Issue of October 7, 2011
eds. Joan Schmelz, Caroline Simpson, and Michele Montgomery
This week's issues:
1. A Question About Professional Behavior: Responses
From: Joan Schmelz [jschmelz_at_memphis.edu]
Last week we asked if it was ever appropriate for a senior professor to ask an undergraduate student out for coffee. We got several excellent responses, which appear below.
Here is my take on this situation. Suppose your (remember, you are a senior professor) motives are completely pure. You want to discuss the student's future in physics or astronomy or you want to recruit the student to work in your research lab. These are professional discussions which should take place in a professional environment: your office. In addition, you may think that you are acting in a purely professional manner, but the student may not (see below).
The only other possibility is that your motives are not pure and that asking a student out for coffee is simply a first step toward a more social and even sexual relationship. STOP! Just don't go there. This is completely inappropriate behavior.
So let's take it to the next level: suppose the undergraduate student is no longer in your class. If you are still in a position of power over this student, e.g., he/she works in your lab or you might be asked to write a recommendation letter for him/her, then your relationship must remain completely professional. Yale University has implemented a policy forbidding professors from having sexual/amorous relationships with ANY undergraduate student (see the AASWOMEN newsletter from Oct 2010). We hope other colleges and universities will soon follow suit.
From: Lee Anne Willson [lwillson_at_iastate.edu]
You need to avoid any situation that could be construed as a date. It's not the coffee, it's the situation that matters.
Example 1: Class just ended, and the student is still asking questions. Someone else needs the room. You can say "let's go up to my office" or you can say "let's go to the department coffee room and talk about this". In either case the situation is not date-like, is public, and is appropriate.
Example 2: Same situation, but you say "Let's hop in my car and go to Starbucks downtown". Not a good idea: This gets into ambiguous territory.
Bottom line: Dating this person is not possible now. It might be possible some day, when the student is no longer a student of yours or in a direct line of power to you. A good rule of thumb is to wait two years before contacting a former student if you are looking for a relationship. So, for now, you need to avoid any situation that could be construed as opening the door to a relationship.
A point that is sometimes missed is that you not only have to avoid forcing attention on someone that doesn't want it, you also must avoid taking advantage of what may be natural hero-worship coming from your position as an established, successful professional in the field your student is ambitious to join.
From: Nancy Morrison [NMorris_at_UTNet.UToledo.Edu]
No, in fact, I don't think it would ever have crossed my mind, regardless of the student's age.
If I invited students (usually, grad students) out for drinks or a meal, it was in connection with giving them the opportunity to network with a visitor, either a colloquium speaker or a prospective grad student. Therefore, always in a group.
From: Meg Thacher [mthacher_at_smith.edu]
Regarding the post in last week's AASWomen newsletter regarding professional behavior: my immediate reaction was an unequivocal 'nope'.
In the situation described, there is always the possibility that being invited out for coffee will be interpreted (fairly or unfairly) as being asked out on a date. Even if it's not a date, going out for coffee would certainly be seen by the student and the rest of the class as implied friendship and favoritism. Unless you're willing to take the entire class out for coffee, I'd advise waiting until the end of the semester. They're usually only 15 weeks long, after all. As long as this student is enrolled in your class, you are in a position of power.
I went to grad school at a university that didn't have a written policy forbidding student/faculty liaisons. The university's ombudsman's advice: "I encourage you to explore the dynamics of sex and power on your own time." i.e., not while the student is dependent on you for a grade. It's just not professional behavior. I'm sure there are many legal, ethical, and common-sense arguments I could make, but the fact that you ask the question probably means that you already know the answer.Back to top.
2. Developing a Diverse and Successful Undergraduate Program
From: Caroline Simpson [simpsonc_at_fiu.edu]
There is an article about our physics department in this month's issue of the CSWP/COM Gazette on creating a successful undergraduate program. Although we are a minority-serving institution, many of the changes we implemented are applicable anywhere, as they are geared to nuture students in general. I would urge anyone who would like more information to contact me.
A large part of our reform effort has come about through our involvement with PhysTEC, and the incorporation of undergraduate Learning Assistants in our courses. These programs have helped us develop our inclusive culture and have proven to be a way to increase the involvment of underrepresented minorities in the sciences. WIPHYS for this week includes announcements about these two programs:
* PhysTEC Request for Proposals and Webinar
The 2011 solicitation for new PhyTEC sites is now available on www.phystec.org. The PhysTEC project, a joint effort of APS and AAPT, has a mission of improving the education of future physics teachers. We will fund approximately three comprehensive sites ($100k/year for 3 years) and three targeted sites ($25k/year for 3 years). Comprehensive sites will be expected to implement the full PhysTEC program and graduate a relatively large number of students qualified to teach physics. Targeted sites will also be expected to establish effective physics teacher education programs, but on a smaller scale. An initial proposal is due October 26 at 5 p.m. local time.
