I started the PhD program this fall in one of the departments that was put in the “needs improvement” category in the Pluralist’s Guide Climate section this summer. I just wanted to report that so far my experience has been incredibly positive. The grad students treat each other as equals and don’t compete with one another or vie for attention; the faculty is both supportive and respectful. I’ve sort of been around the philosophy block a bit, so I am aware that this isn’t always (isn’t usually?) true. One thing that has struck me in seminars is how careful the faculty are–in every case I’ve seen–to make sure that the discussion doesn’t get dominated by particular people. The older grad students especially seem to have this ingrained in them, so I suspect it is systematic. They are always careful not to interrupt each other, to make sure there wasn’t someone else waiting to speak, even to point out someone who might have been missed. I’ve also never once witnessed a
woman’s contribution to a discussion be dismissed, either by a faculty member or a grad student, or be reappropriated by a male student, as is often discussed here. Often, you’ll hear ‘I want to try a different way to make X’s point’, or ‘I think you might have misunderstood X’s point; I think she was trying to say…’. This kind of behavior cuts across genders in both directions.
Additionally, for the first time ever, I’ve gone more than a week or so without ever hearing an inappropriate comment, a sexist joke. No male faculty have flirted with me, or even been anything but extremely professional (yet friendly) to me. No one has suggested that I’m only here because I’m a woman; no one has suggested that I don’t deserve to be here. No one has suggested this about the other women in my class either. No one has suggested that I shouldn’t do work in the (traditionally very male dominated) areas I am interested in. In short, I have had zero experiences of the kind that suggest that my department needs to get a better climate. Its climate is great, for both women and men. And I don’t think that it is the case that I’ve been sheltered from the badness or that I simply have yet to witness it; the general unity of the grad student body, and the obvious respect that the faculty has for the grad students, makes itself known on a daily basis.