But surely your work deserves a lower mark

Posted: July 28, 2011 by Jender in implicit bias

Much of what I’ve experienced as a woman in philosophy is indistinguishable from generally being a woman in a society that convinces itself there’s no longer any such thing as gender discrimination while perpetuating myths of male superiority. What’s especially grievous, perhaps, is that we would hope educated men would know better. I have many stories I could share. Here’s one.

I remember as a grad student working through some logic proofs on the error-riddled software our self-aggrandizing Professor D had coded himself. Basically we were the guinea pigs test-running the beta version. But he graded us, nonetheless, and he emphasized that for our homework submissions, we should print out any error codes as well as the whole process of our attempts, to document our progress. Just handing in the answers proved nothing, he said. And we were allowed to work in groups, which was good news for P, a male friend of mine who couldn’t figure out how to install the program. We ran the proofs together, with him helping out occasionally but I doing most of the work. I printed my complete homework and P copied and pasted just the solutions into his document to print and hand in. He received a 98%; I received an 82%. We had exactly the same answers. When I confronted Prof D, he exclaimed that he couldn’t possibly comment without P’s work there, as well, which I happily gave him. Prof D became flustered and mumbled something about the grade being representative of the quality work we were each doing thus far. I pointed out that this was our first assessment opportunity, and that I regularly participated with the correct answers in class discussions. He said, “How does a 93% sound?” He would not be persuaded to give us the same grade. But I reported this incident to my advisor, who was also the department chair. I believe she talked to Prof. D because he later became an advocate for my teaching Logic in the dept.

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