This file was prepared for electronic distribution by the inforM staff. Questions or comments should be directed to email@example.com. CHAPTER 5 WELLESLEY COLLEGE COUNTING THE MEANINGS BY ROSANNA HERTZ AND SUSAN REVERBY -1 Wellesley College's overall query for the project was: what makes women's studies at a women's liberal arts college different? Comparing women's studies and non-women's studies courses, Wellesley focuses on three questions: Did the courses change or affect students' personal lives, their intellectual lives, and their political beliefs? Did students feel pressure to give politically correct answers and identify only with feminist ideas? And, was the pedagogy different? Wellesley College, founded in 1870 and opened in 1875, is one of the traditional "seven sister schools" dedicated to the education of women. Located in a suburb just outside of Boston, it has a diverse student body of more than 2,200 women who came last year from every state in the U.S. and from sixty-one different countries. Nearly 70 percent of the students receive aid from some source, and the college admits on a "need-blind" basis. -2 The college also has had a traditional commitment to gender equity on its faculty. The male/female ratio on the faculty is about 50/50, even at the tenured level and the president of the college has always been a woman. The college in recent years also has made an effort to hire more faculty members of color with "target of opportunity" hiring positions and other incentives to departments. Somewhat ironically, Wellesley, like most women's colleges, was somewhat slower than larger coeducational universities in making a firm commitment to women's studies. Throughout much of the first century of the college's existence, Wellesley built and supported what Bryn Mawr's first president, M. Carey Thomas, labeled a "male curriculum." Wellesley, as with many of its sister institutions, was dedicated to proving that gender did not matter in education and that women could do the work thought only appropriate for men. When the first stirrings of women's studies began in other colleges and universities across the country in the late 1960s and early 1910s, a 1971 report to the college's trustees entitled "Committee on the Future of the College" considered, among other issues, the question of women's studies. At that time, the report's faculty authors concluded that specific courses on women in the coeducational schools "seem intended to provide counseling services as well as factual information to students often in desperate need of advice and moral support." They unanimously rejected the idea of a special institute on women and referred interested students to courses in the existing curriculum "that dealt in large measure with women's problems." At that time, a survey showed that students could find such coverage in 3 courses, with women as sub-units in 4 other courses, and receiving some thematic mention in 9 others out of a total curriculum of 493 courses. -3 Despite other similarly inhospitable pronouncements, the elements necessary to create a women's studies program coalesced in the interstices of the college. The availability of outside funding and support from the college's president and dean led to the founding in 1974 of a Center for Research on Women, a mile away from the main campus (although in a college-owned house) and staffed with researchers almost all of whom were not members of the faculty. But as interest on the part of students and faculty members for courses in women's studies grew, a small group of intrepid faculty members created the beginning of a coherent program and voluntarily directed its early students. These respected women faculty members, both junior and senior and drawn from the humanities and social science departments, were able to give the initial program intellectual substance. The program's viability became less problematic after 1981 when a well-respected feminist scholar, Nannerl Keohane, became the college's president. In 1982, it became possible for students to major in women's studies without special petitioning, and the president authorized hiring one junior faculty member (part-time the first year, then full-time and tenure track from then on) with an appointment solely to the Women's Studies Program. In 1986, another half-time faculty appointment was made available, which became full-time in 1989. A year later, another half-time faculty member (with a joint appointment in another department) became part of the program. -4 Ten years later, the program is still small in terms of control over faculty lines but large in terms of student interest, course loads, and majors. There are now nine overcrowded core courses, two-and-a-half faculty members whose appointments are to the program (including one tenured), more than sixty cross-listed courses, and more students majoring in women's studies than in half the departments at the college. More than 40 faculty members (out of approximately 225) teach the cross-listed courses and consider themselves part of the broader women's studies community. Women's studies at Wellesley functions as a department with faculty members, separate office space, majors, budgets, a secretary, and a director who is treated administratively as a department chair. In March 1992, Academic Council, the college's faculty-administration governing body, voted to make de jura what was de facto: the Women's Studies Program became a department after trustee approval on April 8, 1992. In its early years in the 1980s, the program's goals were to make women's studies appear "intellectually respectable" at the college and to build faculty, student, and administrative support for its offerings as well as tenure for its key junior faculty members. The program always had a commitment to multicultural education and made this a requirement in its major in 1983, long before any other department in the college. The program has grown in a college that over the last ten years has had a liberal feminist ethic and the continued historical belief that its mission is the empowerment of women. If one phrase sums up what makes women's studies at Wellesley different from the rest of the college, it is our saying that "if Wellesley teaches our students that they can do anything, women's studies helps them to understand that if they cannot, it is not their fault." TEACHING AT WELLESLEY COLLEGE As a liberal arts undergraduate college, Wellesley traditionally has taken special pride in its teaching and small classes. Discussion, even in the lower-level courses, is an expected part of the classroom experience. By the time students are juniors and seniors, they participate in small seminars that constitute the core of their majors. Thus, as a women's college with small classes Wellesley prides itself on giving "voice" to women. Speaking, discussion, and student participation in various forms are to be the hallmark of a Wellesley education. While in recent years publications have become important to tenure and promotions, teaching remains, at least rhetorically, the heart of the college's mission. Students say they come to Wellesley over other Ivy League institutions