Published: Monday, February 25, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 25, 2013 00:02
At this point, the statistic stating that women leave Boston College with less self-confidence than when they arrived is widely known. Few are aware of where that statistic comes from or what has been done about it, however.
The statistic arose from analysis of the freshman surveys and senior exit surveys administered by the Office of Institutional Research, Planning, and Assessment (IRPA). These surveys track, among other things, students’ self-assessment in areas of academic achievements. BC is wise to have such an office, as it allows the University to evaluate itself continually and gather information about issues facing its students. Though many students may not even be aware that the University has such an office, it undoubtedly has an impact on the student experience here at BC, and works continuously to pinpoint areas in which BC can improve.
Despite being an elite institution, and one whose students consistently report extremely high levels of satisfaction with their educational experience, there are always ways in which BC can improve, and it is admirable that IRPA seeks out those opportunities for improvement. Moreover, it is commendable that the findings are presented to the faculty and not simply dealt with in secret. Transparency is key if true progress is to be made because, as evidenced by the case of women’s diminishing self-confidence, it is not only the administration that can respond to shortcomings in the University.
When the statistic was presented in a faculty forum last year, a group of senior faculty members immediately decided to take action. Shocked and concerned by the information, they sought to understand it more completely so that they could address it holistically. They formed an informal committee and set up meetings. As their conversations unfolded, however, they became aware of how complex the issue was. As a group of faculty that are all heavily invested in personal research and teaching, many of whom are also the chairs of their departments, it would have been easy to dismiss the issue at this point as one too complicated to address adequately within the constraints of their busy schedules. Instead, they remained determined to improve the female BC student’s experience. They added administrators to the committee to bring a different perspective to the issue. They hosted forums and panels with several different groups of students, as well as some alumnae and staff. They also took groups of students out to lunch in order to have smaller, more in-depth conversations about the problems young women at BC face. Their actions prove that professors here truly care for their students, as they gave up numerous hours to attend meetings, host focus groups, and research data.
The result is a proposal, complete with information gathered during the past year as well as suggestions for the future, which will be released in the next few weeks. It is important that members of the BC community take to heart the work that has gone into this proposal and ensure that it was not in vain. Problems such as this are often hard to eradicate, as they are the result of deeply-rooted, widespread cultural tendencies. This statistic will not change with the involvement of only a handful of faculty and administrators. They have made the student body aware, and now it is the student body’s turn to address the issue and create an environment that is more welcoming and supportive of its female members.