Gesture raises questions of gender bias

By Melissa Prentice

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Accusations of gender unfairness have been flying at the UA College of Law since one female student was "flipped off" in class last week.

In a letter to the Arizona Daily Wildcat, Sarah Works, a third-year law student, complained about how a male student treated her in a law ethics seminar.

She also states she is concerned about the "general poor treatment of women and minorities at the University of Arizona Law School."

A candlelight vigil, organized by Works and attended by about 20 students, was held at the law school Thursday morning. The attendants lit three candles representing past, present and future oppression.

Works' letter states she has been "taunted and verbally attacked by dozens of students."

Works could not be reached for further comment.

The male law student involved in the incident, who asked that his name not be used, said his behavior during the seminar was "definitely not" gender based.

He said he reacted when Works said "he would be a good tax lawyer," with implications that "tax lawyers were less moral or less noble."

He said he knows his reaction was stupid, and he apologized to Works within an hour after the incident and thought it was over.

Ted Schneyer, the professor of the ethics seminar where the incident occurred, said he "does not concur" with Works' version of the incident. He said the incident was "a lot more complex than that."

Schneyer said he hopes the law school administration will look into the issue further. He would not comment further.

Merritt Bingham, a second-year law student who was present during the incident, said she does not think it was based on gender,

but was an argument between students with varying viewpoints.

"Both parties reacted unprofessionally to a disagreement," she said. "What bothered me most is that Sarah (Works) took no responsibility for her own offensive conduct. She just jumped on the bandwagon and blamed someone else."

Bingham said she does not think gender discrimination is a problem at the law school, but added that the legal profession is still "overwhelmingly male-dominated."

"We have a lot of outstanding female professors who are not overshadowed by the males," she said. "Some of them are the most respected on campus."

Several law students, who did not witness the incident, said they do not think gender and race are problems at the law school.

"I haven't perceived gender bias myself," said Nancy Olmstead, a second-year law student.

"Law school is not a super respectful environment; the professors really grind you and make sure you know what you said and why you said it," she said. "But they do it to everyone equally."

Most law students "just laughed at the incident" and thought the publicity was taken too far, she said.

"I think the law school in general is ultra-sensitive to minorities, people with different sexual orientation and to women," said Lisa Thompson, a third-year law student. "I have been here for three years . and I haven't seen any problems, or they have been individual problems, not overriding policy."

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