Monday, January 5, 2015
Most of the variations in brain structure between males and females are minimal and relative to the difference in average body size between men and women. Others don’t correlate with any specific advantage or disadvantage. For instance, adult male brains are on average 6 to 10 percent larger than female brains, but there is data from Harvard researchers to suggest females have more connectivity between hemispheres. The differences can be even more exaggerated in childhood, when boys and girls of the same age can have as much as a 50 percent difference in brain volume during the steep part of the growth curve. All of this makes it difficult, and indeed foolish, to draw conclusions about differences in brain function based on differences in anatomy, at least when it comes to talking about males and females.
The fact that there are differences in neural anatomy between the two sexes, however, is undisputed. The differences are present in early fetal life, as hormones already have altered the destiny of brain regions that are set up to go either way in the embryo. This is called sexual dimorphism, and one region that is heavily altered by early differences in levels of the female hormone estrogen or the male hormone testosterone is the hypothalamus. This turns out to be very important because the job of the hypothalamus throughout life is to regulate hormones in women and men.
Saturday, January 3, 2015
Harvard Law School has entered into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education to update its sexual assault and harassment policies after a four-year investigation concluded its handling of student complaints did not comply with Title IX.
The department’s Office for Civil Rights concluded the school gave law students accused of sexual harassment or assault with more opportunities to present evidence and appeal decisions than it did their accusers, according to an announcement on Tuesday.
Additionally, investigators concluded that that law school set too high a threshold for determining when harassment occurred—a “clear and convincing” standard of evidence rather than the “preponderance of evidence” standard required under Title IX.
Investigators examined the two cases of sexual harassment filed by law students since 2005. “[The Office for Civil Rights] concluded that the law school failed to provide a prompt and equitable resolution of the two complaints,” Department of Education said in a letter to law dean Martha Minnow.
More background on the original complaint filed in 2011 is here.
The civil rights division of the US Department of Education is investigating Harvard Law School after a Boston lawyer filed a complaint with the agency alleging that school policies regarding response to sexual assault allegations violate Title IX rules against discrimination on campuses.
She said the most troubling violation is the school’s policy of waiting to address complaints on campus until police and prosecutors have finished investigating, a practice she called “running out the clock.’’ Murphy said criminal investigations can drag on until after victims graduate, leaving them vulnerable to retaliation from their attackers and others during the rest of their time in school.
A federal district court ruled that a female professor threatened with dismissal on what she alleges are discriminatory grounds is not entitled to a preliminary injunction maintaining the status quo of her employment. In Bagley v. Yale University (Dec. 29, 2014), the Connecticut district court ruled that the professor could not show "irreparable harm" necessary to qualify for the injunction because the possibility of reinstatement and/or damages after a full trial on the merits negated any claim to irreparable harm. She alleged irreparable harm from loss of academic reputation and loss of ability to care for her 16-year old son for whom she is the sole parent, This decision seems to fly in the face of standard Remedies-law doctrine that considers irreparable harm a rather innocous standard, and which Professor Doug Laycock asserts is a dead rule. And the decision seems to reach broadly, eliminating PIs in virtually any employment case under this reasoning.
The complaint detailing Professor Bagley's allegations is here. As a "professor of practice" in a business school, she is in a situation so similar to many women in academia working in legal writing and clinics and other fields under long-term contracts.
Thursday, January 1, 2015
The U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday sued the Chicago Board of Education, alleging that it discriminated against pregnant teachers at a northwest side elementary school.
The suit, filed in federal court in the third largest U.S. city, alleges that starting in 2009, Scammon Elementary School Principal Mary Weaver subjected female teachers to lower performance evaluations, discipline, threatened firing and firing because of their pregnancies.
The suit also alleges that the board approved the firing of six recently pregnant teachers at Scammon and forced two others to leave the school.
"No woman should have to make a choice between her job and having a family," said Vanita Gupta, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's civil rights division. "Federal law requires employers to maintain a workplace free of discrimination on the basis of sex."
Weaver, who won a Chicago Public Schools principal achievement award last year, made negative comments to and about pregnant Scammon teachers, the suit said. She responded to one teacher's pregnancy announcement with "I can't believe you are doing this to me. You are going to be out right before [mandatory] testing," the suit said.
It said Weaver asked another teacher who was nursing and expressing breast milk: "That isn't over yet?" and "When will you be done with that?"
