Report of the first planning session for The Scholar and the Feminist II, 1974

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From: Jane S. Gould, Women's Center

Subject: Plans for Next Academic Conference Report of the First Planning Session, September 12, 1974

The first meeting on the next academic conference was held at the Women's Center on September 12th. Nancy Miller, Barnard '61, Assistant Professor of French at Columbia, was introduced as co- ordinator of the conference and chaired the meeting.

As background we reported that the Rubinstein Foundation had renewed their $5,000 grant to the Women's Center and that the Women's Center Executive Committee had mandated a second academic conference to be given in the spring on 1975, with a suggestion that a theme might be the concept of bias in scholarship. This suggestion stemmed from the fact that guidelines for the implementation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 are currently very much in the public eye.

Nancy Miller reviewed briefly the areas which Title IX covers. It prohibits discrimination in admission, treatment of students, and employment practices. She pointed out that there are no provisions which would prohibit discrimination in textbooks and other curricular materials. She suggested that we consider carefully this exception in Title IX in relation to the theme of bias in scholarship.

Since this was the first meeting, the discussion initially focused on what is meant by bias in scholarship with suggestions of how we could treat it as a theme- The observation was made that bias in scholarship is really a problem of objectivity, which raised the question, "what is it that is called objectivity in present—day scholarship, and how does it keep out women?" The point was made that bias can enter into scholarship by way of ideology and methodol- ogy which led to the suggestion that classics in various fields be taken and re—analyzed from a feminist viewpoint to demonstrate how unarticulated bias affects the "truth" of research.

The suggestion was made that we do a conference having three parts: 1) a critique proposing the existence of anti-feminist bias in scholarship 2) the opposite, which would show what a feminist ap- proach can do to a standard piece of scholarship — would this re- veal a feminist bias? — and 3) the theoretical problem of objecti- vity and feminism. It was the general feeling that the last con- ference didn't really get into the issue of objectivity so we wouldn't be repeating ourselves.

Another idea was that we write to HEW in an attempt to review the ineffectiveness of the HEW affirmative action regulations and use the conference to answer the recent Lester report. This led to a recommendation that the conference deal not only with the theoreti- cal questions but also with the very practical questions of bias. As someone said, "How do you stay in scholarship long enough so you can study bias in scholarship?”

There were other suggestions, not necessarily themes for the con- ference, and they included: 1) the need for concentrated effort on new sources for women's studies and 2) the investigation of the scholarly efforts of women who have produced without institutional ties. Some time also was spent talking about the format and struc- ture of the conference, particularly in comparison to the last con~ ference. It was agreed that we should probably have fewer speakers and, if possible, a more collective experience. However it was agreed that this kind of discussion was really premature.

The consensus of the group was that we should explore further the theme of bias in scholarship, in both its theoretical and practical aspects. The group agreed to send in individual comments after further thought. These individual reports will be summarized by the Center at the next meeting, scheduled for Thursday, September 26th from noon to 2 p.m.

Bring a sandwich; we will have coffee at the Center. We hope that many of you who were not able to come to the first meeting will join us on September 26th, and if not, at least let us have an expression of your interest and any of your ideas.

September l9, 1974