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University of Maryland teacher's assistant handbook has different instruction for men and women

Posted at 9:55 AM, Apr 18, 2018

A teacher's assistant handbook is causing some controversy at the University of Maryland. 

The handbook was meant for Computer Science TA's and had separate instructions for both men and women. Now, some people are saying the comments made inside are sexist.

It tells the women their students may have trouble accepting they are in the scientific field because it's a male associated activity. The handbook continues to say this is good practice for the real world because students may not be the only ones having trouble accepting women as a professional.

"To female TA's: your students may experience some difficulty accepting you fully in the scientific field which they may, for whatever reason, associated with male activity. Male students especially, but not exclusively, may try to challenge your authority, to trip you up, or more subtly to try to compromise your status by flippancy or suggestive remarks. Friendly but firm and repeated assertion of your competence and authority to direct their study of computer science (asserted through deed and attitude, as well as through word) will probably take care of the situation. Such challenging behavior should fall off rapidly. That such assertion should even be necessary is admittedly annoying, but be patient. Besides, it's, unfortunately, the kind of practice you're going to need at some time in the future; students may not be the only ones who will have difficulty accepting you as a professional.

The handbook then tells male TA's that they will have less of a challenge than their woman colleagues, but to watch our for female students that may flirt with them for better grades. 

To male TA's: You may also experience some degree of testing or challenging of your authority, but on the whole, it'll be to a lesser extent than that experienced by your female colleagues. For some reason, male students seem reticent to ask questions (admit ignorance) in front of their peers -- especially with a male TA in charge. You may need to sensitize yourself to the apparent fact that your male students may have a harder time seeking the help they need. A few female students may attempt to capitalize on the male-female dynamic to their own advantage. Most of these attempts are fairly transparent unless you are particularly susceptible to flirtatious or provocative behavior. Lest you be too flattered, it's very likely that it is a lure of your position or a grade that they're after, not you. Common sense should tell you this is a potentially damaging situation for you if you don't recognize and avoid the dangers."

The school has since removed the handbook and sent out a statement saying they do not tolerate misogynistic behavior:

"The TA Handbook posted on the CS website contained highly inappropriate, stereotypical characterizations of women. The handbook has been removed from the site, and we apologize for its offensive contents. While the origin of this handbook is not immediately known, it does not reflect our department’s values or beliefs. We denounce all misogynistic attitudes toward women and will continue to work diligently to provide all students a warm and welcoming environment to learn and succeed."