Trigger Warnings in the Classroom. One view:
“It should go without saying that solving a problem requires talking about it, learning about its history, and—where they exist—discussing the surrounding legal issues. Is the point of law school to make future lawyers feel comfortable, or is it to enable them to be zealous advocates for their clients, who may include victims of rape and other crimes? [or accused defendants]”
Thursday, December 11, 2014
Many in academia have long known about how the practice of student evaluationsof professors is inherently biased against female professors. Students, after all, are just as likely as the public in general to have the same ugly, if unconscious, biases about women in authority. Just as polling data continues to show that a majority of Americans think being a man automatically makes you better in the boss department, many professors worry that students just automatically rate male professors as smarter, more authoritative, and more awesome overall just because they are men. Now, a new study out North Carolina State University shows that there is good reason for that concern.
One of the problems with simply assuming that sexism drives the tendency of students to giving higher ratings to men than women is that students are evaluating professors as a whole, making it hard to separate the impact of gender from other factors, like teaching style and coursework. But North Carolina researcher Lillian MacNell, along with co-authors Dr. Adam Driscoll and Dr. Andrea Hunt, found a way to blind students to the actual gender of instructors by focusing on online course studies. The researchers took two online course instructors, one male and one female, and gave them two classes to teach. Each professor presented as his or her own gender to one class and the opposite to the other.
The results were astonishing. Students gave professors they thought were male much higher evaluations across the board than they did professors they thought were female, regardless of what gender the professors actually were. When they told students they were men, both the male and female professors got a bump in ratings. When they told the students they were women, they took a hit in ratings. Because everything else was the same about them, this difference has to be the result of gender bias.
“The difference in the promptness rating is a good example for discussion,” MacNell explains in the press release for the study. "Classwork was graded and returned to students at the same time by both instructors. But the instructor students thought was male was given a 4.35 rating out of 5. The instructor students thought was female got a 3.55 rating.” Considering that professors were rated on a five-point scale, losing an entire point on the "promptness" question just because students think you're female is a major hit.
“The ratings that students give instructors are really important, because they’re used to guide higher education decisions related to hiring, promotions and tenure,” says Lillian MacNell, lead author of a paper on the work and a Ph.D. student in sociology at NC State. “And if the results of these evaluations are inherently biased against women, we need to find ways to address that problem.”
Monday, December 8, 2014
In one short paragraph of a 34-page memo released on Dec. 1, the Department of Education articulated a clear stance on gender identity, saying transgender students in public schools should be enrolled in single-sex classes that align with how they live their lives day-to-day.
“We’re thrilled,” says Shannon Minter, the legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “It’s so critical to the health and well-being of those students, and it’s going to be so helpful to have that guidance in writing so that schools understand what their obligations are.”
The memo is explicit that federal law protects students’ decisions made in accordance with their gender identity. “Under Title IX,” it reads, a school “must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity in all aspects of the planning, implementation, enrollment, operation, and evaluation of single-sex classes
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Meera Deo (Thomas Jefferson), The Ugly Truth About Legal Academia, 80 Brooklyn L. Rev. (2015).
The Diversity in Legal Academia (DLA) project is the first formal, comprehensive, mixed-method empirical examination of the law faculty experience, utilizing an intersectional lens to investigate the personal and professional lives of legal academics. This Article reports on the first set of findings from that study, which I personally designed and implemented. DLA data reveal that ongoing privilege and institutional discrimination based on racism and sexism create distinct challenges for particular law faculty. Interactions between women of color law faculty and both their faculty colleagues and their students indicate persisting racial and gender privilege, resulting in ongoing bias. These findings cry out for law schools to intensify efforts at strengthening rather than de-emphasizing diversity, as many may be tempted to do during this period of great turmoil in legal education. In fact, law schools should provide greater institutional support to faculty, which will help not only those who are underrepresented, marginalized, and vulnerable, but all law faculty, law students, and the legal profession overall. This Article draws from both quantitative and qualitative data gathered from this national sample of law faculty to focus on the ways in which race, gender, and the combination of the two affect law faculty interactions with colleagues and students. It also proposes individual strategies and structural solutions that can be utilized in order for legal academia to live up to its full potential.
Friday, November 21, 2014
Alexandra Brodsky, a Yale Law student, wrote an editorial in WaPo:
In 2008, Wagatwe Wanjuki reported to her school, Tufts, that her boyfriend had repeatedly assaulted her. But the college refused to investigate the claim. The stress of the abuse and institutional betrayal took a toll on her grades, but without the school’s support she could not afford the tutoring she needed. Tufts then expelled Wanjuki for her substandard academic performance in 2009. (Tufts declined to comment on Wanjuki’s experience, citing confidentiality laws.) No longer enrolled as a student, Wanjuki’s student debt continued to accrue. Years later, she transferred to Rutgers University. Now a prominent anti-violence activist (and friend of mine), she graduated in August with a degree in sociology. But she also has more than $100,000 in debt from two schools.
