Seattle University (SU), a Jesuit Catholic university in Seattle, Washington, appears quite comfortable with progressive ideology — something any parents about to send their kids there this fall should know.
Adjunct lecturer Ruchika Tulshyan argued recently that debating whether “unconscious bias” deters women from entering STEM fields is like “debating if the Earth is flat,” as Campus Reform noted in a recent piece. STEM, of course, is a curriculum focused on four specific disciplines— science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Tulshyan was responding to an essay by University of Washington principal lecturer Stuart Reges, titled “Why Women Don’t Code.”
In the piece that appeared in last month’s Quillette, Reges said innate sex differences can help explain why women are less likely to study computer science. Reges manages the introductory computer science classes at the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington (UW), which is also in Seattle.
Tulshyan claimed there is “a very, very strong body of evidence” affirming the role of unconscious bias in deterring women from entering STEM fields, though she would not cite any studies. Tulshyan further argued that innate sex differences do not exist between men and women — only that they’ve been conditioned to act and behave in certain ways.
Michelle Cretella, M.D., executive director of the American College of Pediatricians, helped set the record straight on this.
“I agree with professor Tulshynar that an ‘unconscious bias’ still exists, but I also believe it is far less significant today as in decades past,” she told LifeZette. “Professor Tulshynar ignores decades of hard science demonstrating objective innate differences between men and women — divergence no doubt related to the 6,500 genetic differences between men and women,” added Dr. Cretella, who is both a pediatrician and a mom.
Invoking psychologist and family practitioner Leonard Sax, M.D., Ph.D., Cretella also said, “He [Sax] warns that the failure to acknowledge real sex differences reinforces restrictive sex stereotypes like ‘Boys are bad at art’ and ‘Girls are bad at math and science.'”
“In his publications, he demonstrates that the differences between what girls and boys can do are not large. But the differences in how they do it can be very large indeed,” added Cretella. “So I agree with Professor Sturges that sex differences do exist — and they very well may predispose women to value other opportunities more than a career in STEM.”
LifeZette reached out to Tulshyan for comment, but did not hear back by the time of publication.
Reges has been teaching computer science at the college level for 32 years.
A recent anecdote from Google is worth noting here. Last August, the company fired James Damore, a software engineer, after he questioned in an email Google’s diversity practices. Damore claimed the low number of women in tech jobs was a result of biological differences instead of discrimination.
“A dangerous narrative has been taking hold in recent years that the gender gap is mostly the fault of men and the patriarchal organizations they have built to serve their interests,” wrote Reges in the Quillette article. “I embarked on this journey because I worry that tech companies and universities are increasingly embracing an imposed silence, in which one is not permitted to question the prevailing wisdom on how to achieve diversity goals. I intend to fight this imposed silence and I encourage others to do the same.”
He added, “We can’t allow the Damore incident to establish a precedent. Damore’s Twitter handle briefly claimed that he had been ‘fired for truth,’ but really he was fired for honesty. Those of us who disagree with current diversity efforts need to speak up and share our honest opinions, even if doing so puts us at risk.”
The assessments of Reges and Damore don’t align, however, with the narrative of oppression that progressives like Tulshyan aim to perpetuate.
“You can imagine for those women in computer science at UW, think of all the barriers that they overcame anyway to be there,” Tulshyan said. “And then to have to deal with this? It must be so hard,” she told Geekwire in response to the Reges article.
“Those of us who disagree with current diversity efforts need to speak up and share our honest opinions, even if doing so puts us at risk.”
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Tulshyan’s worldview, of course, does not affirm the traditional Catholic position that men and women are rooted in nature — reflecting God’s plan for human life — a position supported by Pope Francis.
All told, this is not the first time the Jesuit school in Seattle has been called out for liberal bias. Earlier this year, SU’s president called on all whites to acknowledge their “privilege,” as LifeZette reported in February.
Elizabeth Economou is a former CNBC staff writer and adjunct professor. Follow her on Twitter.