because they will have more contact with faculty members who are expected to serve as exemplary teachers, role models, and citizens. Besides laboratory assistants, Wellesley has no graduate students serving as teaching assistants or graders. -5 Thus, much of the commitment to student learning--considered the core of women's studies elsewhere--is seen as central to both Wellesley's mission and its teaching practices. The institution publicizes and capitalizes on this seemingly unique commitment to quality teaching over "renting" the scholarly reputation of its faculty members to entice students to enroll.6 Despite the emphasis on teaching, what counts as "good teaching" at Wellesley is supposed to be normative but is often ill-defined. "Good teaching" is one of the things everyone knows when they see it but still can be elusive. Wellesley does make an effort to make its elements clear by requiring senior faculty members to visit classes of junior faculty members and by annual meetings that focus, in part, on a junior faculty member's teaching. Associate professors are again visited in the classroom when they are up for promotion to full professors. These visit reports serve diagnostic, but primarily evaluative, purposes. Teaching seminars and some support for innovative teaching is supported by the dean's office. In the last few years, a move to emphasize teaching has again grown. A Center for Learning and Teaching has now been proposed and an invigorated committee on educational research has been holding "shop talks" on pedagogy and providing "quick fix" grants for teaching purposes. Faculty members also are encouraged to meet students outside the classroom and to facilitate individual student interests through tutorials. Students are required to fill out an evaluation of the teaching that is numerically quantified by the institution and used for tenure and promotion. The medians for departments, divisions, rank of the faculty, and the institution as a whole are distributed on a regular basis. However, unlike at Swarthmore and Bowdoin, for example, written letters about faculty members' performance are not solicited by promotion committees, which rely heavily on the statistical evaluations; students, however, are encouraged on their own to write about teaching. The evaluation forms that Wellesley has used for most of the last decade (currently under review) involve three major questions: "Was the instructor in command of the subject taught in this course? Does the instructor convey his or her knowledge of the subject in ways that facilitate learning? Did your instructor demonstrate an ability to deal effectively with student work?" -7 As at many colleges, there has been continued concern at Wellesley about these questionnaires. Aside from the usual questions about how the numbers are tabulated and used, discussion has focused on how the questionnaires stifle pedagogical innovation. In thinking about the "in command" question in particular, one women's studies faculty member quipped: "The correct answer in women's studies' courses should be 'no'. But if the students say 'no,' I won't get tenure!" Many of these questions were raised by a faculty Feminist Pedagogy Group, organized through women's studies as part of this FIPSE study. In response, the dean's office has reported that at least the "in command" question will be changed. Thus, our consideration of teaching and learning in women's studies had to be made in the context of the kind of evaluation that is ongoing at Wellesley. KEY QUESTIONS Given Wellesley's emphasis on teaching, women's "voice," and the respect accorded the intellectual content of women's studies in the institution, our overall query for the FIPSE project became: What makes women's studies at a women's liberal arts college different? We felt that Wellesley's Women's Studies Program would be no different than any other discipline at the college if we only "conveyed knowledge" or heard women's voices in the classroom. We wanted to know if women's studies was different: Did it change or affect students' personal lives, their intellectual lives, or their political beliefs? Did students feel pressure to give "politically correct" answers and to identify only with "feminist" ideas, as women's studies often is charged with in the media and by conservatives? Finally, we also wanted to know whether the pedagogy was different in women's studies classes and in what ways, given Wellesley's emphasis on student participation in particular. We were interested in the quality of debate among students and whether or not discussion and learning continued outside the classroom, and if so, with whom. -8 METHODS AND SAMPLING In the early spring of 1990, we wrote an open-ended questionnaire that tapped various aspects of these concerns (see pages 130-131). After a pilot test of the questionnaire in two classes, we administered the revised version to students by using a selected sample of courses taught in the spring of 1990. We waited until the last two weeks of the semester to administer the questionnaire, assuming that students would be in a better position to answer the questions at this late point. Since we were interested in examining whether women's studies courses differed from non-women's studies courses, we used a matched sample of courses offered in the social sciences. -9 Courses were selected in the following way: Women's studies courses were defined as those courses listed through the Women's Studies Program. All courses (five) taught as part of the women's studies curriculum were included in the sample for a total of 135 questionnaires. Also included in this category were a sample of cross-listed women's studies courses (seven) in other disciplines for another 166 questionnaires. For the purposes of analysis, we will treat all the core and cross-listed courses as women's studies courses for a total of 301 women's studies' questionnaires (68 percent of the sample). Non-women's studies' courses were those courses that were not cross-listed, but were in the same discipline as the cross-listed courses. In order to pull a matched sample for each cross-listed course selected, we selected a course (at the same level of the curriculum, where possible) that was not cross-listed with women's studies. We surveyed five control courses for a total of 140 questionnaires (32 percent of the sample). We telephoned faculty members who taught all the courses chosen for the survey and asked for their participation. All solicited faculty members were very cooperative (only one cross-listed women's studies faculty member did not participate). Faculty members were asked to distribute the survey during the last twenty minutes of class and to designate one student to collect the questionnaires and drop them off in a designated box. This sampling strategy yielded a total of 441 questionnaires; 32 percent were control surveys and 68 percent were either core women's studies or cross-listed women's studies courses. Students in both groups were similar with regard to race and ethnicity, though students in women's studies were slightly older than those in non-women's studies classes. This may reflect the fact that