Academic common room
Undergrads and department and sexism and angry
veldwerkhoer · 10/01/2018 14:18
I just want to vent. I'm sure I've blown this out of proportion but it's yet another straw on the back of this camel in science.
The student association organises a camping trip for first years every year. It's just emerged that this trip involves unpleasant songs, and has done for years. One delightful example was what they'd do to the veldwerkhoer (field work whore) in the forest, hence my name change.
I know that young people + alcohol = arseholes in many cases. That's universal. Not fine, but hopefully they'll grow out of it. The problem is that this society is semi-officially part of the university and are funded by the university, organising parts of open days and seminar series and sponsorship from companies for field trips. So I feel that as representatives of the university and the companies this should have been taken seriously.
They've had their funding removed as of today after the song was leaked to the press. The worst bit was that the university has known since October! Yes, it was dealt with internally, but how could the university continue providing funding for an organisation that sings such songs, even if they showed contrition?!
I'm feeling particularly wobbly and vulnerable after a couple of bad conference experienced opened my eyes to how sexist my field is. Maybe I'm over reacting, but feel like by not acknowledging there was a problem I feel like the university's just thrown its female staff members under a bus. And, no I don't know the outcome of the internal investigation, but still! How did they think it was ok to keep funding them?! Like I'm ever going to bother raising a grievance if something happens now.
Back to linkedin to google non-academic jobs. I feel like crying.
veldwerkhoer · 10/01/2018 14:46
Sorry, that turned out really long without any point. Is it like this everywhere? Is there a job or a university anywhere without sexism? I just want to hide under my duvet and quit everything.
underlinethat · 10/01/2018 16:45
Gosh, that sounds horrible. Were the songs specifically about you, or about a generic 'field work whore'? Either way, awful and unacceptable. I'd like to think we're entering a new era after Weinstein etc .... but maybe that's optimistic.
I honestly don't know how widespread this kind of thing is, I've heard of students ranking their female lecturers on the basis of attractiveness and I know that male professors tend to get the best feedback scores, whereas women tend to do less well. But I have never heard of this kind of thing (or experienced it) and it does sound as though the university has let you down.
I have no advice just sympathy.
Inthedeepdarkwinter · 10/01/2018 18:58
This sounds like my institution dealing with racism from drunk undergraduates: tell them off as if it were a private school and they were going to see the headmaster, then hide it til outed by the press then issue very contrite statement, it'll never happen again, blah blah, even though no-one is actually punished in any way whatsoever.
I don't know if you follow 'The Professor Is In' on FB or elsewhere, but they have a campaign to gather stories and a survey relating to sexual harassment in academia that is gathering some steam- might be worth ranting on there as well.
Inthedeepdarkwinter · 10/01/2018 18:59
veldwerkhoer · 11/01/2018 11:04
Thanks for the link! I was looking for something like that.
The most frustrating bit is the professor doesn't get why a slap on the wrist wasn't good enough. After all, 'it wasn't like anyone got hurt'! A bunch of middle aged white men sat in a room not seeing the problem.
God knows what they'd do if it was racism. I think on average this country's better on sexual equality than the UK, but are they backward on race relations. I don't even want to think about that one!
TheOrigRightsofwomen · 11/01/2018 11:09
Am FUMING for you OP, and very, very sad.
Have you got the energy to continue fighting?
Toyrd · 11/01/2018 12:19
Your institution should have a mechanism for staff complaints about unacceptable behaviour - did you go through this? If you did you're surely entitled to a full debrief.
If you haven't done this yet then you could prepare a short account and go through the process - these things can be gruelling though.
There is a lot of this type of behaviour about and it does need taking much, much more seriously across academia.
I hope you feel better soon - we tend to expect the best of our institutions and feel demoralised then when they turn out to prefer paths of least resistance and brand damage minimisation.
Snowdrop18 · 11/01/2018 12:26
they could have said "we will withdraw funding" before it got leaked to the press, but that might have made it more likely to be leaked to the press?
so maybe they were seeing that in terms of PR?
I am saddened that people do this generally. I don't think the excuse of being young and drunk really works to be honest and I hate this culture of infantilising adults and making out like they don't know what they are doing or saying. but that's probably a separate thread!
veldwerkhoer · 11/01/2018 15:56
It wasn't directed at me personally, which means I don't have the full information. It does however seem pretty clear that the funding was only suspended as the result of the press release, despite a previous private investigation. I'm just really disappointed in the university's apparent handling of it.
I'm maybe taking it more personally than I would otherwise because I've recently opened my eyes to how awful the international community is to women in my field. I always kind of hoped that at university level sexism would be recognised as a problem and dealt with because that would go someway to make up for the complete lack of accountability that I feel exists on the conference circuit. I hoped that whilst we're vulnerable when in the outside world, the university at least had our backs.
Snowdrop18 · 11/01/2018 16:58
Do other female staff feel as you do?
I know how hard it is to get people on board with stuff like this - they don't want to be seen as making a fuss etc. But if enough of you feel like this - or if you have a woman in a very senior post, Dean etc, could you talk to them?
LRDtheFeministDragon · 11/01/2018 21:35
That is absolutely horrible.
It isn't on par, but last term I overheard one of my students commenting negatively on my 'dykey' haircut and it actually really upset me. It didn't occur to me to do anything and, as in your case, the student was under the influence. But I do find it shocking that students think it's ok to say these things.
user19283746 · 12/01/2018 00:00
LRD, I have had "jokes" about my sexuality from staff at several institutions. As you say it is shocking that people think it is OK. Complaining would probably backfire on me.
LRDtheFeministDragon · 12/01/2018 10:06
The whole thing makes me tempted to start each term with a lecture about professionalism. Which would probably not be a bad thing.
Viewofhedges · 12/01/2018 23:22
We had some issues last term with similar behaviour from some students. This week we had a joint 'welcome back' lecture which began with two senior staff (male and female) and me laying down the (equality) law, telling them that they would be disciplined /sent down if we heard of any further incidents. We spent at least half an hour explaining how comments are of the same scale as full blown Harvey Weinstein. They listened, we meant it, and some of the female students offered me a fist bump afterwards. It's there, OP, it's horrible, but with dept allies it should be possible to call it. I hope you find some. I'd feel awful if I hadn't found mine.
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