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Celebrating the age of obedient ears... Nope, I can't find anything… - Sally's Journal
May 18th, 2004
06:30 pm

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Celebrating the age of obedient ears...

Nope, I can't find anything that explains it either. Go to Girton, and wander around on the first floor corridors (well don't, because they'll think you're a scary knife man, but you get the idea) and you'll notice that all the doors have a little metal square for sliding in a scrap of paper with the name of the occcupant of the room. One of these has, underneath it (and it's no bigger than the name square, so you'll have to have your eyes peeled) something along the lines of "Old Girtonians 1951, 1952, 1952. Celebrating the age of obedient ears". The room doesn't seem to be anything special (the name is a biro scrawled abbreiviation, rather than a Dr Foo) and the guy who lived on the corridor didn't have a clue what it was on about (indeed, had never noticed it before). Trawling round Google and the college website doesn't shed any light on it. Ah, lifes amusing little mysterys...

Then again, the Girton website does have a very amusing songs page

While I'm on the subject of Girton, it's given me another string to my bow of why the girls only colleges should go mixed*. I don't know if anyone else has noticed it, but the character of the college still has a very strong sense of its previous women only status. Pictures on the wall, past mistresses, famous alumni, names on benches, people who have donated books... it's lovely to be in such an atmosphere of women who have done well, and yet at the same time have the social balence of a mixed cambridge college. Admitting men doesn't erode your history and turn you into Trinity overnight.

Basically because there shouldn't be girls only colleges if there arn't male only colleges. It means that women have a second chance to get into Cambridge men don't, which is unfair, and has a possible effect on the standard of women who get into Cambridge being lower than the standard of men, which makes women look weaker in the eyes of the university. Oh, and it makes life harder for women trying to cope in more famous colleges - from getting in in the first place (if you have two identical candidates, but know the female one is far more likely to get pulled out of the pool...) to having to deal with women (many colleges won't provide womens only staircases because if they have a problem with that they should be at the all girls colleges, which bars the very people who Newnham and NewHall are cited as the champions of from much of the university) Anyway, this is a very long and tired rant, and not the point of this post at all...

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From:mair_aw
Date:May 18th, 2004 11:05 am (UTC)
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Whee! That's on more than one door in Girton, I think, but it used to be on my first year room door :D
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From:atreic
Date:May 18th, 2004 11:31 am (UTC)
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Yay!

But, err, what does it mean? What was the age of obedient ears? Why 1950, 51, 52?

And who are you and why are you reading my LJ? :-)
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From:mair_aw
Date:May 18th, 2004 11:42 am (UTC)
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I have no idea.

I'm flurble, and I stalk LJs when I get bored.
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From:atreic
Date:May 18th, 2004 11:54 am (UTC)
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Oh, OK. If you find anything remotely interesting in this one feel free to friend it :-)

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From:pavanne
Date:May 18th, 2004 12:05 pm (UTC)
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I can only assume that the ears of today are disobedient.

We do have a women-only corridor of 30ish rooms, Nun's Run. There are never enough girls who really want to be in a woman-only place to fill it, so most occupants are those who didn't mind either way.
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From:atreic
Date:May 18th, 2004 12:15 pm (UTC)
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I wouldn't have listed Girton in the "more famous colleges" :-p But I think it's generally good that it does that... either there is no need for womens only accomadation and they should obviously abolish the womens colleges, or there is a need, in which case there should be some vague effort to provide it anywhere it's wanted.

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From:rmc28
Date:May 18th, 2004 12:23 pm (UTC)
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Admissions is roughly in line with applications, whether you split it by gender or by race or by school type. As far as possible, the Colleges really do admit only the strongest people, whatever the background. With applications running at about 4 or 5 per place across Cambridge, the choice is wide ...

It's also not true that women get a 'second chance' that men don't: according to the work I've been doing for CamSIS, approximately 25% of applicants go into the winter pool, of both genders, and are negotiated over by all the Colleges. I also know more than I ever needed to now about the allocation of Open applicants, which also does its best to be an equitable distribution of applicants across all Colleges.

I loved my time at New Hall and have a strong attachment to all that makes it special: I honestly don't know if one of those things is its single-sex status, but I didn't want that to change for change's sake alone. I think my thoughts on "women's issues" probably deserve their own LJ entry, maybe I'll be motivated to write it later.

