Monday, January 17, 2011

The kerfuffle about UC Davis

I've been thinking a lot lately about the public shaming of a pregnant vet student at UC Davis, the response of the administration, other academic scientists, and related situations. First of all, I really appreciate the extensive coverage by Dr. Isis on this issue. This is something she was able to do because of her track record in issues of women and science, and her approachability such that fellow vet students at UC Davis felt comfortable in mailing her.

I am totally horrified and yet (unfortunately) unsurprised that a professor decided to treat a student's personal and academic lives as something to be commented on by her fellow students. I have a really hard time believing that Dr. Feldman would have conducted a poll to deal with how to evaluate a student who got hit by a car. I also find it hard to believe that something like this (an extended absence from class due to outside issues) has never happened to him before, given that it has already happened to me twice!

To be honest, though, I am more upset by the comments from current students. It is depressing beyond words to see the sexism (conscious or unconscious) displayed by many of the student commenters. I get that some students felt defensive when they saw their University being talked about in an unflattering way. But seriously, if UC Davis didn't want this to be news, Dr. Feldman should not have polled his class. In the age of the Internet, there is NO WAY this would have stayed a secret forever.

It is really frustrating to see the number of young scientists defending the status quo. How can this possibly ever have been appropriate? Why should students get to 1) know the personal situation of a fellow students and 2) get to comment on it? Does anyone really think that if the pregnant vet student had been a male student in a car accident that Dr. Feldman would have polled the class on what to do? Anyone who has EVER entertained the notion that for real equality, we just need to wait for the racists, sexists, and homophobes to die is seriously delusional, and this is just the latest evidence.

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