Female students ask Dirks for more institutional support at fireside chat

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At Chancellor Nicholas Dirks’ eighth fireside chat Monday evening, female students from a variety of organizations asked for more institutional support for female students.

Dirks invited female undergraduate and graduate students to speak about their concerns, which ranged from sexual assault policies and lack of female mentorship to low representation in leadership.

The meeting, taking place during Women’s History Month, coincided with the release of a new UC sexual harassment and violence policy Friday that expands training for officers who investigate cases of sexual assault, increases crime statistic reporting requirements and specifies disciplinary measures.

“Institutionally, this last year has been a huge wake-up call to not just this university, but a lot of universities,” Dirks said. “This is by no means something about which I feel we take institutional pride in, and it’s not going to be casually responded to.”

Although the attendees expressed appreciation toward the recent efforts, they asked the administration to take one step further to implement necessary sanctions against offenders.

“Unless there are institutional disciplinary procedures that are really stopping consistent and perpetual rapists, there is not going to be a culture change, regardless of how many more resources that we funnel into this,” said ASUC President DeeJay Pepito.

Additionally, students decried the lack of mentorship opportunities for women. The modest statistic of female faculty on campus — women make up only 29 percent of tenured faculty on campus, with only 17 percent in hard sciences faculty specifically — also impacts the campus’s ability to recruit the best female students for graduate school, said Bahar Navab, Graduate Assembly internal vice president. A lack of female faculty entails a lack of female mentors for graduate students to look up to, Navab added.

Navab mentioned that even in the department of public health, often seen as “women-friendly,” female students are encouraged by faculty to make sacrifices to succeed. An example she gave was having children while in graduate school, before entering the workforce.

“If we want to make it easier for women to enter that academic job market later, we need to do a better job about what we offer them while we’re here at Cal,” Navab said.

Pepito also pointed to the low female representation in the ASUC student leadership, with few female leaders prepared to take on roles that require frequent exchanges with campus administration.

The attendees said that while they appreciated the opportunity to be heard by the chancellor, they were more skeptical about direct outcomes of the meeting.

“The senior administration now needs to take action to show that they are actually listening, rather than just hearing,” said Amber Piatt, the Graduate Assembly’s women of color initiative program coordinator.

Somin Park is the lead academics and administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @_sominpark.