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Radcliffe Hosts Student Panel on Gender Bias

By Tamara Koss

A panel of women undergraduates gathered last night in the Lyman Common Room to discuss gender bias and its impact on the learning environment at Harvard.

Led by Peggy Mclntosh, associate director of the Wellesley Center for Research on Women, nine Radcliffe undergraduates described their experiences with gender discrimination at Harvard and said women still have not achieved equal status in the classroom.

The women, speaking to an audience of about 80, said they had been consistently interrupted by men in section and were sometimes not taken seriously by professors and teaching fellows.

Sheila Kannappan '91 said she was consistently cut off by a professor whenever she tried to ask a question in a science class. When she consulted her teaching fellow, he said that it was unfortunate but that she would have to accept the situation, Kannappan said.

Government concentrator Bridget C. Asay '92 said that, during a tutorial discussion on race and gender equality, a male colleague had told her she "could not understand a point because she was a woman."

Asay said comments such as this made her feel excluded from the class and eventually led her to participate less in section.

Women government concentrators said the debate format of tutorial encourages students to take sides and be overly aggressive.

"When classes are structured as a debate and people are encouraged to attack other's arguments instead of listening to them, the class is no longer an educational experience," said Asay. "Women are socialized to not speak up, especially when they are going to be cut down."

Women fear being labeled "pushy, bitchy, or domineering," said Janet S. McIntosh '91, adding that they fear men may find outspoken women "sexually unpalatable."

Other women recalled being hesitant to enter their fields because they had been told men inevitably out-perform women.

Angela S. Lee '92 said that she found herself adopting a submissive role in her science classes because of the prevailing prejudice against women in science.

"A lot of intellectual achievement is self-confidence," said Angela S. Lee '92, a neurophysiology concentrator.

Students criticized the Harvard curriculum for failing to address women's issues.

One panelist said that she believed men are not interested in what women have to say because they cannot relate to their experiences.

Robin Fass '91 said that men prefer to distance themselves from the issues being discussed by being theoretical while women get personally involved.

"The content of women's contributions is often considered inferior or weird and dismissed as irrelevant," said Fass.

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