while waiting for our turn | Ethos


Libby Mackin, left, and Taylor Hurt, right, are both students at Clark Honors College, and Owen Clifton is a student at the University of Oregon. Hurt says Clark Honors College’s discussion-based structure doesn’t work for everyone. Hurt says she knows people who have dropped out because the course structure is mostly the same – and mostly discussion-based.


Hurt, left, and Mackin, center, are both students at Clark Honors College, and Owen Clifton, right, is a student at the University of Oregon. Hurt says, in her second honors class, she realized that a lot of the protagonists were women. During the discussions, she noticed that many of her male classmates would have a lot to say about the material. “We were talking about it, and I was just like, ‘I feel like you have no idea what’s going on, which is good, that’s why you’re in this class, but don’t guess. not that you have the most to say, either, ”says Hurt.

Taylor Hurt, a third year student at the University of Oregon, still remembers the excitement and anxiety that gripped her during her freshman year at Clark Honors College. When she descended into Condon Hall’s basement for her first class, waves of nerves about being a freshman – being in college – enveloped her. It was her second CHC class, in the winter of 2020, when she started to feel a little more confident as she made friends and began to understand her classes.

Despite the newfound confidence, something became clear during Hurt’s second term at the CHC. She noticed that more men spoke than women, although there were more women in the classroom overall. As she sat in the seat next to one of her friends, it was quite obvious to see that there were only five people who identified themselves as men on the group of 19 students. The fact that there were so few male presenters in the classroom did not surprise her. This only confirmed a trend she had previously suspected after noticing a similar ratio in her previous class at CHC.

A national statistic published by The Atlantic and the Wall Street Journal shows the largest gender gap in the history of higher education, with women making up nearly 60% of students in the spring of 2021. At Clark Honors College at the UO, women have represented 66% of the student body for more than five years.

According to the UO’s Office of Public Records, twice as many women as men have graduated from CHC in the past four years. But while statistics favor women around the CSC, some women still feel that interactions and experiences in the classroom do not reflect their majority. Other CHC students believe that distance learning environments have made these problems less apparent.

Hurt says she barely noticed the lack of men or a majority of women influencing the class early on. This was before she started to hear the chatter of the other CHC students. It didn’t take long for Hurt to notice what his peers were talking about: the fact that men kept talking about women.

“I think men are more daring when they speak in class, and that was something that was reflected from the start,” Hurt says. “The professor was asking a talking question, and the first three people to speak were the men. Then we just wait for our turn at 16.

This is nothing new. According to a 1975 Stanford University study that observed interruptions in discussions between the sexes, 96% of interruptions and 100% of overlapping conversations were perpetrated by men. Classes with a Socratic seminary structure, like most honor classes, may provide more opportunities for these events to occur.

Hurt also says that she often felt that the men who spoke regularly in her class did not always understand the experiences of women. During the course, students were assigned a book that periodically alternated between a man’s and a woman’s point of view. After reading a scene where the woman was sexually assaulted, the teacher opened the discussion about the event to the class.

“[The men] I immediately started talking and having a chat, and I’m just sitting there mortified, ”Hurt says. “Because they’re talking about the validity of a woman’s feelings, and I’m just sitting there thinking, ‘What’s going on? “”

Thinking back on that moment, Hurt says she feels naive that she was surprised that these men don’t see these issues the way she does.

“Men of this class didn’t seem to understand why anyone would act or think this way – critically analyzing their own thoughts and then acting against them – and this was a time when it became clear that they didn’t. maybe didn’t know what it felt like to be seen as a woman, where the stakes in how we act and what we say seem much higher, ”says Hurt.

Abbie Hall, a UO graduate who dropped out of CHC, echoed similar experiences. While Hall says she can’t recall a specific instance where men dominated class discussions, the environment she experienced during the three years she was enrolled in CSC made it clear to her the problem.

copy of the college of women in honors

“All of my classes had a lot more women, or had a lot more people who weren’t men,” Hall says. “But given the makeup of the class, it was probably still the disproportionately male views that were brought up most often.”

These are the discussion-based classes that Hall found a problem with. In every class she took, she says there seemed to be an air of unease and discomfort among the women as the men dominated each discussion. Hall knew from conversations outside of class that many of the women had interesting perspectives on the topics covered in class but, in the end, were too nervous to share their opinions during the discussion due to the atmosphere. “Infantilizing”.

The students weren’t the only ones adding to the atmosphere, according to Hall. One teacher – a man who taught African American poetry – insisted that students read aloud a language they were not comfortable with. Even after many students reached out and expressed concern, Hall said, he dismissed their concerns.


Clifton, left, is a graduate of the University of Oregon and Makin, right, is a sophomore at Clark Honors College. Mackin’s friend at CHC, Hurt, says she was drawn to Oregon because she wanted certain aspects of a large public school and a smaller liberal arts program. “I just wanted to try and see if I could get the best of both worlds,” Hurt said.

After even more protests, the professor opened the floor for a discussion of why students shouldn’t have to say certain derogatory terms, but, Hall said, the professor insisted they couldn’t “to cite their feelings as reasons for not wanting to say these words”. Hall says these conditions had gender overtones, given that the majority of students in the class were women. She says she felt the professor viewed their protests as irrational or hysterical.

“I think because women are generally socialized to believe that their opinions are less important than men, that even in a space where there are more women than men in the classroom, men’s opinions are heard more.” Hall says.

Yet there are still CSC students who have not encountered these problems. Libby Mackin, a second-year CHC student, describes her Zoom college courses in a way many UO students are familiar with. Many of his peers logged into the classroom with the cameras turned off and the microphones turned off. Often, she said, everyone seemed less engaged in the class.

According to Makin, most of the distant classrooms lacked the engaging discussions that had been a staple of CHC classrooms. She says many of her peers seemed less inclined to speak in the first place, so normally only one person would speak at a time.

“I took four online courses last year; each of them was predominantly female, ”says Mackin. “So I didn’t really feel like I was being discussed by men. “

Despite the flaws that some students found in the structure of these discussion-oriented courses, there were still positive sides that kept them engaged and motivated during their time at CSC.

Mackin recalls a distance learning course she took in the spring of 2021 on psychoactive drug science and policy. Even though the course was taught online, she says it was still very engaging and interesting due to the teacher’s effort and the attention of the students.

Hurt found that the best way to get through some of the most tense times came from the social group she had cultivated in her first year. Even after feeling shocked about her experiences in her Winter 2020 term class, she found solace in one-on-one conversations with a close friend who was also in the class.

“Since we were both in the classroom, we ended up discussing the things we were learning,” Hurt says. “We treated it as a way to debrief the content and energy of the class.”

Classroom dynamics were treated like some kind of joke between her and her friend most of the time, Hurt says. She says the humor they shared at the expense of the problematic speech was one of the ways the painful conversations didn’t negatively affect their time spent in class.

Now, as a resident assistant for the CHC ARC, Hurt still hears stories of men dominating the class conversations of other women at the special college. Hurt was part of the university residential community at CHC when she was in her first year. Through the ARC, she found some of her closest friends and says that was a big reason she stayed with the CHC.

“It’s something that keeps me connected to my friends and connected to other people in honors college,” Hurt said. “If I hadn’t had a good social experience, I probably wouldn’t be there yet.”


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