students wait to take women's studies courses as electives when they are in their later years in the college. At the time of the survey, only 4 percent of the students in either women's studies or non-women's studies' classes were women's studies' majors. This is important because what students report to have learned in women's studies classes is not a reflection of their a priori choice of major. -11 The responses to questions were coded. A student assistant tallied the responses of each question and provided in-depth quotes in order for us to understand what the percentages meant. We also wrote a separate open-ended interview guide to use with the majors and alumnae of the program. A random stratified sample of alumnae was interviewed by telephone, and all graduating majors in 1990 were interviewed on site. In the latter case, interviews were tape recorded and then transcribed. Questions were similar to the course questionnaire with the addition of queries about how women's studies affected their career decisions and lives. While this data is very interesting, time constraints did not allow us to analyze this material quantitatively for this report. However, we have used some of the qualitative comments. These questions were shaped by the two central investigators for the project: Rosanna Hertz in sociology and Susan Reverby in women's studies. These ideas were discussed in a Feminist Pedagogy Group that met for three semesters to discuss multicultural education, the institutional barriers to women's studies teaching, and problems with teaching evaluations. We also discussed the questionnaire with faculty members on the Women's Studies Advisory Board. FINDINGS * Does women s studies affect students' lives? There was little difference between women's studies and control courses on how students perceive the effects on their intellectual lives and political beliefs. Most students say that their courses affected them in positive ways. In the women's studies courses, however, students tend to see the change as making them more critical learners and participants in social change. For instance, in the control group, in response to a question on how the course affected their intellectual lives, student responses included: It helped me think in a more orderly manner and logically. This course has just inspired me to learn more about the world and to maybe even become part of the system that is now deciding what future outcomes will be. I am more knowledgeable and can contribute more to various conversations. In the women's studies courses, the student responses were more critical about thinking and about social change. It appears that the students in the women's studies courses felt they were active learners rather than passive recipients of received knowledge. Rather than "closing" the American mind, women's studies' courses seem to have "opened up" our students to critical and different ways of thinking and valuing knowledge. Sensitized to human diversity in her women's studies course, one student explained that it "will help me be more open-minded in dealing with people and situations in the future." Students in these courses answered the query on intellectual change by saying, for example: It helped me to be more open-minded in terms of analyzing ethnic and racial issues. It also in some ways steered my point of perspective toward a more feminist--(Asian)--oriented stand. It has given me a chance to write papers about things I care about, and it has given me "ammunition, " for lack of a better word, against those who try and beat me down. It has expanded my mind in every direction. I am more deeply affected by any form of racism or discrimination because I am so much more aware of it. Powerful stimulant to exploring old territory in new ways, taking note and sharing with others what I have discovered about history--who and what is left out and included and why...it was great fun to try and sort things out. Women's studies courses appear to make it possible for students to center what they are learning intellectually upon their own lives and experienCes. But in this regard, self-emancipation through learning becomes something larger than self-aggrandizement or simply "empowerment." The self becomes rooted in an intellectual agenda. This is a far cry from the focus on "women's problems" that worried the Wellesley faculty two decades ago. While these comments are about "personal changes," they are clearly rooted in intellectual considerations, demonstrating William Blake's dictum, "for a tear is an intellectual thing." For instance, students wrote: ...it has brought into question many aspects of my life which I had never before questioned or viewed as political or philosophical--it has opened up awareness of questioning which has prompted me to actively pursue personal answers. This course really has affected my personal life in the sense that I am more aware of the way gender/class has played a role in my life. Now if a male says something that I find offensive, I can verbalize...how I feel. It's a liberating feeling to look at my world through a different/non-sexist perspective! I'm taking charge of my life more now because of this awareness. In contrast, this answer in the control courses was much more narrow and instrumental. Students saw the courses as helping them read the newspaper better, make moral decisions about unemployment, renew their interest in a particular topic, or direct their job searches. It appears that in the women's studies classes, critical engagement is rooted in an internal or self-understanding of the world, while in our control courses this engagement is more external and pragmatic. -12 On many of the women's studies questionnaires students spoke about making future commitments to social change in practice, such as doing work in communities or becoming politically active. -13 They saw their lives as connected to others in a globally linked way. The effect of women's studies on our students' lives was most poignant in the comments from the majors and alumnae. By making the decision to major in women's studies, these students were acknowledging that their commitment to this field was different from those of students just taking a course or two. Many of the majors and alumnae saw the applicability of the women's studies courses both in their senses of self as well in their daily lives: "It's hard to fight the enemy with outposts in [your] head," we were quoted in class. Women's studies is a friend in my head. I think it's given me a bit of more confidence that. . .books aren't al- ways the key; that sometimes the answers are right inside of you. ...it's learning that does more than fill your brain . It fills your body, it fills your heart, land] it makes you grow.... Other majors and alumnae spoke eloquently of the way women's studies had changed their awareness of the world. Phrases like "it changed the questions I asked myself," "it's made me sensitive to obstacles faced by other disadvantaged groups," or "my life will be devoted to women's issues...it's my life's mission" pepper their responses. Many of the alumnae discussed how it had shaped their career choices or guided their "intellectual and professional life." The effect seems clearest when one student, asked what she can do with the major, replies, "Oh, I can do anything, I just have a broad base of humanity, and I can just stem [off] from that." As one student concluded, "that's the big difference in women's studies [from other disciplines]: there's not only the opportunity to argue, but there's almost a challenge to do something about it." * Does women's studies teach divergent points of view? Women's studies courses at Wellesley are not different in a statistical sense from the controls in encouraging multiple points of view. However, what "divergent points of view" means is clearly different once the qualitative data is read. When asked if different points of view were encouraged by the professor, almost three-quarters of the students in both groups said "yes." In both groups, students felt they were exposed to contrasting theories and differing ways to consider a topic and were encouraged to find their own answers. In the control group, however students interpret different points of view to mean that faculty members teach divergent theories to explain similar phenomenon rather than differing political viewpoints. Students rarely understand that different theories in all disciplines are suffused with political viewpoints. In women's studies, where students come into the courses expecting the subject matter to be suffused with political viewpoints, they still see the professor as presenting contrasting political views but not different theories. This reflects the continued problem that to discuss gender, race, or class is perceived as "political"; by contrast to ignore these categories entirely is not perceived as "political." In discussions with the faculty, however, it is clear that many times faculty members see themselves as presenting "objective" analyses of differing theoretical positions. Because the students see the material itself as "loaded" however, the meaning of objectivity takes on a different cast in women's studies than in other fields. Faculty members often struggle in women's studies courses to help students see that there are not just differing "opinions" about particular issues but underlying theoretical differences that could have political consequences. As many of us have come to rethink what knowledge is and how it is constructed, different disciplines have begun to recognize the deeply subjective aspects of research. The view that the researcher is not dispassionate, objective, or simply a conduit to the intellectual community is becoming more commonly acknowledged. -14 Similarly, this set of issues needs to be discussed about teaching. In the Feminist Pedagogy Group convened to consider such questions, Wellesley women's studies faculty members were particularly articulate about the problems of being seen as "non-objective"; these problems confront the women's studies professor and the professors of color (even more sharply), regardless of subject matter. Women's studies teachers are struggling to find a new definition of "objective" and "good teacher" that clearly fits with the kinds of materials they are presenting and an understanding of the impact their course content has on students. If women's studies professors do not merely present "objective" facts nor arbitrate conflicting viewpoints as the "in-command" figure, they are searching to find a new way to describe their teaching. Perhaps this is best summed up in Barbara Hillyer Davis' analysis that the role is one of "simultaneous translator...hearing and giving back in other words what another person has just said" and at the same time presenting an explanation in another language which will illuminate for a second group without alienating the first." -15 One student used a different term for this when she labeled the classroom experience one of "mutual discovery": I think there is a lot of difference between teaching someone, like standing up in front of a classroom and spitting out information and expecting the students to absorb it and learn it, and learning through. . .mutual discovery, which is more possible in women's studies because it relates so personally to your life.... In our Feminist Pedagogy Group discussions, we found that not all of us functioned as "simultaneous translators" or were certain that this was always the best way to function. Disciplinary and personality differences were evident among women's studies faculty members. In sum, while we can say that the women's studies faculty members demonstrated a variety of pedagogical approaches, they all shared a willingness to try different teaching techniques and to focus on connecting the student to her learning. * Does women's studies pressure students to give "politically correct" answers? When students were asked if they felt "pressure to give 'politically correct' answers" and to explain what they meant by this, the majority said that they did not feel this pressure. -16 In fact, women's studies students wrote rather extensive commentary in which they emphasized how many different viewpoints were overtly encouraged in the classroom, suggesting the "simultaneous translator" role was working. "She tried to present all points of view and/or always made it safe for differing views to be presented," explained one student, while another said of the professor, "She made it seem okay to have different points of view and that there is never only one 'right' point of view." In mediating what are sometimes necessarily intense emotional responses to subject matter, one professor was praised because "she taught us to try to connect with the person whose idea was at hand--rather than taking a separated, confrontational approach." Our findings do suggest, however, that something different is going on in women's studies courses in terms of how students experience the discussions. Despite the affirmation by 70 percent of the women's studies students that their classes did not pressure them to conform to a classroom "line" 30 percent of the women's studies group and only 14 percent of the control group felt silenced or at risk expressing unpopular opinions. -17 At first, we considered the hypothesis that there simply is more discussion in women's studies and that this would affect students' sense of more people saying the same things. However, our statistics on classroom format do not bear this out: 88 percent of the students in the control courses and 84 percent in the women's studies classes reported that the "learning environment" was structured as discussion and lecture. Only classroom observations might tell us if there is more talking from students in the actual discussion times in women's studies as opposed to other courses. What may be at issue is less the time for talk in some quantitative sense than the nature of the talk itself. We suspect that the actual topics of women's studies courses allow for more discussion of deeply felt and controversial issues. The work of our colleague, David Pillemer, and his students in the Psychology Department on what Wellesley students actually remember about their classroom and college experiences supports this hypothesis. Pillemer found