Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Identity issues

This is strangely appropriate, given some of the issues I raised in my previous post. This post is all about belonging or not belonging and something that happened last night to remind me that maybe I really am "a stranger in a strange land".

So. Last night we had a meeting for our majors: to introduce the new majors, discuss some business, etc. Basically, to get everyone together and meet and chat and get their questions answered. We had an excellent turnout. We have some terrific students, at all levels from freshman to senior. For the most part, it was fun.

For the most part.

Most of our students are not stereotypical "geeks". They love technology and are skilled at it, but they also have wide and varied interests---theater, art, music, politics. They don't dress like geeks. They don't talk like geeks. They are, for lack of a better word, "normal people".

But. There are a few who are stereotypical. A very few. But these are also the loudest personalities. And these personalities, shall we say, dominated the group dynamic last night.

The worst part? My colleagues, who claim to be so concerned about creating a "positive environment" for everyone, who claim to be concerned about the climate for women and non-stereotypical students---my colleagues actively encouraged this behavior. Fed off it. Laughed at it. And by doing so, strongly condoned it.

Was I the only one in the room who felt uncomfortable by this? Probably not. But the message this sent was very clear. And I don't like it. At. All.

I don't belong here. I am not like "them". The stereotype is alive and well and kicking.

Ironically, these same colleages wonder why the students have not been as quick to accept me as they were the previous hire, who frankly is the stereotypical geek. Ummm.....yeah. Mirror, anyone?

I guess if nothing else, this was my Cosmic Karmic Message to get over my fear already and start creating the community I'd like to see in our major. Because clearly I'm the only one who gives a damn about this.

I'll be sending that email to our female majors tomorrow.


Andy said...

Speaking as a non-stereotypical geek myself. Go get em.

Anonymous said...

Speaking as a stereotypical geek, I think it's rather ironic that you say the geeks make you feel that, "I don't belong here. I am not like 'them'." Many geeks feel this way most of the time. There aren't many environments where letting slip that we play Dungeons and Dragons, or quoting dialog Babylon 5 won't bring strange looks or hoots of derision. Computing departments are one of the few geek refuges, places where there are a critical mass of like-minded people for us to talk about all those stereotypically geeky things.

Please, have a little empathy for the geeks.

Jane said...

Catching up on comments here...

Anonymous, there's nothing wrong with being a geek per se. I'm not a geek hater, I swear! :) What I have a problem with is that the stereotypical geeks have staked their claim on an entire field. I mean, there are few other fields where the perception is that you must be a certain personality type in order to be successful in the field, or even to participate in the field. How ridiculous is that?! That's what I react so strongly to.

Andy, thanks. I will keep you posted on how it goes!

Wanna Be PhD said...


Wow #1: You have female students? More than one?

Wow #2: You are a professional in the field and can still feel the difference? You have not accustomed yourself to the geekness?

Yeah, I too hate this kind of group pressure. I do.

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