The editor responds: MIT alumni revisited

Bharathi Jagadeesh bjag at u.washington.edu
Wed Nov 1 17:16:43 EST 2000


Susan Forsburg writes about the Technology Review's response to her
letter about the anti-woman comments uttered by a MIT alum.

The editor's response:

ED> The editorial mission of the MIT news is to objectively cover the
ED> Institute and its alumni constituency. Contrary to Ms. Forsburg's
ED> assertion that "Alumni magazines are supposed to be feel-good
ED> organs of the institution," the mission of today's TR is not to be
ED> a cheerleader for MIT. The staff of MIT News presents the latest
ED> news about campus and alumni to our readers, and we let readers
ED> make their own value judgements about what it means to MIT and
ED> their lives. As for Ms. Forsburg's assertion that we would not have
ED> printed derogatory remarks about an African-American or a Hispanic
ED> scientist, she raises a good point which the staff of the MIT news
ED> will take into account in future issues.

Well, what I'm most intrigued by is the criptic comment at the end --
That they will have to take into account the her [Susan's] assertion
that similar comments made about African-Americans would not have been
included in the review. What does this mean exactly? Should we now
expect similar statements about African-Americans being unfit for
science? How about derogatory remarks about Chinese or Indian
scientists? Are they promising, in the future, to give equal opportunity
to all forms of prejudice and discrimination? The scientist in me kind
of wants to put them to the test, though it wouldn't be worth having the
comments published in the journal.

It probably really bugged the editors that Susan called their work "feel
good"  and not serious journalism. But, if they seriously wanted to
discuss the issue, the generic statement "But women are here to stay . .
. " isn't nearly a strong enough discussion of the subject. It doesn't
directly address the points made in Horne's comments. Addressing the
contributions that women have made through history at MIT, the problems
they faced, etc., might have. In fact the "But women are here to stay"
even sounds a bit like that's happening in spite of their "lack of a
creative gift."

I saw an article recently that said that women are 50% more likely to
advance through the initial levels when their auditions for orchestra
are screened (i.e. judges can only hear, but not see the musician). I'd
always suspected that there could be some degree of bias, but the
numbers surprised me.

Bharathi Jagadeesh

bjag at u.washington.edu


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