WISP panel explores sexism in program
By Robert Isaacs
Published on Monday, February 5, 1996
An informal panel yesterday at Amarna undergraduate society discussed sexism in the Women In Science Project, addressing in particular whether or not the First-Year Internship Program should continue.
The panel included Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Mary Childers, David Hemmer '96, Director of the Women in Science Project Mary Pavone and Matthew Soldo '99.
The First-Year Internship Program, which provides freshmen women with research internships in the sciences, is the only portion of the WISP program that is not open to both sexes.
Last term Soldo wrote an article, "Women Think WISP is Sexist Too" published by The Dartmouth Review about the program, alleging that it is sexist because it excludes men.
Earlier this term, Hemmer wrote a column in The Dartmouth echoing Soldo's message that the First-Year Internship Program is sexist because it excludes men.
Neither Hemmer nor Soldo, despite their opposition to the internship program, denied the excellent opportunity these internships provide.
"I think it's wonderful that Dartmouth provides these opportunities, but should they be for women only?" Soldo said.
Hemmer questioned whether the opportunity justifies the gender distinctions the program makes.
"The goals of the program -- increasing the number of women in science and their self-esteem -- could be better accomplished if it included men," Hemmer said. "Right now, an internship is not earned; it is more of a handout."
Childers maintained that people should not discuss the program in terms of self-esteem.
"There are a variety of reasons why women do not enter and persist in the sciences," she said.
Pavone said, "The original goals of the internship program were to give first-year women hands-on experience and add a mentor aspect, thereby complementing the large, impersonal introductory science classes."
WISP is now in its sixth year, and, according to Pavone, about 360 women have gone through the internship program. About 60 percent of those women have majored in science.
Whereas Pavone seemed to see that as adequate justification, Hemmer disagreed.
"I don't think that adequate justification exists for the preferential treatment accorded to women," Hemmer said. "I think there's a value judgment being made here."
"Whites are horribly under-represented in African and African-American Studies," Hemmer continued. "Why is that overlooked while so much effort is invested in involving women in the sciences?"
Childers responded by noting the history of science includes the exclusion of women, a history that has produced huge imbalances.
"If it becomes apparent that whites are being excluded or discouraged from African and African-American Studies, then I think we would want to address that situation, too," Childers said.