that Wellesley students overwhelmingly "remember" interpersonal and emotional encounters. -18 If students are more connected to the issues under discussion in their women's studies classroom, we suspect their strong positions on these issues may be due to their connecting the discussion with the emotional concern they felt at the time. This explanation is supported by the student answers in a set of questionnaires from a women's studies history course. They reported more controversy over the interpretation of the ending of the one novel they read in the course than in the seemingly more "factual" historical materials. As one student commented, "maybe it is difficult to debate history." -19 The students' answers also make clear that the pressure they felt comes from the student culture, not the professors. As one student wrote candidly, "I don't feel the pressure. I may apply it." Another in a control class wrote, "The professor is very accepting of all ideas even if the students generally aren't." We note that this survey took place under the conditions of the hot-house atmosphere at Wellesley when the issue of Barbara Bush as Wellesley's commencement speaker was being debated both on the campus and throughout the country's media. (A petition from 150 Wellesley students questioned the appropriateness of Mrs. Bush as the graduate speaker, and this set off a firestorm of controversy concerning the unresolved issues about the changes in women's and family life.) The course surveys are peppered with comments about women's roles in American society and reflect the content of the Bush controversy. For instance, one student in a women's history course reported: "Students at Wellesley don't want to hear about women who choose more traditional roles such as wife and mother. To support such a choice is to be 'politically incorrect' in a women's studies class. The mind set is that this is what women did when they were oppressed--now that they are liberated, only the most meek would make such a choice." -20 We feel it is disheartening to read the student comments from this question, but their honesty needs to be recorded. Thus, one student said, "People hesitate to state what they really feel because they don't know if it is right and will feel scorned by those who have 'political rightness' mastered." Another noted, "Sometimes when I disagree with what the majority of the class is saying, I don't speak up because I feel too uncomfortable." Or, in the words of another student, "There seems to be a party line on feminist issues that we had better not waver from. However, it is masked in a feeling of openness." The problem is best summed up by a student who wrote, "The pressure is there all the time irrespective of being in this class or outside--the pressure to go with the sway of public opinion." At an elite women's college where there is a college culture of high achievement for women and a legacy of politeness as the norm for women's behavior, there may be pressure to make students feel they should not speak up and express a minority view. Long before "p.c." became a nationwide shibboleth, the problem of conformity and the failure to hotly contest ideas of any kind in the classroom were widely discussed by Wellesley faculty members. As one student wrote, "It's a combination of societal pressure not to rock the boat and Wellesley pressure to be nice." It also is possible that this conformity is a result of the primary late adolescent culture that pervades the college. -21 Not every student conforms. As one women's studies student declared, "I refuse to fall into one more form of politeness." This "politeness" is further complicated in women's studies, where the subject matter is so linked to a sense of self. Students often write that they feel that to be critical of someone's ideas is to be critical of them as a person. As one student reported in a women's studies class before beginning her disagreement, "Don't jump all over me, but...." -22 Encouraging students to feel "safe" to voice criticism is one of the tasks discussed many times by women's studies faculty in the Feminist Pedagogy Group. However, if the theories that link women's development of self to connection with others are valid, then the women's studies students reported discussing the course materials outside the classroom 20 percent more than the controls we may indeed he asking students to do something that forces them to be in tension with their developing sense of self. -23 The difficulty of helping students to understand differing points of view about deeply held identity beliefs, at a time when they are still working out who they are themselves, may be reflected in these responses as well. As one student wrote, "...sure there's a little pressure, but that's usually brought on by personal insecurity." How we work to promote "safe" debate without encouraging mere posturing, competition, and disconnection needs further thought. More research on peer pressure in the women's classroom should be done. How much students' unwillingness to engage in debate is linked to their "shyness" also would have to be studied. Studies suggest that there is a slightly higher percentage of shy students at Wellesley than at coeducational universities. Research on shyness suggests that the metacognitive tendencies of shy people include "think[ing] about 'who does this situation want me to be?' rather than 'how can I be me in this situation'" which could be a factor in the classroom culture. Similarly, another faculty member who has read admissions files for Wellesley over the last two decades anecdotally reports that more of the letters of recommendation in the late 1980s as compared to the late 1960s describe the student as "quiet." -24 Our students' answers also suggest that the words "politically correct" may not always mean what such a phrase has come to mean in the media in the last two years. Some students clearly thought this meant more of a classroom-based "party line" regardless of the topic. Thus, in one control class in answer to the "p.c." question, a student wrote she felt the pressure because "if you disagree with the professor he will squash you because he has more knowledge and therefore will give a more persuasive, irrefutable argument." * What quality of debate occurs in women's studies? While we have sought to investigate the reasons why some women's studies students, more than students in the control group, felt pressure from their peers to sign on to a common way of seeing the world, the vast majority of students in both groups did not experience such pressure. In fact, the statistical comparison between the two groups also suggests that women's studies students debate issues far more frequently both in and out of the classroom. Of all our questions, the numerical differences between the two groups was widest in the two questions about debate and discussion. When we asked, "Do students debate or argue among one another?" 