Physics Today

Posted on Feb 07, 2008. 5 comments

The semester my Father in Law died I wore my grief like a cheap suit while sorrow trailed behind me in a cloud of suffocating cologne. That’s probably how I slipped, unnoticed through a required graduate physics class with a “C.” I was warned that the professor was a “woman hater” by some well meaning friends. They told me about a classmate, having received a “D” her first semester in his class and how she had to retake the course for a humiliating second semester. She was armed with the professors’ answer key, She came by it honestly. He’d hand one out after collecting each problem set the semester before. The student diligently worked her way through the problem sets using the answer key as a guide, and her reward was stamped in red on each and every return. “F.”
My friends the troublemakers, decided to probe the misogynistic depths of this jaded faculty by submitting nonsense homework sets alongside the immaculate sets of the doomed student. When I say nonsense I don’t mean in the “almost acceptable” realm, I mean honest-to-god garbage. Instead of homework problems, one student handed in notes he’d taken in class for a different course. Another submitted doodles he’d done while solving problems of a totally different nature. Both were returned marked 100 out of 100, while the student with the perfect homework received yet another F.
I was lucky that semester. I got away with a “C,” pointedly awkward meetings in the hallway where he’d look through me like I were made of ether, and class lunches where he’d address every student at the table but me. To me, this is the reality of being a Woman in a field dominated by men.


  • Posted by Hilari on Feb 10, 2008

    Ugh! One thing I’ve noticed is when problems of this nature surface, it’s hard to get anything done because most students will not want to stir up trouble.
    I’m still learning to deal my profs, but luckily I’ve not encountered any who are as difficult as this guy! Glad you made it through the class!

  • Posted by Michelle on Feb 07, 2008

    Yeah there was some sort of committee formed to investigate the incident. They ruled against the student and she had to take the class again for a third time. The committee had pity upon her and let her take the course with a different professor, and she was able to graduate.

  • Posted by Lori on Feb 07, 2008

    That is all I can think to say. I am amazed.

  • Posted by Carrie K on Feb 07, 2008

    Sadly, I’m not amazed at all but it’s just so frustrating that crap like this is allowed to continue.

  • Posted by Wendy on Feb 07, 2008

    Holy crap! Did someone report him to the Dean or anything? That’s mind boggling.

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