Panel Focuses on Role of Women at Harvard
Students and Faculty Discuss Mentorship Programs and 'Gendered' Behavioral Styles
About 50 students gathered yesterday evening to examine the role and status of women at Harvard in everything from classes to finals clubs.
The discussion, held in Boylston Hall's Ticknor Lounge, focused on three areas: institutional problems, perpetual male dominance and differing behavioral styles.
Several students said male images are omnipresent on campus.
"Annenberg Hall is full of pictures and busts of men," said Sarah K. Hurwitz '99. "I'm not saying they shouldn't be there, but there must be some images of women."
Hurwitz also said that change tends to come slowly at the College.
"It's frustrating to me when a small change like 'freshman' to 'first-year' encounters so much opposition," she said.
Last spring, Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 vetoed an Undergraduate Council petition to remove the word "freshman" from Harvard titles and communications.
Andrei H. Cherny '97, one of four men at the event, said he believes Harvard should accept its history while working to assure equal opportunities for women.
"Perpetuating segregationist institutions is not the way to go," said Cherny, who is a Crimson editor. "We should instead try to break down the walls preventing equality between males and females."
Cherny spoke in response to suggestions that women establish a female finals club.
Much of the discussion centered on the need for more and better mentorship programs for women.
Several students said mentor programs are needed to counter the dominant presence of men in leadership positions on campus.
Hurwitz said she and several other students will establish a mentorship program next semester.
The different behavioral styles of men and women were also a topic of discussion.
Avery W. Gardiner '97, the moderator of the discussion, said men and women generally behave differently in academic and extracurricular settings.
Some soft-spoken women can be drowned out in meetings and class sections, she said.
"Women need to learn to deal with this problem, and men need to recognize that it exists," Gardiner said.
Students also focused on the need for Radcliffe to better define its image.
Both organizers and participants praised the format of yesterday's event.
"I think the informal nature of the discussion lent itself to our topic," said Massy Tadjedin '99, who organized the event. "It facilitated the generation of ideas."
Gardiner said she was pleased that so many different views were expressed.
"The size of the group was large enough to include disparate opinions, but small enough to keep the conversation intimate," she said.
The session was organized by the Institute of Politics as one of its weekly Pizza and Politics events.