All that aside, since working on the Open applicant allocation I've found myself thinking that now that women do actually make up roughly half the Cambridge undergraduate population, it might be nice if they were more evenly distributed, rather than in an artificially-low concentration in all-but-3 colleges and an artificially-high concentration in the remaining 3. It would make the allocation somewhat simpler, if nothing else. Like so many things in Cambridge, it's a complication for historical reasons. Change here is really not easy.
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From:atreic
Date:May 18th, 2004 12:47 pm (UTC)
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It's also not true that women get a 'second chance' that men don't: according to the work I've been doing for CamSIS, approximately 25% of applicants go into the winter pool, of both genders, and are negotiated over by all the Colleges.

So of the applicants who go into the pool, are the same number of men pulled out as women?

If not, then the women are getting a "second chance" of being more likely to get into Cambridge?

If so, are more men being pulled out of the pool to "mixed" colleges than women? This also seems unfair, as I know people for whom a single sex college was enough of a bad point for them not to want to come to Cambridge...

Actually interested, rather than just trolling...
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From:naath
Date:May 18th, 2004 04:28 pm (UTC)
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Definately many of the women pooled who are subsequently fished out get places at Newnham or New Hall. This is because insufficient numbers of people apply.

I love Newnham, I don't think I would mind too much if it were mixed, though I think that some people would like there to be an all women's building/sufficient corridor to contain bathroom facilities - certainly there exist people who go to Newnham because there religeon and/or parents would not let them live in a mixed environment. Me, I just like the gardens.
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From:atreic
Date:May 19th, 2004 12:49 am (UTC)
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Definately many of the women pooled who are subsequently fished out get places at Newnham or New Hall.

Is this one of my types of "definitely" and "obvious"? Because I will admit that I don't have any facts to back them up with. I always thought it was obvious that more people at the girls colleges are poolies than any other colleges (possible exception of Girton) and obvious that you were more likely to get a place from the pool if you were a woman as there were girls colleges who needed people. But I don't have any facts. I'd love to know where to *get* facts.
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From:naath
Date:May 19th, 2004 05:32 am (UTC)
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I don't have facts, but many people at Newnham were pooled, and more people at New Hall...

But I don't know how many people at mixed colleges are pooled.
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From:atreic
Date:May 19th, 2004 05:37 am (UTC)
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I only knew of one person at Queens' who was pooled. But then it's not exactly a question I've asked lots of people either :-)
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From:mair_aw
Date:May 20th, 2004 02:02 pm (UTC)
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Oh, "were you pooled" seemed to be up there with "where are you from" and "what subject do you do" for nervous Girton freshers. I got the impression it was about 50%, but I have no idea really.
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From:atreic
Date:May 21st, 2004 08:59 am (UTC)
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I really don't think many people were pooled at Queens' at all, but then it's going through a breif bout of popularity at the moment... (if i'd know about this I wouldn't have applied here :-) )
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From:rmc28
Date:May 19th, 2004 03:50 am (UTC)
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I don't know as much about the winter pool as I do about the Open allocation, but I would be _very_ surprised if women were pulled out in greater preference to men. Colleges really are quite fierce about only wanting the acadmically strongest candidates. What I have noticed from the Open allocation is that the very presence of women-only colleges skews male-female balances, with women becoming a minority in all the mixed colleges, even if the intake is nearly equally balanced.

Working with real data for the past few years, I've tested the allocation of about 1500 Open standard-age applicants (mature colleges are allocated separately), of which about 650 are female. About 280 of those end up in the two single-sex colleges, the rest are distributed among the remainder, so there are always fewer women than men allocated to all the mixed colleges. (Note, this is just allocation of applications, but in general proportions of admissions tend to follow proportions of applications).

Just over twice as many applicants are involved in the Pool than in the Opens. The Open allocation explicitly calculates the ratio of applications to places at each subject and college, and allocates eligible students randomly, but always to the place currently 'least popular'. This is to avoid adding to the load on admissions at particularly popular colleges. I don't think there is such explicit calculation for the Pool, but each college will still have an upper limit on how many applicants they can cope with and how many they want to make offers to. So the colleges with the lowest direct-applicant/place ratio will take a disproportionate number of candidates from the Pool. On my data, the ratios are noticably lower for New Hall, Girton, Fitzwilliam and Newnham, in that order, so it is clear there are geographical as well as gender issues playing out.

