Monday, April 12, 2010

Thoughts on Treme

In case you're interested, I have thoughts on Treme over at The Atlantic.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Parents of Constance McMillian's Peers Prove They Haven't Matured Since High School


Constance McMillen, the Mississippi teen who was barred from taking her girlfriend to prom and then had a judge rule that the school board had violated her rights, was duped by her peers into going to a "fake prom" that only five other students attended, according to reporting by The Advocate. Her peers, meanwhile, went to another prom organized by parents at an "undisclosed location."

The level of immaturity demonstrated by not only McMillen's peers but also her parents is the kind of thing I might expect to see on season one of Gossip Girl, but certainly never thought parents of the Mississippi teens would think that such social outcasting is acceptable behavior. Perhaps parents thought they were taking a principled stand against homosexuality, but instead, they ended up demonstrating how immature they were. Grow up, parents.

Cross posted.

Leaflet of the Day

From Kathe Kollwitz of the Guerrilla Girls:

Monday, April 5, 2010

Yale Bans Faculty-Undergrad Sexual Relationships

Over at Yale's alumni magazine, Carole Bass writes that Yale University incorporated a ban on sexual relationships between faculty and undergraduate students in its January faculty handbook:

Previously, the university had prohibited such relationships only when the faculty member had “direct pedagogical or supervisory responsibilities” over the student. That remains the rule for affairs between faculty and graduate or professional students, and between grad students and undergrads.

The faculty-undergrad policy came under review last fall as Long undertook a periodic update of the faculty handbook. “We discussed it with a large number of faculty people” before approval by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ steering committee and executive committee.

Overall this seems to be taking the "don't shit where you eat" approach to its faculty. Workplace relationships -- especially where the power dynamic is unbalanced is always tricky and many workplaces have adopted similar policies to Yale's own faculty-undergraduate ban. For instance, many workplaces require notifying a supervisor of a relationship that traverses the manager-subordinate line.

Yale's policy seems much stricter than that and seems pretty much unenforceable. Although it's great to coach your faculty not to cross into inappropriate relationships with students, it makes a lot of assumptions about the ages of undergraduates and faculty members (non-traditional students may sometimes be older than graduate students assisting with classes). As a general guideline it's a good policy, but what would Yale do when encountered with an age-appropriate relationship between two consenting adults?

Cross posted.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Problem with Mentorship

Fortune has a story on "The New Valley Girls" -- Silicon Valley's ladies with power, drive, and ambition. The story seems to focus on the idea that these women aren't using social media to network.
The clock has just struck seven on a Thursday night, and Sheryl Sandberg is networking furiously. Not on Facebook, the site she joined in March as COO and where she boasts 1,114 "friends." No, she's doing it the old-fashioned way, in her Atherton, Calif., living room. She hosts her Silicon Valley soirees a few times a year, and it's always the A-list crowd.
The fact that these women rely on traditional face-to-face networking doesn't come much as a surprise to me. It also doesn't surprise me that women in a field dominated by men have a desire to gather and talk to each other about their problems and failings.

One point that I did find interesting was that these women -- by no accident -- find mentorship from men:
Similarly, Facebook's Sandberg says that her mentors have been men. The first key man in her life, besides her ophthalmologist father, was Larry Summers, who taught her economics her junior year at Harvard. "She wasn't one of my students who raised her hand all the time, but when the midterm came, she got the best grade by some margin," recalls Summers, who went on to be her thesis advisor.
Women do find comfort in talking to one another, but in the male-dominated world of Silicone Valley, they often need to find men to take them on as protegees or they may end up with no mentorship at all. In fact, many of the more successful women in political journalism I know do have male mentors. This can be awkward, like in the recent Newsweek piece on sexism in the office, in which a young female employee admits feeling uncomfortable with casual conversation with male colleagues in the office.
One young colleague recalls being teased about the older male boss who lingered near her desk. "What am I supposed to do with that? Assume that's the explanation for any accomplishments? Assume my work isn't valuable?" she asks. "It gets in your head, which is the most insidious part."
I think it makes male colleagues uncomfortable as well. They want to be helpful without coming across as creepy. But the notion of men and women as not being friends can be so ingrained with some people that that power dynamic is hard to navigate. The best advice I can give to my male colleagues and friends who desire to provide mentorship but don't want to come across as creepy, all I can say is this: Just don't be creepy. Acknowledge when you're trying to help and be clear about the fact that you're not trying to make them uncomfortable.
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