Ruth Barcan Marcus Clinic for Logic

June 8, 2012 § 2 Comments

Axel Mueller at Northwestern writes:

We just got note from NORTHWESTERN’s administration that they authorize our RUTH BARCAN MARCUS CLINIC FOR LOGIC. This is a peer-tutoring program aimed at supporting students in our large Intro to Logic courses who are either ‘struggling’ (i.e. perform at or below C-) or performing below their own average GPA-level in logic. This initiative grew out of the realization that philosophy, and particularly logic, has a pattern of discouragement and underrepresentation of women and other groups entering college with a disadvantage that is more similar to STEM-fields than to humanities or social sciences. Our own in-house statistics showed that, while the enrollment of women in logic was at about 30%, the ratio of women among the group of struggling students was at 50%, and among the group of students underperforming at about 48%. We concluded that logic would be a good place to start in removing sources of discouragement. According to the stereotype-threat and micro-messaging research, it seemed to us likely that the overproportional presence of women (and other stereotypically disadvantaged groups, whose ratios were even worse) was not being affected by the routine discussion groups lead by GAs, but called for the pin-pointed and face-to-face removal of pre-existing individual difficulties of either a motivational nature or, very often, a grown adversity in formal sciences that is based on precisely the stereotyping patterns the effects of which we try so hard to overcome. The Dean’s office acknowledged that fact and for this reason gave the go ahead.

The basic idea is to have UG-students (preferably among them also members of the mentioned groups) who showed excellence in logic figure as peer-tutors in a drop-in clinic that is open 2 hrs. per week and widely publicized among the students of our logic intros. The peer-tutors (about 3 per quarter logic is offered) offer individual face-to-face help, and we expect their rapport to their peers to be much more effective than that of those who students typically perceive as “superiors” (professor and GAs), and thus to really have the potential to be a game-changer. In exchange, the peer-tutors receive the title “Ruth Barcan Marcus Tutor in Formal Logic”, and an award, the “Ruth Barcan Marcus Award for Tutoring Formal Logic” (hopefully, monetary), at graduation, with recognition at the dean’s reception for all award winners of the college. These latter compensations, in turn, count as valuable assets in the tutors’ CVs when it comes either to apply to grad school or for employment. Since we hope to attract as many women as possible as tutors, may be this can also contribute a little to decreasing pipelining.
We are very excited about this new part of our general women-friendliness initiative, and hope its presence will help us further in the atmospheric, but also the real-world improvements for women in philosophy at Northwestern.

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