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Princeton’s sexist German department drives women into therapy

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‘The women in our department all went to therapy to deal with the men in our department’

A culture of ‘toxic misogyny’ evidently exists at one of the elite departments of Princeton University, according to a recent report in the school’s newspaper.

The German department stands accused of “rampant gender-based discrimination” by several women who left the German program before completing it, according to The Daily Princetonian.

The women interviewed by The Princetonian “cited a pervasive academic culture that favors men to succeed, but puts obstacles in front of women,” according to the paper.

“Nearly all of the female students interviewed,” The Princetonian states, “said the culture of the department had led them to seek therapy.”

Though the German department is “known for some of the most progressive graduate classes in media theory and philosophy at the University,” and while “many of its graduate students identify as progressive, and a few are even Marxists,” the department has nevertheless gained a reputation as a haven for misogyny.

From the report:

“You’d never think it would happen here,” said one student about the department’s alleged gender-based discrimination. But there were, and still are, whispers. Even though the course listings appear progressive, students attest to discriminatory behavior inside the classroom – and that behavior isn’t limited to male faculty, they said. Although Title IX reports provided to the ‘Prince’ were used only in the investigation previously reported on, the accounts also detailed instances of abuse from other professors. For example, one account alleges that female professor told a female student to “not come up with fancy terms,” to “not talk in lectures,” and to “go home and read, lock yourself in a room and read until you’re smarter.”

The department faculty consists of 15 tenure and tenure-track professors, five of whom are women. Of those five, two are visiting professors. One woman, Inka Mülder-Bach, is a permanent visiting professor and a full professor, meaning that while she is only on campus one of three semesters, she performs all of the same advising functions full time as another professor in the department. Of the 10 male faculty members, three are full professors, and none of these men are visiting or permanent visiting professors. Jennings said that among the most competitive graduate programs, Princeton’s German department was “decidedly mediocre” on gender balance, but it’s something they seek to improve.

One former graduate student said that he never personally felt any discrimination, even as an openly gay man. He acknowledged, however, that his identity as a white man may have protected him. He added that the department was actually “pretty inclusive” and his relationship with faculty and advisors was healthy. Some faculty members were even at his wedding.

“German has a reputation for being extremely rigorous especially at some place like Princeton,” he explained. “That’s why I opted into the Princeton department. It’s a tough department.” Several people interviewed who have been in German studies departments at other public and private universities noted this sentiment. But they said that such challenges might be different for women, something Jennings acknowledged.

“In interviews,” The Princetonian reports, “students often linked conduct to the department’s academic focus, which graduate students characterized as heavily male-focused and white. The supposedly progressive erudition list was called ‘too male’ and ‘too white’.”

Read the whole report here.

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