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Women's Safety On Campus: Challenging The University As Gendered Space

Dawn H. Currle
Published 1994 · Psychology

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The past decade has witnessed increasing documentation of the ways in which universities continue to marginalize women. As Rigby-Ledwitz (1993) observes, because most Canadian universities were designed without women in mind, the more successful they become in recruiting women and providing them access to education and career opportunities, the more deficient their facilities suddenly appear. Deficiencies are manifest as curriculum which renders women invisible, behavioural codes which devalue women as university participants, and built environments which are uninviting for women. Together, these cultural and architectural factors constitute a 'chilly climate' for women (Sandler 1982). Although I have spent almost two decades on university campuses, as both a student and a faculty member, my political involvement in campus safety grew out of discussions with my undergraduate students, not my personal experiences. This process of involvement reminded me not simply of how quickly faculty can distance themselves from their experiences as students, but also of the way in which many female faculty, like myself, repress concerns for personal safety in order to participate in academic life. Thinking about the university as a 'community,' rather than a place of learning or work detached from the concerns and practices of everyday life, makes the lack of research on universities a curious omission. One purpose of this paper, therefore, is to challenge this silence. It is not surprising that the discussions which prompted the survey described below were raised in a women's studies class. These discussions heightened my awareness of a gap between an administrative discourse on campus safety which corresponds to official counts of crime on campus and to the experiences of administrators who are, for the large part, middle-aged white males, and one
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