Stanford prof proposes course on 'privilege' in Silicon Valley

  • A Stanford University professor has proposed a new Computer Science course on "Race and Gender in Silicon Valley" that would focus on challenging "privilege" and promoting "social justice" in the tech industry.
  • A working draft of Professor Cynthia Lee's syllabus indicates that students would be required to read an article Lee wrote for Vox last year criticizing the controversial memo issued by former Google employee James Damore.

A Stanford University professor wants to teach a computer science course this fall dedicated to promoting “social justice” and challenging “privilege” in Silicon Valley.

“CS 80Q: Race and Gender in Silicon Valley” was proposed by Professor Cynthia Lee, who penned a high-profile article for Vox last year blasting former Google employee James Damore for his controversial memo about women in tech.

"This course interrogates the social challenges of Silicon Valley, a place of privilege, privation, and precarity."   

“This course interrogates the social challenges of Silicon Valley, a place of privilege, privation, and precarity,” explains a working draft of the syllabus obtained by Campus Reform, adding that students will do so by “writing, coding, engagement, digital culture, and social practice.”

[RELATED: Course claims ‘objectivity’ is a ‘white mythology’]

For students who enroll in the “computer science” course, learning goals include “debating the most effective roads to social justice” and understanding “cultural challenges that Silicon Valley faces with respect to race and gender.” 

While the language of the course description is ostensibly objective, the weekly learning topics that would be examined in the class include “Gender, Race, and Equality Frameworks,” “Feminist Frameworks,” and “Workforce Diversity: Pushback.” 

Notably, during “Workforce Diversity: Pushback” week, students would be asked to read the professor’s own Vox article, entitled “James Damore has sued Google. His Infamous memo on women in tech is still nonsense.” 

While Lee’s article doesn’t dispute the facts underlying Damore’s memo—namely that the distribution of traits, skills, and interests among men and women are not symmetrical—the professor does contend that Damore’s memo is “dangerous” and has a “faux-reasonable tone.”

[RELATED: Princeton course will teach students to 'read queerly']

“Its quasi-professional tone is a big part of what makes it so beguiling (to some) and also so dangerous,” writes Lee, who goes on to argue that the memo is an example of “misogyny.”

“Speaking for myself, it doesn’t matter to me how soothingly a man coos that I’m not like most women, when those coos are accompanied by misogyny against most women,” she writes [emphasis in original].

Toward the end of her article, the academic seems to acknowledge the existence of sex differences, but attributes them to alleged “bias”against women and minorities.

“Regardless of whether biological differences exist, there is no shortage of glaring evidence…that women in tech experience bias and a general lack of a welcoming environment” she writes. 

“Until these problems are resolved, our focus should be on remedying that injustice,” Lee adds. “After that work is complete, we can reassess whether small effect size biological components have anything to do with lingering imbalances.”

Notably, Rutgers Professor Lee Jussim reviewed Damore’s claims, and found his memo to be almost exactly in alignment with scientific consensus. 

[RELATED: Prof: Google memo was correct about gender differences]

During the class, students would also read works by Judith Butler, Audre Lorde, and Martin Luther King, as well as yet-undetermined works on issues including Gamergate, as well as “intersectional harassment” and “4chan.” 

Neither Lee nor Stanford University immediately responded to inquiries from Campus Reform about the class and its content.  

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Toni Airaksinen
Toni Airaksinen | Columnist at PJ Media

Toni Airaksinen is Columnist at PJ Media and a Consultant at Youth Radio. She was previously a New Jersey Campus Correspondent, reporting on liberal bias and abuse for Campus Reform with a focus on Title IX, the OCR, and the First Amendment. During college, she also was a columnist for Quillette and The Columbia Spectator. Her exclusives have been featured on FOX News and The Drudge Report. She graduated from Barnard College in 2018.

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