While many different students, faculty, and staff may have differing feelings about President Claire Sterk announcing her retirement, I think it is important to recognize the progress Emory has made, but also recognizing the university still has a long ways to go to make Emory a truly supportive environment for all of its students. Emory became a co-ed university in 1953, which was a short 66 years ago. That's within the lifetime of my grandparents. Why did it take so long for women to be allowed to attend Emory, and then to represent the university as the president of the university? What does this say about how the university views women on campus?
Last year I was babysitting for a family and I was talking with the grandfather who had gone to Emory around 50 years ago. He told me stories about the women he went to college with had to get higher entrance test scores, and how during add, drop, and swap period guys would drop classes if a percentage of the class was women because they thought they would ruin the grading curve of the class. Listen to his stories, I laughed, but when you really think about it does it make sense? Where the men so concerned about their success that they were convinced the presence of a woman would ruin that for them?
For me, seeing the first female president at Emory was a way for the school to communicate that female representation on campus, in all areas, was something important to them. I need to know and to feel that I am being supported by my university, as well as my peers. Many days I do feel supported, but unfortunately that is not always the case. There have been countless days where I have been spoken over, interrupted, and made to feel inferior in class because I am a woman.
So I say that Emory needs another female president or a person of color for president. Our students need to feel that they are represented on campus. They need to be treated as equals on campus. Students need to take time to recognize the divide between how students are treated on campus. President Sterk's term has shown steps forward in the Emory community, but we need to be conscious that the problem is not fixed and has not gone away. Without continued action and steps forward then they are as good as nothing. We must continue for the sake of future Emory students, Emory community, and for our society as a whole.