Under Title IX, schools must ensure that all students have equal access to educational opportunities regardless of gender. According to courts and the Department of Education, this requirement includes an affirmative duty for colleges and universities to help survivors of gender-based violence continue their educations. That means schools must provide services such as tutors, dorm changes that allow victims to avoid their abusers, and mental health support to survivors who report harassment or abuse – even if they do not pursue disciplinary charges against the offender.
Yet stories from students across the country show that colleges and universities often shirk their responsibilities to support survivors. Students are then left to fend for themselves (with the help of their families, if they are lucky) as they try to stay in school. Thousands of dollars can disappear into rent for a new apartment off campus, away from an abusive ex, or into bills for hours of much-needed counseling. When a school denies survivors the services and support they need to recover, students may be forced to take out additional loans — or even to leave school, a semester’s tuition down the drain.
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Jed Rubenfeld, NYT, Mishandling Rape
Our strategy for dealing with rape on college campuses has failed abysmally. Female students are raped in appalling numbers, and their rapists almost invariably go free. Forced by the federal government, colleges have now gotten into the business of conducting rape trials, but they are not competent to handle this job. They are simultaneously failing to punish rapists adequately and branding students sexual assailants when no sexual assault occurred.
We have to transform our approach to campus rape to get at the root problems, which the new college processes ignore and arguably even exacerbate.***
Is the answer, then, as conservatives argue, deregulation — getting the government off the universities’ backs? Is it, as the Harvard law professors suggest, strengthening procedural protections for the accused?
Neither strategy would get to the true problems: rapists going unpunished, the heady mixture of sex and alcohol on college campuses, and the ways in which colleges are expanding the concept of sexual assault to change its basic meaning.***
But if schools are genuinely interested in preventing sexual assault, they need to overhaul how they think about assault and what they do about it. Prevention, rather than adjudication, should be a college’s priority.
Here's the response from 75 Yale Law Students. Professor's Campus Rape Op-Ed Gets it Wrong [Thanks Dara Purvis].
More than 75 students at Yale Law School have signed an open letter pushing back on a recent New York Times column about campus rape written by one of their professors.***
[W]hat has drawn the most ire are Rubenfeld's comments about consent. In his column, Rubenfeld characterizes affirmative consent policies as unenforceable and overly broad, and suggests that such an approach categorically redefines all drunk sex as rape.
Saturday, November 1, 2014
Susan Hanley Duncan (Louisville) has published The Devil is in the Details: Will the Campus SAVE Act Provide More or Less Protection to Victims of Sexual Assault [WL only], 40 J. College & Univer. Law 443 (2014). From the Introduction:
Campus violence, especially sexual harassment which includes sexual violence, remains a major issue facing colleges and universities today. Colleges and universities must not abrogate their legal obligations to law enforcement; they have a shared responsibility under federal civil rights laws to proactively provide safe environments for students to live and learn. Despite several laws addressing the problem, guidance from federal agencies, and greater education efforts, the statistics still reflect a sad reality-young people in colleges and universities, especially young women, are not safe. The White House Council on Women and Girls released a report in January 2014, Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action, which portrayed a frightening landscape of sexual violence on college campuses, in the military, and among certain defined populations including LGBT individuals and Native American women.More needs to be done now. To that end, President Obama and Congress recently revised legislation hoping these modifications would make college and university campuses safer. In addition, the President formed a White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, a task force of senior administration officials to provide him with recommendations within ninety days on the topic of best practices for preventing and responding to sexual assault and rape. In addition, he requested that the task force explore how well universities and colleges are complying with the law, and provide him with ideas on how to increase transparency with enforcement and encourage better collaboration between governmental agencies enforcing the law.This renewed focus on campus sexual assaults comes at the same time the new Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act (Campus SaVE Act) goes into effect on March 7, 2014. This new law seeks to increase transparency, accountability, and education surrounding the issue of campus violence, including sexual assaults, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking. The law remains hotly debated within victim advocate circles and college and university administrators as to whether it will help victims or reduce their protections under Title IX. All the interested parties agree, however, that the law leaves many questions unanswered and are anxiously watching the negotiated rulemaking process in hopes for more clarity.
Friday, October 17, 2014
Like every other matriculating student at Wellesley, which is just west of Boston, Timothy Boatwright was raised a girl and checked “female” when he applied. Though he had told his high-school friends that he was transgender, he did not reveal that on his application, in part because his mother helped him with it, and he didn’t want her to know. Besides, he told me, “it seemed awkward to write an application essay for a women’s college on why you were not a woman.” Like many trans students, he chose a women’s college because it seemed safer physically and psychologically.