80 percent of the students in the women's studies classroom answered "yes" as opposed to only 55 percent in the controls. As noted, this difference is not one of format. As one student expressed eloquently, "Yes--debate, argue-- no. Everyone respects everyone else's beliefs. I've never seen anyone jump down anyone's throat but there are certainly a wide variety of opinions." Yet in the very same class another student reported "There is usually a predominantly liberal or feminist general opinion in class (in most classes in general) and it is difficult to go against this attitude." These divergent reactions to what has happened in the same course suggest how little we really can learn from statistical generalizations and how different students actually are experiencing a course even when they are sitting in a shared classroom. Only 25 percent of the women's studies students answered "no" to the question of whether students argue among one another. By contrast, 48 percent of the students from the control group, or almost half, answered "no." Talking and learning in women's studies takes place in many settings. We asked students how often they discussed course readings and lectures outside the classroom and with whom. The women's studies students reported discussing the course materials outside the classroom 20 percent more than the controls did (84 percent in women's studies said they had such discussions either constantly or occasionally as opposed to 63 percent of the controls). Even more striking, 17 percent of the women's studies students said such discussions were constant, as opposed to only 6 percent of the controls. There is, however, very little difference between the groups on the question of with whom these discussions take place. The only difference is slightly more discussion (18 percent versus 13 percent) with male friends by the women's studies group. We believe this reflects the fact that the women's studies courses do raise issues about male/female relationships that the students then test in discussion with their male friends. The courses also may provide the students with a language and the "cover" of an intellectual dialogue to discuss more "personal" male/female issues. Many women's studies students also report increased dialogues with their mothers. What our questionnaires did not tell us is whether there is more debate as well as discussion taking place outside the classroom than in it. With friends, roommates, or family, and away from any kind of real evaluative situation like a class (especially ones like women's studies where students know discussion really matters), students may feel freer to actually wrestle with the materials and ideas they are learning. -25 Despite students' memories that there is much discussion in women's studies classes, faculty members also report there is sometimes a good deal of silence, especially when the topics are particularly sensitive. We suspect that the silence, or the sense of pressure also may come from the topics and reflect the real limitations of the set classroom time and its evaluative nature. Often, students need more time to process a set of ideas, to reflect upon them, to speak to others before they really know what they think. -26 Faculty members thus have found that if complex ideas can be introduced a number of different ways and returned to later in the course, the discussions often are more fruitful. Research on women's studies learning therefore may have to take into account what happens outside the classroom as much as what actually happens inside during class time or studying. In conclusion, our findings demonstrate the limitations of relying on quantitative evaluative data and the ways they "flatten" human experiences. Even when the quantitative answers were statistically similar between the women's studies and control courses, careful reading of the actual answers suggests that the meanings of the answers varied widely between the women's studies and control courses. Thus, the qualitative answers told us much more about what was really happening in the courses and gave us a deeper sense of how we might begin to "count" the meanings of our students' responses. These answers also demonstrated how much women's studies classes honed students' critical thinking and their own sense of themselves as not merely learners but active participants in linking intellectual endeavors and changing conceptions of the self to social change. IMPACT OF THE PROJECT AND FUTURE PLANS For the faculty members, the project enabled us to make self-conscious what is for many of us unconscious. In our discussions, we discovered joint problems of topics in the classrooms, expressed concern about both silences and pressures, and became particularly aware of the difficulties facing our col- leagues of color. The project also led us to discuss with the relevant committees on campus and with the dean both evaluation problems and the need for more money for internal research on teaching. We became very aware of how the pressure of the student evaluation questionnaires kept faculty members, especially junior faculty members, fearful of innovation and controversy in their classrooms. This report also will be given as a lecture in the faculty's ongoing teaching seminars sponsored by the dean's office. Although some parts of this report gave us pause, we felt encouraged in the end by the comments of students in our classes and by the words of one who noted what women's studies had meant for her: "I will continue to question my beliefs and will continue to try to educate myself." This seems to us to sum up succinctly what we hope women's studies does for all its students. We think our report raises the need for further studies on the following questions: What are the relationships between the late adolescent student's identity development and the kinds of issues raised in women's studies? How does peer pressure affect student learning? How are we to understand the meaning of"silences" in the women's studies classroom, and how are we to measure the "talk"? How can quantitative and qualitative research on classroom learning be used together to give a fuller picture of student learning? What kind of changes will have to be made in student evaluation questionnaires when the course content is perceived as "political"? What difference does widespread societal discussion of"political correctness" mean for the women's studies classroom and its mission as we face the twenty-first century? Can we follow women's studies students in a longitudinal manner to examine how much "social change" they actually become part of? How can we talk about "objectivity" in a way that helps students understand more fully what women's studies is attempting to do? How much does the very subject of women's studies--and its link to an emotional/affective style of learning--affect what students actually remember about their courses? Should we, or can we, attempt to help students disengage the personal from the content of the courses? How do we make them understand that while the "personal is political," it is not always true that the political is personal in the way they have come to understand it? In sum, women's studies in a women's institution is ironically in a difficult situation: It must make gender matter and not matter in a context that struggles to make gender matter and not matter, too. The obvious demands