Purdue Professor Argues Tough College Courses Reinforce White Privilege

DAVID MCNEW/AFP/Getty Images
DAVID MCNEW/AFP/Getty Images

The head of Purdue University’s School of Engineering Education, Donna Riley, argued in a recently published academic journal article tough engineering courses only serves to uphold “white male heterosexual privilege.”

According to a report from Campus Reform, Riley, in an astonishing feat of vague postmodern writing, published an article in the most recent issue of the academic journal Engineering Education in which she argued that the concept of academic “rigor” is used as a means to exclude students from marginalized groups from academic communities.

“One of rigor’s purposes is, to put it bluntly, a thinly veiled assertion of white male (hetero)sexuality,” she explains. According to Riley, rigor “has a historical lineage of being about hardness, stiffness, and erectness; its sexual connotations—and links to masculinity in particular—are undeniable.”

“My visceral reaction in many conversations where I have seen rigor asserted has been to tell parties involved (regardless of gender) to whip them out and measure them already,” Riley added.

Riley vaguely defines academic rigor as “the aspirational quality academics apply to disciplinary standards of quality.”

“Rigor may be a defining tool, revealing how structural forces of power and privilege operate to exclude men of color and women, students with disabilities, LGBTQ+ people, first-generation and low-income students, and non-traditionally aged students” she expands.

Riley also contends that scientific knowledge itself has a racial bias. “Scientific knowledge itself is gendered, raced, and colonizing,” she claimed, going on to argue it is “inherent masculinist, white, and global North bias…all under a guise of neutrality.”

“We need these other ways of knowing to critique rigor, and to find a place to start to build a community for inclusive and holistic engineering education,” she concludes.

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