Professor Obama on gender, gay issues, and health

Must reading for all law profs - the NY Times has published eight of the exams (scroll to bottom of link) given by Barack Obama while he was teaching at the University of Chicago Law School, together with two sample answers, one course syllabus, and commentary by Akhil Amar, Randy Barnett, John Eastman, and Pam Karlan (all at the same link).

http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/ 07/30/inside-professor-obamas-classroom/

Obama did not produce any legal scholarship - he was after all, simultaneously with adjunct teaching, also a practicing lawyer, state senator (for part of the time), and, perhaps even then, a presidential wannabe, and like his colleagues did not want any political hopes dashed from opponents who could possibly use this against him.  But the legal academy is clearly the loser, as the University of Chicago even admits openly that even right wing colleagues attempted to persuade him to leave his political career and return to academia.

His exams and especially his model answers reveal a cool, critical intelligence applied to the trickiest legal issues.

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My Experience related to Gender in Academic Science

Earlier there was a diary related to gender inequality in the sciences.  Unfortunately, active discussion in the diary was not really possible.  With that in mind, I thought I would take a moment to discuss my personal experiences with gender issues in the world of academic chemistry from my male perspective.

I am a graduate student at one of the top universities in the country.  I am not trying to get patted on the back (as I was accused earlier) but simply adding context to the story.  I think it is relevant that the men and women I work with are probably some of the smartest people and best chemists in the world.

The department I work in has a man to woman ratio of around 3/2.  My specific research group comprises 20 men and only 4 women.  We are very much a boys club, albeit unintentionally.  My boss actively courts women but we find it difficult to convince them to join a male heavy group and therefore we never seem to be able to break out of the mold.  There are also groups in our department with the opposite problem.  They are predominantly female and few men join because the persona of the group has been set.  This is the first problem that I saw in my academic career and it is something many people notice pretty quickly upon their arrival.  I have thought of no reasonable solution to this problem.

There are also problems related to internal gender perceptions.  I have noticed that one of my female co-workers is typically unwilling to ask general questions of us.  At times it is detrimental to her progress in her project.  When I pointed out her unwillingness to get help, she said that she didn't want us to think she was stupid or the dumb girl.  She then gave several examples from her undergraduate experience where there was some mysogeny at play.  She had stereotyped her new male coworkers and in the process slowed down her own progress.  We discussed the matter in depth and she came around to the idea that the older grad students are there to help her just as the other grad students helped us.  If we already knew everything, why would we be at grad school.

I am also friends with a Canadian post-doctoral scholar.  After deciding to become a professor and doing some research into staying in the states, she realized that the US academics do not have a system for accounting for female faculty that want a child and tenure.  In Canada, the pre-tenure position is extended for women who choose to conceive.  This is not true here.  Young women faculty here have to choose tenure or children but rarely both.  My friend decided to return to Canada so she could do both.

These are the problems of gender inequality in my own personal experiences.  There are fewer women than men.  The women who are here sometimes are not well integrated into the greater community.  At least one women assumes that we think less of her due to her prior experiences in undergrad.  Lastly, women in the US have difficulty accomplishing their career dreams and their desire for children at the same time.

Unfortunately, there are no magic bullets for these problems.  The first clear step is to give girls in primary school equal footing at the beginning.

That is about all I can think of.  Sorry it rambles.

I would be happy to stick around and discuss my anecdotes and yours.  Blogs are about dialogue not monologue.

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The impact of race and gender revisited

This is a follow up to a previous diary where I had started to look at the impact of race and gender on selected primaries after West Virginia. The premise is that one can take the data from exit polls and estimate the percentage of voters that used race and gender in their voting decisions. Most exit polls ask if race or gender was important in deciding who you voted for. By looking at how people who answered "yes" to these questions, one can determine their impact on the outcome.

More in the extended entry.

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This is what we need to address

I am an intern for the Democratic Party in a swing state. Part of my duties today (besides making coffee of course!) was to answer incoming phone calls. Some people in this area decide to call the local Democratic Party to vent their anger and frustration regarding the primaries and their results. Many of them are angry Clinton supporters, though there are some Obama people who are very upset that she hasn't stepped out yet. I want to tell this community of a conversation that I had this morning with a Catholic woman who identified herself as a lifetime Democratic voter.

This caller is a Clinton supporter and she started the conversation by asking, "Why did our party make this mistake of nominating an inexperienced candidate with so much baggage from Chicago?" I of course provided the company line that the Democratic Party has not endorsed a candidate and that ultimately we are going to support whichever candidate is nominated.

She pressed further, "but even him?!" This is when I started to engage with her and try to push her towards the candidate that does appear to be our persumptive nominee. In regards to the lack of political experience, I told her that Barack Obama has been in elected office for more years before the presidency than George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and many former presidents, including Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Franklin Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson. What matters in this election is judgement, which can be achieved through the sheer number of years in government or the ability to appropriately see a problem and find its solution. In regards to Obama, we know that he wants to push for an end to the war in Iraq, economic reform, and greater health insurance benefits. For McCain, we know that he wants 100 years in Iraq, no substantial change to our nation's "markets," and reductions in a number of items that affect our nation's safety net. Who has the better judgement there to solve our problems?  

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A heartfelt and serious rambling

This began as a response in one of the diaries condemning Obama for Father Pfleger. As it got longer, I thought I would put it in a diary instead. As the title says, it is rambling and raw.

Let me start by saying what should be obvious, I condemn hate speech. I condemn prejudicial, racist, sexist, anti-Semitic (Jew and Arab) language.

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Diaries

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