Women in Academia: Who is part of the discussion?

From time to time, events, such as proposed or passed budget cuts, occur at the university, state, or national level to which the entire university responds. Generally speaking, academics are pretty well tapped in to the news, and so there’s often quite a bit of discussion about current events.

Most conversation still happens one-on-one or in small groups, but more and more people are talking to each other in open forums made possible through the use of things like list-servs, and these open forum discussions feel and behave very differently. Regardless of the type of discussion (one-on-one, open forum), most of this discussion happens within groups (graduate students talking with other graduate students and faculty talking with other faculty), however, there is some cross-over. The amount and format of the cross-over differs, though, from department to department and school to school: some places have strict policies about whether students can email the general faculty list-serv, while others encourage student involvement in the discussion of program-related issues and broader topics.

What do you think is the best way of going about these discussions? Open discussions between faculty and graduate students should certainly not replace the discussions within those groups, but I find myself torn about the addition of such an open dialog: on the one hand, I believe that allowing for multiple perspectives to be voiced in an open dialog can only help a discussion be as productive as possible, but on the other hand, I am concerned about the potential effects of the strict academic hierarchy in squelching discussion, causing an “open” discussion to actually be a closed one.

Ideally, I would like to see discussions happen between faculty and students in an open forum, however, I would like for them to be treated, at least in part, as career mentorship on the part of the faculty. Participating in such discussions will be crucial as one continues in academia, and understanding how they occur is vital. The demographics of graduate students still differ dramatically from the demographics of professors at most R1 institutions. In order to make the best decisions or have the most productive discussion, voices that represent academics at all stages in their career must be heard and given a forum. Without that, the members of the university may be moving in tandem, but they certainly won’t be moving forward together.

2 replies on “Women in Academia: Who is part of the discussion?”

In my experience, there is too much talking.  Is that cynical of me?  At least in my time in graduate school and as a faculty member, there has been no shortage of dialogue amongst groups, and there are meetings to discuss everything.  And the faculty meetings.  Oh the faculty meetings.  It’s like everybody forgot how to be an efficient, social person, and everything gets bogged down in details like where to put the “the” in a course description.

Right now my campus is having a huge university-wide open dialogue (though the opinions are NOT split on this issue) about a major institutional issue, and faculty are encouraging students, grad students, adjuncts, etc. to come ask questions/learn more/discuss during open office hours. I’m under the impression that’s not common. Some faculty have gone to fancy important meetings and some faculty and students/grads/etc. have gone to rallies and demonstrations and stuff so it’s all a conversation. I hope it 1. works and 2. encourages more open discussion of campus issues and department issues.

Though I’d say in general our dept. is fairly conversational about the institution in general. It’s not super segregated, I wouldn’t say. Though I don’t have much to compare us to.

[Also, to clarify, I’m not on a pepper-spray/OWS crisis campus–it is a different major issue. Just to be clear. Ha.]

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