Last spring, as a sophomore, Timothy decided to run for a seat on the student-government cabinet, the highest position that an openly trans student had ever sought at Wellesley. The post he sought was multicultural affairs coordinator, or “MAC,” responsible for promoting “a culture of diversity” among students and staff and faculty members. Along with Timothy, three women of color indicated their intent to run for the seat. But when they dropped out for various unrelated reasons before the race really began, he was alone on the ballot. An anonymous lobbying effort began on Facebook, pushing students to vote “abstain.” Enough “abstains” would deny Timothy the minimum number of votes Wellesley required, forcing a new election for the seat and providing an opportunity for other candidates to come forward. The “Campaign to Abstain” argument was simple: Of all the people at a multiethnic women’s college who could hold the school’s “diversity” seat, the least fitting one was a white man.
Thursday, October 16, 2014
In our zeal to address campus sexual assault, and compensate for past inaction, we may be running afoul of basic due process protections. It's not a zero sum game here--we can both respond meaningfully to campus assault and comply with the usual and important protections of due process.
Dozens of Harvard Law School faculty members are asking the university to withdraw its new sexual misconduct policy, saying that it violates basic principles of fairness and would do more harm than good.
“Harvard has adopted procedures for deciding cases of alleged sexual misconduct which lack the most basic elements of fairness and due process, are overwhelmingly stacked against the accused, and are in no way required” by the federal anti-discrimination law, known as Title IX, they wrote in an op-ed article signed by 28 current and retired members of the Harvard Law faculty and posted online by The Boston Globe on Tuesday night.
“It’s a totally secret process, in which real genuine unfairnesses can happen, and it’s so airtight that no one would know,” Janet Halley, one of the professors who signed the article, said Wednesday.
More here, New Republic, Accused College Rapists Have Rights Too: The Victims Deserve Justice. The Men Deserve Due Process.
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Public, single-gender schools have become more common over the last decade, but new research shows that people might choose such schools based on de-bunked ideas of differences in male and female brains.
Meagan Patterson, associate professor of psychology and research in education, co-authored a study with Erin Pahlke of Whitman College and Rebecca Bigler of the University of Texas in which they surveyed parents, teachers and students at both an all-girls school in the southwestern United States as well as parents, teachers and students from co-ed schools in the same district. They asked respondents about reasons that their district had opened an all-girls school and their personal endorsement of these reasons. The study is published in the journal Sex Roles.
They found that teachers largely embrace the idea that differences in boys’ and girls’ brains affect the way they learn. Neuroscience research fails to support that claim. But despite neuroscientists showing that such differences are small and the similarities between the two genders’ brains and learning styles are much greater, the idea has nto teaching materials, the media and acceptance in society.
Saturday, October 11, 2014
The Malala Scholarship Act at Congress.gov
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Thursday that he had instructed the State University of New York to overhaul its approach to preventing, investigating and prosecuting sexual assault, including making affirmative consent the rule on all 64 of its campuses.
Mr. Cuomo, announcing the change at a news conference in Manhattan, said SUNY’s new approach, which is to be put into effect in the next 60 days, would eventually lead to a statewide law regulating sexual assault policies at all New York colleges and universities.
Calling campus sexual assault a national epidemic, the governor said: “This is Harvard and Yale and Princeton, Albany and Buffalo and Oswego. It is not SUNY’s problem by origination. I would suggest it should be SUNY’s problem to solve and SUNY’s place to lead.”
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill into law that makes California the first in the nation to have a clear definition of when people agree to sex. The law goes further than the common "no means no" standard, which has been blamed for bringing ambiguity into investigations of sexual assault cases.
The new law seeks both to improve how universities handle rape and sexual assault accusations and to clarify the standards, requiring an "affirmative consent" and stating that consent can't be given if someone is asleep or incapacitated by drugs or alcohol.
"Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent," the law states, "nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time."
The White House rolled out a new sexual assault prevention campaign engaging men as part of the solution: It's On Us
What College Men Think of the New Rape Prevention Campaign That's Targeting Them. According to this report, they're ok with it.
Saturday, September 27, 2014
Integrating fraternities will reduce campus sexual assault?
Slate, Accept Women--Or Else
All on-campus fraternities at Wesleyan University must soon become coeducational or they will be shut down, the university announced Monday, giving its small but often under-fire Greek system a three-year deadline to open its doors to female students.
“The culture of these houses contributes to the culture of sexual assault in a way we weren’t willing to stand for anymore,” Updegrove said in May. In a blog post in April, Roth wrote that it’s "clear that many students see fraternity houses as spaces where women enter with a different status than in any other building on campus, sometimes with terrible consequences."