on women's studies in coeducational institutions--to support women's centers, create role models, serve as focal points for women's issues, teach in different modes--take on subtler and different shadings in the setting of a small liberal arts college dedicated to women's empowerment and excellence in teaching. In questionnaire responses from students and discussions among the faculty, we tried to determine what does make women's studies "different" at Wellesley. Our findings suggest that ultimately it is the subject matter of women's studies that shapes the parameters for teaching and learning. For many students, especially those coming directly from high school, women's studies is the first time that women and gender are legitimate subjects of study. In connecting the student through "mutual discovery" to herself and the wider world at the same time, women's studies creates a critical edge in its students and a critical stance in its teachers. This criticalness connects intellectual sharpness to the contemporary issues that the students face, or that they come to understand, that structure the lives of women whose life circumstances are or have been quite different from their own. As our comparative data suggest, while there is as much discussion in women's studies as in other Wellesley classes, students perceive both more conformity and more debate in women's studies. We believe this reflects, in part, the pressure of "politeness" that still defines many women's cultures. Because the material is so important to the students and their lives, they both think differently about it and speak in "pregnant pauses" as well. Sometimes, however, the issues appear so overwhelming they do not know what they think. Often, only time and life experience will help them sort this out. We think, therefore, that the seeming contradiction--more conformity pressure and more debate--really is not contradictory. Further, our data show they do speak about it much more outside the classroom. Thus, women's studies requires that we reconsider the learning boundaries of our courses. Innovative assignments, returning to similar topics in non-linear ways, use of the silences, and even the seeming conformity in a dialogic manner throughout the course may be required if we are to take advantage of the kind of learning that is already taking place. Finally, we will have to use some of the new analyses of identity formation and community to come to terms with the pressures our students feel and the learning they are doing. Students in women's studies' as in other ethnic and black studies courses, are part of an effort to forge a new kind of learning and contestation over critical ideas. As historian Joan Wallach Scott has argued, "Contests about knowledge are now understood to be political, not only because they are contests, but because they are explicitly about the interests of groups." How we consider this and help women's studies students forge a sense of self that is both connected and open to difference remains our greatest challenge. NOTES 1 . We gratefully acknowledge the participation of Wellesley College faculty members in the surveys and discussions that made this report possible. We also thank Holly Benton, Lisa Bergin, Laura Kossoff, Jennifer Schoenstadt, and Margaret Potter for their assistance in the data collection and coding. We thank Laurel Furumoto of the Psychology Department for her helpful suggestions on sampling technique. Tim Sieber and Caryn McTighe Musil made invaluable editorial suggestions. Both Suzanne Hyers and Margaret Centamore provided technical assistance, including "translating" from MAC to IEM and back. 2. Wellesley College Bulletin 81 (September 1991): 42, 48. 3. Susan Reverby. "Women's Studies at Wellesley Over the Decade," presentation given at A Celebration of Nan Keohane's Decade as Wellesley's President, October 18, 1991, Wellesley College. 4. It is interesting to note that this is the only academic unit in the college where all faculty members have initially been hired on a half-time basis. Even though the program has tenure-track positions, it has never been given a full-time, tenure-track line to begin with. This is unusual at Wellesley. Although the college does have a history of providing "regular part-time" work with benefits and the possibility of tenure. This slow building of the program also reflects the cap on faculty increases in the 1980s. 5. When enrollment goes above eighty students in a semester, a faculty member can request a grader. This is rare and few faculty members teach this many students in a semester on what is now a two-courses-a-semester load. 6. The 'renting' idea is Arthur Stinchcombe's; see Arthur Stinchcombe, Information and Organizations (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), chapter nine, "University Administration of Research Space and Teaching Loads: Managers Who Do Not Know What Their Workers Are Doing." 7. "Wellesley College Student Evaluation Questionnaires." The forms in fact leave room for the students to write comments, but these are only seen by the faculty member and are not used for evaluation. Therefore, the qualitative information on these forms is not being used to illuminate the quantitative scores. We will return to this point in our discussion of findings. 8. As a by product of these questions, we learned a lot about the content of the courses without actually examining the syllabi or asking students about it directly. We had no hidden agenda in finding out what was taught in classes. Content was not conceived of as central to our research design. 9. We focused on social science courses because there are very few humanities and no science courses that are cross-listed in women's studies. At Wellesley, philosophy and history are considered part of the social sciences division. 10. Commitment to women's studies was measured by courses that were either part of the women's studies core curriculum or cross-listed. The reason for this is that cross-listed courses are at the option of the individual faculty member who chooses to see his or her courses as part of the women's studies curriculum. A screen by women's studies is done very informally, and faculty members are not required to submit syllabi for acceptance. 11. What we do not know, and would be interested to know in future surveys, is how many students even know that the courses they select are cross-listed with women's studies. This additional information would tell us whether or not students are conscious of a feminist style of teaching is of presumed feminist content to the courses when they select their courses. Our hunch is that students are not aware of this and choose courses simply on the reputation of the faculty member. We suspect that even if students do not know about the bureaucratic cross-listing, they are aware often of the faculty member's approach and can tell from the course title and description something about its content. At a small residential college, a good deal of informal information is known and shared about faculty members. In retrospect, it might have helped if in our survey we had asked students why they chose this course and if they knew it was cross-listed in women's studies. 