I enjoy your newspaper’s thorough, engaging and often humorous coverage of campus news and events. My personal favorite is and always has been the opinions page. However, I feel the need to write you regarding an opinion piece from Issue 4 of Volume 117, printed on Oct. 5, which I found unfair and misleading.
The piece was entitled “Jonathan Haidt’s Lecture Underscores Need for Social Justice on College Campuses.” It outlined the premise of the lecture, namely that many institutions, including Wellesley, have dedicated themselves to the cause of social justice to the extent that it has begun to stifle the pursuit of truth. The author then proceeded with her counterarguments–her own bias possibly motivating the assertion that “the audience’s response to his lecture was immediate and forceful.” In my opinion, many students present found his talk rather convincing.
That aside, let me move on to the meat of the article. One of Haidt’s main points was that the gender disparity in STEM fields may be due to differences in interests as opposed to discrimination. The article argued that Haidt “conveniently left out” factors such as stereotype threat that discourage women from STEM careers. I won’t attempt to argue with this, but I’d like to posit a question: at what point can gender disparity be accepted as a difference of interest? Women are encouraged in sundry ways to become scientists. To name just one which Haidt also mentioned, when a man and a woman with identical qualifications compete for a STEM job, the woman is twice as likely to be hired. How far must the pendulum swing before we can conclude that men and women may in fact have different interests and leanings?
The most objectionable part of the article by far, though, was the following. It stated that a speech that Haidt used “explained the gender disparity in STEM by identifying that there are more men than women with IQ scores that are significantly higher than average.” This is technically true, but misleading upon closer examination. What Haidt actually said was that men’s IQ scores show a greater standard deviation. Men’s and women’s average IQ scores are virtually identical, but the male bell curve is flatter; to put it bluntly, there are more male geniuses likely to excel in the sciences, but also more men who lack the mental capacity to succeed in any academic occupation at all. Given this more accurate summary of Haidt’s point, male domination of STEM fields may in fact be well explained by IQ trends and the accuracy of the Wechsler Intelligence Test is not put into question.
How ironic that, in order to make the case that social justice is always compatible with and in fact necessary for the pursuit of truth, the author was forced to turn to deception and misrepresentation. This was Haidt’s point—we must chase after truth even when it may fly in the face of our ideology.
Maria Wollin ’20