This month, as countless students rushed off into their summers, The Chronicle of Higher Education released a somewhat intuitive article reminding us that female and young professors are the "chief targets of student incivility." For those of you who will be returning to law school next fall, take note.
Rodney K. Goodyear, Pauline Reynolds and Janee Both Gragg, professors of education at the University of Redlands examined faculty experiences of incivility from students during their performance of class-related activities. While 84 percent of the 339 faculty members surveyed for the study reported experiencing passive or active incivility from students, the numbers were skewed along gender lines. Although the survey participants broke down equally between genders, 24 percent of male faculty could not recall incidents of uncivil student behavior while only 9 percent of women could not recall incidents of uncivil student behavior. Additionally, women more frequently reported uncivil behavior that was severe and upsetting.
In this study, uncivil behavior was broken down into passive behavior, which included "sleeping or texting in class" and active behavior such as speaking on a cell phone in class or openly expressing derision towards a faculty member during class, office hours, or other class-related activities.
What's interesting is that in addition to bearing the brunt of student incivility, women faculty members are expected to be more civil towards students. A generation ago, Critical Legal Scholars were discussing how along with faculty of color, women faculty members were more frequently asked to take on faculty-to-student mentoring duties such as writing recommendations and giving non-academic life advise. (And while it wasn't addressed in this research, I would bet anything that race factors into student incivility as well). Something is very unfair with this equation. With all of the obstacles minorities have overcome to make it into the legal academy, don't let your incivility be another hurdle.
Yan Cao is a member of Building a Better Legal Profession (BBLP,) an organization based at Stanford Law School. BBLP is a national grassroots movement that seeks market-based workplace reforms in large private law firms. For more information, visit BBLP's Web site at www.betterlegalprofession.org.