12. This kind of instrumental view of education is, of course, fairly common; see Michael Moffatt, Coming of Age in New Jersey (New Brunswick, N.J. Rutgers University Press, 1989). 13. If we had the time, it would be fascinating to do longitudinal studies and see what actually happens to these students in ten years' time. 14. These issues have been discussed for a number of years and are central to much women's studies thinking. For more recent discussion in other fields, see for examples James Clifford and George E. Marcus, eds.,Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986) and Peter Novick, That Noble Dream: The "Objectivity Question" and the American Historical Profession (New York Cambridge University Press, 1988). 15. Barbara Hillyer Davis, "Teaching the Feminist Minority." in Margo Culley and Catherine Portuges, eds., Gendered Subjects: The Dynamics of Feminist Teaching (New York: Routledge, 1985), 250. 16. We should note that this question was framed before the media circus around "political correctness" came to town. 17. These statistics are skewed by one course in the women's studies group where nineteen out of twenty-five students replied yes. However, if we throw out this course from the data, almost a fourth of the women's studies students still say yes. 18. David Pillemer, et al., "Memories of Life Transitions: The First Year in College," Human Learning 5 (1986): 109-23; Lynn Goldsmith and David Pillemer, "Memories of Statements Spoken in Everyday Contexts," Applied Cognitive Psychology 2 ( 1988): 273-86; David Pillemer, et al., "Very Long-Term Memories of the First Year in College."Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition 14 ( 1988): 709-15. 19. It is, of course, very easy to debate history. This was a large course taught by a visiting professor who may not have felt comfortable opening up the debate on a regular basis. 20. The debate around the selection of Barbara Bush and the Wellesley students' petition questioning her appropriateness will be the subject of a larger study, not related to this FIPSE report, that Hertz and Reverby are now completing. Two years later as we complete this report, this issue has clearly not gone away. Tellingly, this time the media concern is focused on a possible presidential wife, Hillary Clinton, Wellesley Class of 1969. Jerry Brown's jibe at Bill Clinton for sending state business to his wife's law firm led her to query if Brown expected her to be home with the kids serving milk and cookies. The subsequent media response to this was reminiscent of the Bush debate. Thus, the pressure students feel at Wellesley to achieve in the work world, and their sense of being silenced around traditionally "female" activities, are certainly not limited to the women's studies classroom. 21. We acknowledge that most classes at Wellesley also have returning women students who are older than "traditional-aged" students. But they do not shape the classroom culture as a whole. How much they can influence more traditional-aged students when they are still outnumbered in the classes remains to be studied. For a parallel analysis on tokenism, see Rosabeth Kanter, Men and Women in the Corporation (New York: Basic Books, 1977). 22. Reading of student entries to journals for "Introduction to Women's Studies" and comments in "Politics of Caring" course. 23. A number of researchers have written on this topic: Janet Lever, Carol Gilligan, Nancy Chodorow, etc. The idea of the "self in relations" is most theoretically developed by the Stone Center group at Wellesley College, see Judith Jordan, et al., eds.. Women's Growth in Connection (New York: Guilford Press, 1991). 24. Jonathan Cheek, "Faculty 'Shop-talk': Teaching the Shy Student," Wellesley College, February 18, 1992; Personal communication, Maud Chaplin to Susan Reverby, March 24, 1992; see also Jonathan Cheek and L. A. Melchior, "Shyness, Self-esteem and Self-consciousness," in H. Leitenberg, ed., Handbook of Social and Evaluation Anxiety (New York: Plenum, 1990), 47-82. 25. As one of the authors of this report has observed, students' journals in the introductory courses demonstrate, for example, much more questioning and complex thinking than is usually articulated in the classroom. 26. The silences also may reflect student reaction to materials outside their own experiences or their life stage. For instance, abortion elicits a hotly contested debate, while infertility or reproductive technology is less likely to provoke such passionate discussion. 27. Joan Wallach Scott, "The Campaign Against Political Correctness," Change (November- December 1 99 1 ), 3 7. 11, STUDENT QUESTIONNAIRE WELLESLEY COLLEGE This questionnaire is part of a study being done by Wellesley's Women's Studies Program as part of a national survey. To do the study, we are asking students in selected women's studies and non-women's studies courses to answer this brief questionnaire. Your answers should reflect your experience in the class where you received this survey. Your name is not requested and your professor will not see the survey. S/he will merely collect them and return them immediately to the women's studies office. We deeply appreciate your taking the time to do this. Directions If a question does not apply, please write "not applicable." If you do not have an answer or don't know, please write "don't know." Course number and name: Background Information 1. What year do you expect to graduate? 2. What is your age? 3. What is your race/ethnicity? 4. What is your major? What is your minor? 5. After graduation are you presently planning to attend graduate or professional school ? Yes No Don't know [circle one] In what fields? [specify, degrees and fields] Questions About This Course 1. How has this course changed or affected your personal life? 2. How has this course affected your intellectual life? 3. Did it change your political beliefs? If so, how? 4. How was the learning environment structured in the classroom? (e.g., lecture only, lecture and discussion, student led, sat in a circle, etc.) 5. How does the learning environment in this class compare to any courses you have taken in women's studies? (Women's studies courses and courses cross-listed in women's studies can be used as comparisons.) 6. Is there much discussion in this class? 7. Do students debate or argue among one another? [provide examples] 8. How often did you discuss course readings and lectures outside the classroom? Constantly Occasionally Rarely [circle one] Only when studying for an exam Never If so, with whom? [specify relationship: roommates, female friends, male friends, family] 9. Do you feel there is pressure to give "politically correct" answers? Yes No [circle one] If yes, please explain your answer. 10. Were different points of view encouraged by the professor? Yes No Sometimes [circle one] 11. In terms of course content, did you learn how to think about an issue or social problem from different political or theoretical points of view? [give examples] 12. Do you feel that you will apply what you learned in this class to your work and/or further education? Yes No Don't know [circle one] If yes, how?