Tuesday, February 10, 2004

BYU Grads Accused of Sexist Views Wednesday, February 28, 2001
BY KIRSTEN STEWART
(c) 2001, THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE

A group of Brigham Young University science faculty members have
apologized to the University of Utah's medical school for a sexist
attitude
displayed by some of BYU science graduates, vowing to address the issue
in
classroom discussions.
The faculty members also said such views do not reflect their
attitude
toward women who pursue careers.
"Thank you for making us aware of this problem, and accept our
apologies
for the limited vision of those persons in your program who make wrongful

judgments about medical training for women," the BYU faculty members
stated
in a letter sent to Victoria Judd, associate dean of the U.'s medical
school.
The Feb. 20 letter was signed by 24 professors.
Judd declined to discuss the issue of sexism in the U.'s medical
program,
though some students say they have experienced sexist attitudes and both
schools apparently are taking steps to address the problem.
In fact, Kent Crookston, dean of the BYU College of Biology and
Agriculture, fears that continued problems might lead the U. to reduce
BYU
graduates accepted into the state's only medical program, according to a
memo
obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune.
The Provo school, owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints, first heard complaints about sexist attitudes of some former
students
in early January during an impromptu meeting with Judd.
Crookston described the meeting in a memo e-mailed Jan. 13 to all
college
personnel and released a copy to The Tribune on Monday.
According to Crookston's memo, Judd told BYU administrators: "Over
the
past several years, some of the male students in [the U.'s medical]
program
have flagrantly belittled female students, challenging their fit in a
professional program that rightfully belongs to men, asserting that women

ought to get on with the business of raising children. Unfortunately, she

said, it appeared that almost all of the harassment originated from
former
BYU students."
Crookston, who did not attend the January meeting, said acceptance of
BYU
students was being revisited. He encouraged the college's faculty to do
its
part in preventing sexist attitudes from flourishing on campus.
Judd wouldn't comment on the memo, which she has not seen. She also
declined to elaborate on the January meeting except to acknowledge that
she
met with Don Bloxham, BYU's pre-med student advisor, and another
administrator "about multiple issues."
But Judd's visit set off an alarm among BYU's pre-med faculty, said
Crookston. So much so that William Bradshaw, a professor of zoology at
BYU,
wrote Judd a letter expressing concern about attitudes toward women in
the
U.'s program on behalf of himself and 23 other faculty.
The letter says BYU faculty are committed to encouraging female
students
in pursuing post-graduate training. "We have specifically criticized
those
negative attitudes which discourage our women by suggesting that their
desire
[to go to medical school] is illegitimate," the letter states.
The letter concludes with a pledge to "eliminate these unfortunate
attitudes" and says the issue has already been "readdressed" in many of
the
college's classrooms.
The task will not be easy, said Crookston, because BYU students'
attitudes often originate in settings and circumstances beyond the
influence
or control of the college and because of the nature of sexist
manifestations.
It can be as subtle, Crookston wrote in his memo, as the note found
tacked to a BYU classroom building wall advertising a social for pre-med
students that said "wives are welcome." The frequency with which Utahns
refer
to women as "girls" could also be interpreted as sexist, he said.
In interviews with a half dozen female medical students at the U.,
two
said the administration's complaints of sexism are exaggerated. Three
described incidents of subtle discriminatory behavior and one complained
of
repeated incidents of blatant sexism and sexual harassment.
But the students who had experienced some sexism said the problem
wasn't
limited to former BYU or Mormon students.
Still, first- and second-year medical students at the U. say they
were
asked to attend a talk on diversity last September.
"It seemed like we were getting lectured," said Josh Larson, a BYU
alumnus and first-year medical student.
He said sexism is not a widespread problem, but clearly is something
the
administration wants to "nip in the bud."
Janet Halter, another BYU graduate and fourth-year medical student,
said
her class wasn't required to attend such lectures. "Maybe it's a bigger
problem for the first-year class, because more women were admitted than
in
the past." Forty-five percent of the students in the U.'s program are
women
-- up from 29 percent just five years ago.
The U.'s medical school has been criticized in the past for accepting

fewer BYU than U. graduates, though the number of applicants from the two

schools is comparable.
If there is any bias in the U.'s admissions, it's a bias toward
in-state
students, Judd said. The majority of the U.'s matriculated medical
students,
78, are Utah residents, most of whom graduated from in-state schools.
In 1999, more BYU students were accepted into the medical school than
any
other student group. But this year, and the four years prior to 1999, U.
undergraduates had the highest acceptance rate, which, Judd said, is
purely a
reflection of the quality of U. applicants.
Crookston said he isn't convinced that sexist attitudes are more
rampant
among BYU students than at other schools, such as the University of
Minnesota
where he taught for 30 years.
Medicine and the hard sciences are notorious for perpetuating a
gender
bias despite gains women have made toward equality in other professional
fields, he said.
What worries Crookston, however, is that female students at BYU won't

complain about sexism they encounter because of the LDS Church's emphasis
on
family and the role of motherhood.
"It could be even worse here and we just don't hear about it," he
said.

e-mail: kstewart@sltrib.com

4 comments:

Jenny said...

I know this is an old entry, but I would like to comment.

Since my graduation from BYU several years ago, I have been disturbed by the way I was treated by the pre-medical advising team. I was basically told by the pre-med advisor that women wanting to go to medical school are wasting their time and the time of the future medical school. This is because women will most likely drop out once they see how much time they have to commit and that it cuts into their child bearing. I was flat out told that I should not go to medical school because I am female. Luckily other biology faculty encouraged me and I developed a keen interest in research and received my PhD in molecular biology and have several published articles. I often wonder how an accredited university can treat students this way.

ClairB said...

Jenny, As you are well aware, the church places great emphasis on women becoming primarily involved in family and having children. That is fine for those for whom that works. But I like the idea that we each peruse our lives in ways that allow us to be fulfilled and contribute to the greater good. And it sounds like that is what you've done.

Did you do any grad work at BYU?

-Clair

deserella said...

I just thought I'd post on here that My doctor Lucinda Bateman just opened a research clinic for Me/CFS and the whole staff is made up of women I believe there are 8 on the team. And this is in Utah. I was pretty stoked about that.

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