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Women hold important student offices

By Karen Kaplan

Like MIT students in general, women on this campus "are characterized by extreme competence and high energy," Dean for Student Affairs Arthur C. Smith said recently.


After decades of progress, women here are coming into their own. "Women are taken more seriously as time goes by," said Cynthia S. Starr '92, president of the MIT Panhellenic Conference, which governs the four sororities on campus. "Compared to 10 years ago, they're taken more seriously, and 10 years from now they will be taken even more seriously."

Smith said MIT's female student body "covers a whole spectrum of people. Some have very strong mathematical skills, and others have a different set of skills. . . . I have always been impressed by their ability. They are very good at what they do."

Special relationship between

men and women here

"Women and men on this campus interact in a way that I don't think they interact on other campuses," Smith said. "Women here have a very high level of competence, and it leads them to deal with men on a different level.

"At other campuses, interactions between men and women are primarily social," Smith continued. "I've generally seen a much more equitable relationship between men and women here. They tend to treat each other in a way I would characterize as professional. They respect ability."

Undergraduate Association President Stacy E. McGeever '93 credited the core science requirements for the successful assimilation of women into MIT life. "I think the freshmen core courses at MIT are probably the best system for integrating women into a community that may, for various reasons, have tendencies to look down upon women."

She said that while at most schools, women who take science classes are "deviating from the norm," at MIT, "people don't look at women strangely in a physics class because everyone has to take it. I think that does good things in terms of equal footing for students at MIT."

Women dominate leadership

positions on campus

This year, the UA, the InterFraternity Council and the Dormitory Council -- three of the largest and most influential groups on campus -- are all led by women. Given that women make up approximately one third of the MIT student body, this pattern may be significant.

Smith said he is not surprised by the abundance of women in leadership roles. "Women are committed and able on this campus, and if you are, you show up in places," he said. "I think it reflects the reality of MIT -- that women here are very good and men, recognize them as very good."that sounds interesting, Art...

IFC President Holly L. Simpson '92 shared this view. "It does say something good about women here," she explained. "It's not saying that women are superior to men, but it's not saying that they're inferior either. It shows that people out there feel that women can do as good a job as any man."

However, she said this sentiment was not shared by all. "I did hear that people were saying that a woman would never become president of the IFC, but I figured whoever was best qualified would win," she continued.

Judy Chin '92, president of DormCom, agreed that these election results demonstrate that students believe women are as qualified as men to lead important organizations. "I find it encouraging that gender at such a gender-skewed school is less important than ability and effort in leadership roles," she said.

Starr also said she found the election results heartening. "I think the fact that there are women in all these elected positions shows that some people are taking women seriously. The fact that women are running for office shows that they feel like they have the opportunity, and that's a very good sign. The fact that they win, I don't know if that's a coincidence or not," she said.

McGeever, who is the third woman to head the UA, said she believes the fact that these major offices are all held by women is no more than a coincidence. "We're talking about three people out of over 1000 women on campus. I think what it demonstrates is that women at MIT run for office," she said.

Simpson and Chin also agreed that their offices were not indicative of a general trend. "I think it was just a coincidence," said Chin. "We all ran against males, and it could have gone the other way as well."