George Washington University’s Elliott School may not go with the nuclear option to prevent “sausage fests” on conference panels, following mockery and legal questions.
Reuben Brigety, dean of the international affairs school at the private university blocks from the White House, told The GW Hatchet that he and the Dean’s Council “look forward to making adjustments” to the policy in response to concerns.
Enacted this summer, the policy required that every panel discussion of three or more speakers at an Elliott School event have at least one woman as a speaker or moderator. Otherwise the entire event could be canceled.
While law professor John Banzhaf was the loudest critic of the change, even though it didn’t affect him, the policy also drew scorn from the Elliott School’s Jonathan Chaves, a professor of Chinese.
He told the Hatchet he was “outraged” by the policy, which denigrated the importance of expertise on conference panels:
“It’s a total, obvious infringement on common sense to begin with and academic freedom. There’s only one standard that applies to an institution of higher education and that is who the best person is in the field. Period,” Chaves said.
Chaves said gender was not as relevant to panels as other factors, like political affiliation, because gender did not directly relate to how a scholar views topics in international affairs.
“Pick the best people for your panel, the best scholars and that’s it,” he said. “There’s no other way to run such an institution.”
Brigety told the Hatchet the policy was not intended to “undermine” academic freedom but simply “inculcate a sense of urgency” about pursuing diversity and inclusion.
Banzhaf has proposed a more holistic approach in which selection committees that choose conference panel speakers include both men and women, but not micromanage the composition of every panel.
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