Things are afoot at Harvey Mudd College, an elite STEM school. The natives are restless.
Last month, too, a controversial report regarding student workload and faculty opinion of students leaked to the student newspaper, The Student Life. A committee examining the college’s classroom environment commissioned a study from the Center of Inquiry at Wabash College in Indiana. Two representatives from the center visited campus and conducted focus groups with students and faculty members.
Some faculty members, meanwhile, told the interviewers that students were not prepared for their classes, and that they’d observed deterioration in the quality of students accepted to Harvey Mudd over the years. They described students as wed to their phones and not committed to the sciences.
I could believe the “wedded to their phones” line. I wonder about the balance between the genders on this issue. Do women have their face in the phone more? What are the two sexes doing on their phones? Personally, I was once criticized for having my face in the phone during lunch, but I am an INTJ, and I was doing INTJ intellectual development stuff with it. What about everybody else?
Also, the quality of students have decreased. I wonder why…
When administrators didn’t respond to the demands, Klawe said, the students staged the sit-in April 12.
Students who staged the sit-in did not respond to interview requests. FEMUnion at Harvey Mudd, a student group that advocates for women in science, technology, mathematics and engineering fields, wrote in a Facebook message to Inside Higher Ed that the student organizers “were tired” and did not wish to be interviewed.
Since when does a woman student advocacy group have nothing to say? Perhaps their position would not stand up to scrutiny.
Klawe described the significant shifts that have occurred on campus in the past decade — white men have historically dominated at the college — until it attempted to diversify the campus, a campaign that has seen relative success.
While leadership there has recruited more women — to the point where they comprise nearly 50 percent of the student body — gains in the numbers of Hispanic and black students were sluggish until recent years, Klawe said. As a college recognized for its sciences, Harvey Mudd competes with institutions like Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, both with higher profiles.
I see. The women are 50% of the student body of a STEM college. Let that soak in.
There was probably an enormous effort taken to get there. As we all know, women really don’t like STEM (at least large numbers of them). Sometimes, they like the concept of being a STEM person, but then the work sets in. That is not appealing. The work, the challenge of STEM is probably best tackled by those who have lots of testosterone, making them single minded and driven.
Students pointed out a couple years ago that all lecturers in a campus speaker series were white men, Klawe said. In a required, basic course for engineering majors, women performed poorly until the college tweaked how it was taught, bringing in a hands-on component in which students built mini robots that could function underwater. The same mathematics concepts were being taught, but in a way that would appeal and allow women to thrive, Klawe said.
So they made the introductory engineering course more hands-on. That probably would favor the fellas one would think, as guys are very oriented to hands-on mechanical things. Probably, the girls enlisted the guys to help with their robots, easing their load in the course.
Normally, girls do well in typical classroom learning, the memorize and regurgitate regimen. Perhaps the tweak was to make it more in this form. Would this was the allow women to thrive change?
Probably the reason that the College is having so many issues is that they have distorted the situation. Undoubtedly there are lots of students who really should not be there, either because of lack of preparation, desire or temperament. It plays out in frustration directed toward most everything except the real problem. Square peg — meet round hole.