The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 44.0°F | Mostly Cloudy

Thistle working for gender equality

We would like to clarify a few points about the incident Bill Jackson '93 discussed in his column ["The Thistle's real bias," Nov. 22], from the recollections of three of us who were present. The Thistle collective decided to have a retreat during February 1990 to work out growing bad feelings within our group. At the retreat, Jenn Huang '90 announced she felt the atmosphere at The Thistle was sexist, and that one man in particular had made women in the group feel uncomfortable by telling "-er jokes" and constantly talking over women. Since she believed the conflict was unworkable, Huang demanded the man be expelled from the collective, saying that she and two other women would leave if this did not happen. Others asked him to modify his behavior, but he refused on principle that his feelings and freedom to work within the group were being sacrificed to appease Huang and other women.

We know of no cases in which the man made unwanted sexual advances or engaged in physical contact. The five other men and two of the six women were unsure if expelling him would be the proper response. After much heated discussion, we came to a compromise which we thought would be satisfactory to everyone except the accused man -- he would not be allowed to work with the collective for a one month "cooling-off" period.

Three of the six women, including Huang, did not work on the Thistle again. We invited the man to return after one month, but contrary to what Huang said, he did not.

Even in retrospect, it is unclear how we could have best handled the conflict. Everyone on The Thistle collective takes the issues of sexism and group interaction very seriously. In the past two years, we have consciously worked to make our group more open to women and to improve our consensus process. Our success has been far from perfect, and The Thistle still is a male-dominated group -- 12 of our 16 active members are men. We are sensitive, however, to the fact that much work needs to be done to end sexism both inside and outside our collective.

David Stern '91->

Selya Price '93->

Penn Loh '90->