Sunday, March 31, 2013

Society of White Male Engineers at Vanderbilt in 1985

In researching the history of Confederate Memorial Hall at Vanderbilt University I had my researchers go through the Commodore year books for relevant material.

In the 1985 Commodore Year Book there are group photos of various groups. One group that was surprising to see was the Society of White Male Engineers on page 296. It isn't listed in the section for societies, such as the Society of Black Engineers or the Society of Women Engineers, but under the heading Bogus.

Younger people in engineering don't know that there was a time when women were a rarity in engineering and engineering schools were nearly all white and Asian. Or when universities weren't integrated. The environment wasn't always friendly. It was openly questioned whether women were capable of being engineers and their femininity was also openly questioned.

I remember some male engineers calling women engineers dogs in an assertion that women who wanted to be engineers weren't attractive. This was somewhat amusing in one limited sense since often the people who said such things weren't very attractive themselves. In fact, I don't think the people who ever said such things were attractive. Often it was some slob.

Science, engineering and mathematics is supposed to be a universal calling. It is open to anyone who is interested and wishes to advance knowledge, learning, understanding in the field whether by discovery, teaching, writing, or other endeavor. The adoption of Latin and Greek terminology in science was to transcend national boundaries in Europe.

The great endeavors of science, mathematics, and engineering have drawn on many cultures. Algebra and Arabic numerals come the Arabic speaking peoples. Zero, a very important item, comes from Hindu India.

It has been a concern for over 40 years by the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) professions that under represented minorities be better represented.

It is also a concern that ability is not denied due to some artificial barrier. So a society for Black engineers or women engineers, if it provides moral support and paves the way to more people from more segments of society to participate in engineering is a great thing.

I do remember that the Society of Black Engineers provided a ready made study group for African American engineers so they wouldn't be left out of a support network. A lot of study in engineering is asking friends for help. I used to tutor half the dorm in mathematics and still help out students with math to this day. An isolated student would be in a very adverse situation.

However, some white male engineers decided to make a "joke" about this and posed for the Society of White Male Engineers photo in the yearbook. There are plenty of general engineering societies. There are even engineering fraternities which I don't approve of and I am proud to say I turned down flat when I was in school. It isn't as if white male engineering students were excluded.

So to put this "joke" in the public record I am listing the members of the group.

Front Row: James White, Charles Hailey, Ken Allison, Bob Black,
Second Row: Randy Norton, Pat Nash, Jeff Fuller, Stephen Menke, Scott Dublin, Blakely Snyder
Back Row: Carl Anderson, Pete Neubauer, President Dan Pitts, Fred Richards, Paul Smith, Temple Estopinal, Nicky Hobbs, Russ Weigel, Ashish Vazirani, Mick Lippert, Rob Ottenjohn, Rick Huffstetler.

Ha ha ha guys. Don't forget to share your joke with your co-workers.

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