Because there are two single-sex colleges taking significant numbers of candidates from the Pool, there will be far fewer women candidates available to the mixed colleges. On the other hand, those colleges may have had significant numbers of women apply directly to them. I really do not think the pool means that weak female candidates get into Cambridge. Colleges will not release weak candidates into the Pool, they'll just reject them.

When women were a minority in Cambridge _anyway_, this skewing of intake was not so much of a problem. Now that the balance is roughly 50%, I think that the single-sex colleges contribute to a sense that women are still isolated: they are either in a minority in a mixed college or separated in a single-sex college. So I am beginning to change my mind on the value of single-sex colleges as regards equality of the sexes in Cambridge.
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From:king_of_wrong
Date:May 18th, 2004 01:08 pm (UTC)
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age of obedient ears

Sounds like a crossword clue...
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From:teleute
Date:May 19th, 2004 10:30 pm (UTC)
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AIUI New Hall's charter said that it would go mixed once there was a 50-50 balance of men and women in Cambridge. However, the last Review said that they had no plans to go mixed in the near future, so perhaps that was to try to debunk an old NH myth. At first I was really devastated that I didn't get into John's (my first choice) but after listening to girls from Johns (and Peterhouse, and other places) complain about misogonistic supervisors and the horrid treatment they received I realise that I got a much better deal. Plus our bar was usually quiter and less full of louts (one notable exception springs to mind) which I liked. I think the solution to the singles-ex college issue is to have one single sex for women and one for men. Don't forget there are adherants to certain religions for whom there needs to be total segregation in sleeping arrangements. I'm not sure that just a single sex corridor would be good enough, and I don't see why they should be kept out of Cambridge simply because they adhere to stricter rules than most of us.
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From:atreic
Date:May 19th, 2004 11:11 pm (UTC)
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I think the solution to the singles-ex college issue is to have one single sex for women and one for men.

I agree with you. New Hall should go all male ;-)

I don't see why they should be kept out of Cambridge simply because they adhere to stricter rules than most of us.

I agree with you there - and I would add that I don't see why they should be kept out of (for example) Trinity because they adhere to stricter rules than the rest of us, when the college could arrange a single sex building, but feels no need to because of the presence of the girls colleges. Ok, being able to come to Cambridge is better than not being able to come to Cambridge, but there is a difference in the librays and supervision staff for different colleges. Obviously the colleges who won't provide single sex accomodation on request need to be made to, but there's little incentive to do that while the girls colleges exist.
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From:teleute
Date:May 20th, 2004 06:21 pm (UTC)
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Thats a very fair point. There was something extra comforting, however, about an all girls college. Even one with a reputation of turning out at least as many men as women in overnight fire drills...
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From:atreic
Date:May 21st, 2004 09:02 am (UTC)
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That's what I thought... but then the atmosphere at Girton is still pleasent, in that slightly girly warm pretty way girls colleges have, and they've let boys in. So I'm coming round to the idea that it's the male dominated atmosphere of the ex-boys colleges that just hasn't shifted yet that's the unpleasentness, rather than a need to be women only - it's a need to be a place suited to women, not just men, rather than a need to be a place just suited to women. Wonder if boys find Girton miserable in comparison to being at an ex-all-boys place?
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From:teleute
Date:May 21st, 2004 09:47 am (UTC)
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That sounds plausible. I'm surprised there isn't more outside pressure for NH and N to go mixed, since the all male colleges were strongly pressured into it.
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From:atreic
Date:May 21st, 2004 12:47 pm (UTC)
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Ah, but we're feminists darling, that means we want everyone to acknowlege we're more equal than the others. Noone cares if you're discriminating against straight white healthy males :-)
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From:teleute
Date:May 21st, 2004 04:02 pm (UTC)
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very true. Have I told you about how the math books I work from are so terribly PC that they never mention a white male? Women, yes. Blacks, hispanics and asians, yes. But no white men. And all the photos of groups of students show someone in a wheelchair or on crutches.
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From:emperor
Date:May 21st, 2004 06:40 am (UTC)
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one notable exception springs to mind

Ah c'mon, CUSFS aren't *that* bad :p
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