of perceived philosophical ability among the graduate students, when measuring actual philosophical ability relative to the other students in the program, I believe that I am in the
1. top 1%
2. top 5%
3. top 10%
4. top 25%
5. top half
6. bottom half
7. bottom 25%
8. bottom 10%

Seminar issues
[  ] I wish faculty would encourage more student discussion in seminars.

[  ] I wish faculty would control seminar discussions so that the same students do not always dominate the discussion.

[  ] I wish other faculty would not attend seminars.

[   ] I wish there were a ‘proseminar’ restricted to first year students each year.

[  ] I do not find student presentations in seminars helpful to my development as a philosopher.

[  ] I do not find giving student presentations in seminars helpful to my development as a philosopher.

[   ] I prefer seminars in which the professor(s) primarily lecture.

[   ] I prefer seminars in which the professor(s) do not prepare their own ‘line’ of argument but simply explain the required reading and open the class for discussion by students.

[  ] I prefer seminars with 5 or fewer students.

[   ] I prefer a series of shorter seminar assignments rather than one long paper at the end.

[  ] Points raised by less forceful students in a seminar are often not given the attention that they deserve.

[   ] I believe that I have sufficient information about what counts as good work in courses, exams, etc. in the graduate program.

[   ] I get sufficient feedback from the philosophy faculty and graduate director on my progress and promise as a philosopher.

Socializing issues
[  ] I wish I had had the opportunity to ‘bond’ socially with other  members of my class before starting classes with them (e.g. through an  ‘outward bound’ or ‘urban bound’ type trip before the beginning of the  school year).

[  ] I wish there were more and varied social opportunities to mix with other students.

[  ] I wish there were more and varied social opportunities to mix with faculty in general.

[   ] I wish there were more and varied social opportunities to mix with faculty in my area of interest.

Administrative issues
[  ] Each incoming student should be assigned an advisor to whom he or she can turn for nonphilosophical (e.g., administrative, moral) help.

Training issues
[  ] I wish I had a mentor who would oversee my development as a philosopher.

[  ] The department gives its students sufficient support when they go on the job market.

Overall atmosphere issues
[  ] The department puts too much emphasis on oral proficiency – quickness or cleverness in oral argument — and should instead find ways  to reward other kinds of philosophical excellence.

[  ] The department puts too much emphasis on students’ gaining professional credentials rather than on their developing into a deep thinkers.

[   ] The climate in the department would be more conducive to my development as a philosopher if there were a higher percentage of women graduate students and faculty.

[  ] I am concerned that those who do well in their graduate work and go on to have successful careers in philosophy are typically more competitive or aggressive than I am

[  ] I feel that faculty are not interested in me or my research.

I feel that it is easy to approach faculty members and talk with them about my work.

[  ] I feel that were I to express concerns I had about life in the department, those concerns would be taken seriously and good faith efforts would be undertaken to address them.

[  ]  I feel that the dept atmosphere is unnecessarily combative and competitive.

[  ] I feel that the q &a part of department colloquia are conducted in a way that is unnecessarily adversarial and combative.

[  ] I feel that professors take my ideas seriously.

[  ] I feel that other graduate students take my ideas seriously.

[  ] I feel that I am valued, respected member of the department.

Section for write-in responses
ANSWER as fully as possible the following:

1. What do you take to be the three most important ways in which your life in the department might be improved (please list only things that could reasonably be changed). If you can, provide concrete suggestions as to how these improvements could be brought about.{  }

2.  What are the main factors that enable you to learn a lot from your courses–please indicate { }

3.  What are the main factors that keep you from learning as much as you would like from your courses–please indicate { }

FOR WOMEN GRADS ONLY:

For Women Students Only
Rutgers

Poll Questions:

(1)     Do you feel that you have been discriminated against on the basis of gender in the philosophy department?  If so, please indicate when (in the past year, four years ago, etc): and describe – as specifically as you would like – the nature of the discrimination.

(2)     Do you think that the department is an equally good place for women to study philosophy as it is for men?  (If not, why not?)

(3)     Would you have any hesitation in recommending that a woman come to study philosophy here, because of gender issues specific to Rutgers?

(4)     Any other thoughts/ comments on whether Rutgers is a good place for women?

(5)     Any thoughts/comments on climate issues in general (whether or not related to
gender)?

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