A webinar on October 5 at 3 p.m. EDT will discuss the solicitation and provide an opportunity for Qamp;A. If you cannot attend the webinar, a recording will be available for viewing at a later time (you should still register to get access). To register for the webinar, go to https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/829585806
* Learning Assistant Workshop: Register by October 24, 2011
The PhysTEC project will co-sponsor its third workshop focusing on the University of Colorado's Learning Assistant program November 2 amp; 3, 2011 in Boulder. The Learning Assistant program is a highly supported peer teaching experience that has been shown to improve students' learning and attitudes toward science in undergraduate lecture classes and recruit talented science and math students into teaching careers. Workshop registration is free for representatives of PhysTEC Member Institutions and Affiliates (If your institution is not a member, learn how to join at http://www.ptec.org/webdocs/Join.cfm ) Please consider sending two representatives to facilitate local planning during the workshop. Space is limited, so register soon at http://www.ptec.org/conferences/cula11/register.cfmBack to top.
3. Nominations for the CSWP Woman Physicist of the Month
From: WIPHYS, Oct. 5, 2011
Beginning January 2012, the Committee on the Status of Women in Physics (CSWP) will start featuring the CSWP Woman Physicist of the Month. The award is intended to recognize female physicists that have positively impacted other individual's lives and careers and/or are worthy of recognition. The nominee does not need to be an APS member. Each CSWP Woman Physicist of the Month will be featured on the Women in Physics website, announced in the Gazette, and recognized at a reception at an APS national meeting.Back to top.
4. New demographic study from U.K.
From: Rick Fienberg [rick.fienberg_at_aas.org]
Press release from the RAS, dated 6 Oct. 2011, entitled "Astronomy and Geophysics Bring Women into Science": http://www.ras.org.uk/news-and-press/217-news2011/2017-astronomy-and-geophysics-bring-women-into-science
First paragraph: Women are better represented in astronomy and solid-Earth geophysics research than in other areas of physics, according to a major study by the Royal Astronomical Society, with a summary published in the October edition of the journal Astronomy and Geophysics. The RAS Demographic Survey of Astronomy and Geophysics collected data on more than 2,000 research employees and students in astronomy and solid-Earth geophysics in the U.K. to establish the composition of this community and better understand its work. Less encouragingly, the survey results show how these research areas are poor at recruiting people from black and minority ethnic (BME) groups and that addressing this deficit remains a significant challenge.
Full report: "The Demographics and Research Interests of the UK Astronomy and Geophysics Communities" http://www.ras.org.uk/images/stories/ras_pdfs/Demographic_Survey_2010_-_final_report.pdfBack to top.
5. Site Visit Program Offers Insights and Advice for Women & Minorities
From: WIPHYS, Sept. 30, 2011
The APS Climate for Women in Physics Site Visit Program helps physics departments and research facilities warm the "chilly climate" that women in physics often experience. Visits can also be focused on minority physicists. Conducted at the request of the department chair or lab director, site visits aim to identify problems commonly experienced by women and minority physicists, intervene to solve many of these problems, and help improve the climate in the facility.Back to top.
6. Aspen Center for Physics Winter Meetings and Summer Program
From: WIPHYS, Oct. 5, 2011
The Aspen Center for Physics will hold seven winter conferences and a summer program for 2012. The deadlines for application are October 15, 2011 (for the first three winter meetings), October 30, 2011 (for the fourth and fifth winter meeting), November 30, 2011 (for the sixth winter meeting) and December 1, 2011 (for the seventh winter meeting). The summer program runs May 20-September 9, 2012, with an application deadline of January 31, 2012.Back to top.
7. 2012 Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics
From: WIPHYS, Sept. 30, 2011
Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWIP) are three-day regional conferences for undergraduate physics majors. The 2012 conferences will run Friday evening, January 13 through Sunday afternoon, January 15, 2012. For 2012, there will be six regional conferences; students are encouraged to apply to the nearest conference. * Case Western Reserve, Cleveland, Ohio * Stanford University, Stanford, California * Texas Aamp;M in College Station, Texas * University of Tennessee - Knoxville, Tennessee * University of Washington, Seattle, Washington * Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
In most cases, full support will be provided for room and board. Physics departments are strongly encouraged to provide support for travel; however, students should apply for travel reimbursement if their department is unable to support them. The application deadline is November 15, 2011.Back to top.
8. Job Opportunities
1. Postdoctoral Research Positions, LIGO Laboratory http://www.nsbp.org/en/jobs/v/783
2. Postdoctoral Research Associate, National Solar Observatory http://www.nsbp.org/en/jobs/v/782
3. Tenure-Track Faculty Position, Astrophysics, Lehigh University http://www.nsbp.org/en/jobs/v/780
4. Assistant Professor, Astrophysics, MIT http://www.nsbp.org/en/jobs/v/770
5. Assistant Professor of Physics amp; Astronomy, Denison University http://www.nsbp.org/en/jobs/v/777
6. Tenure Track Assistant Professor, Physics, Elmhurst College http://www.nsbp.org/en/jobs/v/775
7. Assistant Professor in Astrophysics, University of Colorado, Boulder http://www.nsbp.org/en/jobs/v/774
8. AAAS Science amp; Technology Policy Fellowships http://www.nsbp.org/en/jobs/v/763Back to top.
9. How to Submit to the AASWOMEN newsletter
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All material will be posted unless you tell us otherwise, including your email address.
Please remember to replace "_at_" in the e-mail address above.Back to top.
10. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWOMEN newsletter
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If you experience any problems, please email itdept_at_aas.orgBack to top.
11. Access to Past Issues
Each annual summary includes an index of topics covered.Back to top.