Don Bauder 6:07 a.m., May 21
Controversy at USD: AFFIRM or DENY?
As Reader writer Dave Rice recently reported, the University of San Diego has just received $600,000 from the National Science Foundation so that it might "increase the number of female professors, particularly females of minority origin, in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics."
"It's a wonderful gift," said USD Presider Mary Lion. "Ordinarily, that sort of grant would cover maybe two professors' salaries for a year or so. But given the down economy and the fact that women make only 75 cents on the dollar compared to men, I can probably get double that!"
But at least one professor - and a female professor, at that - is unhappy with the idea of gender-based hiring. In response to the AFFIRM program (Advancement of Female Faculty: Institutional climate, Recruitment and Mentoring) designated to administer the funds, Department of Chemicals and Biochemicals Chair Deborah Tahsammebi has founded a counter-organization. She calls it DENY - "Destroy Estrogen-based Nepotism Yesterday."
"Look," explained Professor Tahsammebi as she strolled with this reporter past the phallocratic spire of the Catholic university's Immaculata Church, "I get that some people have it tougher than others, and can use a helping hand. I mean, I coordinate the PURE program here at the school. PURE stands for Pre-Undergraduate Research Experience, and the program aims to help socioeconomically disadvantaged students who might want to attend USD. Poverty has a way of narrowing a person's vision, of engendering despair. We try to get students involved in research early in their academic careers, help them see the possibility of a brighter future through academic excellence, you know?"
But, she says, socioeconomic disadvantages are one thing, and gender is another. "Basically, AFFIRM is agreeing with whatever nitwit put the "Math is hard!" chip into Barbie. 'Ladies, we know that you would rather shop than do science, but look, we'll hold the door open and pay you extra! Then you can buy more shoes!' Frankly, it's an insult to women like myself, who earned their positions without any special programs."