Monthly Archives: April 2014

Losing Single-Sex Education

I am a graduate of a single-sex institution (also known as an all-women’s college). I am quite proud to have gone to a single-sex college. I feel like it prepared me for my career path and the world better than any other institution would have.

Today I started noticing that many of my fellow alums were writing about a different women’s college that has a vote this week whether it will remain single-sex or will become co-ed. About once a year there are one of these stories. It is always a toss-up as to whether the Board of Trustees (or whatever each institution calls their governing board) decides whether to remain a women’s college or not. It is always due to financial situations at the institution. This time it is Chatham University in Pittsburgh.

I understand that institutions must be financially sound (my undergrad was a debt free institution). However, does that have to be at the detriment of losing single-sex higher education?

There is often the stereotype that everyone who goes to a women’s college is a lesbian or will become one. If that was true why are there so many heterosexual engagements that happened with my Hollins friends this year? And what about Hillary Clinton—she is in a heterosexual marriage and went to a women’s college. It is people like her that come out of these single-sex institutions. In fact, many of the most successful women (in the traditional sense) are women’s college graduates.

Many people who go to women’s colleges had no intention of doing so. It was not that they were looking for a single-sex institution. It was other factors that drew them to their schools. For some, it is the professors, the extra curricular activities, the majors offered, the class sizes, and many more reasons.

Women’s colleges offer a living, learning environment in which intelligent, ambitious women are the ones who are doing it all. We are the ones who are participating in class. The ones getting prestigious internships. The ones running the Student Government Association. The ones going on to get into amazing graduate schools and get amazing jobs in locations around the world. One of my fellow alums wrote that while at Hollins, “I learned to share my ideas, to volunteer for causes that I care about, to take risks when they need to be taken. I cultivated my compassion, leadership, ambition, confidence, and creativity. Hollins prepared me for the real world by teaching me the tools I’d need in a supportive, enriching environment, and continues to support me through the extensive network of alumnae and friends. I would certainly not be the woman I am today if it wasn’t for my time at Hollins.” This is similar to what everyone has been writing about their experiences at single-sex institutions, not just Hollins or Chatham.

The young women of Chatham realize the benefit of going to a single-sex institution. They are trying to be vocal about their disapproval of going co-ed. In fact, they held a small protest last week first on campus and then off campus. There is a plan for another protest on Thursday, the day of the vote.

But should single-sex institutions become co-ed? Is there really a benefit to going co-ed? Or are there ways that all of these schools that are considering moving from single-sex to co-ed can succeed while still remaining true to their mission of educating women or educating men?

Online Presence

According to this Chronicle article– –building an online brand is an essential way for a professor who wants to connect with students and when scholars share about their personal lives are rated to having the most credibility.

Is this true in all cases? Even in small towns or small campuses where people know you and your family?

Disclosure about personal things to students is something that I have spent a lot of time thinking about and is a frequent topic of discussion within my department. I agree that students want some idea about who you are outside of the classroom but I don’t think they have to get those ideas from your online presence. By maintaining just a professional voice on your online presence and still disclosing in person would have the same benefits.

All of this technology is great. And we need to be open to the changes that are here and that are coming. But I also think we sometimes should slow down and think about what we are doing from all angles before jumping on the bandwagon.

It took a little bit of digging but I was able to find a couple of different journals that look at family studies and/or queer studies. Only one was based in the United States. The other three were out of Canada, Finland, and Australia. Even the journals from international locations have editors from more than one country (even the U.S.) including some of the top people in the field.

All of the journals are peer-reviewed and all indicate a dedication to presenting strong research. Many of them are also interdisciplinary in nature, partly due to the topics discussed don’t solely get studied in one department.

Even when discussing being open access, they say how they support academic pursuits and desire to ensure the validity and reliability of research. Part of why the journals are open access is to make what is being studied more visible.



Journal of Gay and Lesbian Issues and Psychology:

Journal of Queer Studies in Finland:

International Journal of Child, Youth, and Family Studies:

Journal of Family Strengths:

Ethical Research and Publication Within Family Studies and Sociology

As we have been reading and talking about ethics during the last week or so I was reminded of a case that has been continuously in the news within my discipline for almost two years now.  So, instead about reading and talking about ethics in other disciplines, I decided to bring up this one. In 2012 a study conducted by a sociologist from the University of Texas was published that claimed to have produced the first rigorous scientific evidence showing that same-sex families harm children. Following the publication there was an outcry by many in the fields of sociology, family studies, and psychology who have done much research with the exact opposite findings.

As people started digging and looking into the research, the publication process, etc. a lot of things started to emerge about how the study was conducted.

Part of what came out was that the author strategically selected groups for comparison. Part of this was not making the experiences other than having a gay, lesbian, or bisexual parent exactly the same. Those who were in the heterosexual parent group had parents that were continuously married throughout the participant’s life while those in the other group did not necessarily even live with that parent.

The researcher did not contact any other scholars on the subject before starting this research (it was outside his normal research practices), including those within his own department. Which on the surface is not a big deal, but the fact that there has been so much research looking at similar questions, it is surprising that he did not reach out to understand all of the nuances of the topic.

Part of the concern over this researcher’s study is how biased he was in even initiating the study. If you read any of his popular news writings (or even study his CV closely) you can see how biased he was to find the finding he did. There was also the problem that the entire study was funded by the Witherspoon Institute (a conservative group) in which the researcher never disclosed while publishing the research. He even tried to hide the fact during the initial outcry after the publication.

At this point his reputation is almost completely ruined within the field. Even as an “expert witness” courts are viewing his research and opinions as useless. In fact, recently, a Michigan judge said something in that realm. However, as he continues to write and defend himself, he seems to not believe that he has done anything wrong and that he is on the right side of the research ethics.

This is a case that will continue to play out but is also a good teaching point for all of us.