Friday, 15 June 2018

Australia really sucked in the 70s

Frances Woolley points to Barbara Spencer's Address to the Canadian Women Economist's Network lunch at the 2002 Canadian Economic Association meetings. I hadn't read it before.

Some less-than-fun features of Oz through the early 1970s to which Spencer points:
  • Until 1966, any woman in the public service who married had to resign, unless she were a secretary and could join the typing pool;
  • Women in the public service, until 1969, were required to be on lower pay;
  • It took until 1972 for regulations restricting women's advancement in the public service to be removed;
  • Scholarships for teachers at ANU were very generous, but bonded: graduates had to go and teach in remote places for five years after graduation, unless they got married. Unsurprisingly, almost all of them got married just after completing their degrees. 
  • CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific Research Organisation, blocked female appointments because their scientists had to go out on field expeditions, and they didn't have toileting facilities in the field that CSIRO considered adequate for women. So while they didn't ban female appointments, all appointees had to be able to go out on field expeditions, and women were not allowed on field expeditions. This was apparently endemic through the mid-70s in sciences. 
    "A friend, who is currently a professor at the ANU in Social Welfare, was told in about 1974 by the career guidance councillor at her high school in Canberra not to do science because of the lack of appropriate bathroom facilities."
But there are also some excellent fun observations about Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba.
I knew very little about Canada except that it was rumoured to be cold and that it produced lots of logs and beavers. Arriving at Winnipeg just before Christmas in 1969 was a shock. It was so cold and desolate looking that I thought I had arrived on the moon by mistake. I had no boots, only sandals, and my feet nearly got frostbite as I got off the plane at 30 below zero on the open tarmac.

However, it may surprise you that over my years in Winnipeg, I gradually grew to appreciate the stark beauty in flatness and endless white. I remember going out into the country side and realizing that the white snowy ground stretches, basically unchanged, for hundreds of miles. I never grew to appreciate the cold.
I was an undergraduate at Manitoba, doing a double-honours in Economics and Politics, 1994-1998. The economics faculty baffled me. But there's a long history there - and one that a farm kid going to the local university would never know.

Here's how Spencer found it in the 70s.
I arrived at Manitoba with a job as a part time lecturer in the Economics Department, starting January 1970. For my first course, I took over Principles of Economics from Cy Gonick, a well known Marxist or New Left economist, as he called himself, who had recently been elected to the Legislature as part of the NDP sweep into power. Taking over from Cy Gonick was a memorable experience. His version of microeconomic theory had mostly been a diatribe against the role of U.S. multinational corporations in suppressing Canadian independence. Most of the students were taking the course solely because Cy Gonick was teaching it, including a group of about 10 Maoists, who were there to heckle him. Cy neglected to tell the students that he would not be teaching in the second term and, in addition, he promised that there would be no final examination, something that was contrary to the rules of the University. Not surprisingly, the students were quite upset and angry when they learned that I would be teaching the macroeconomics part of the course and that I would make heavy use of algebra, which would be tested on the exam. Despite being given a half eaten apple as a present by a student and no doubt receiving dreadful teaching evaluations, somehow I survived and was actually rehired by the then Chair, Clarence Barber, to teach Mathematical Economics and Intermediate Microeconomics the next year.
I remember a John Loxley seminar on the Multilateral Agreement on Investment that was very much in the Gonick tradition. 
I returned to Manitoba in January 1979 to find it in turmoil, with Cy Gonick, the leader of the left wing faction, newly appointed as Head and many of the faculty attempting to move the location of their offices to Colleges on campus, as far from the main department as possible. I did manage to get promoted to Associate Professor that year, but it was obvious that I had to leave. 
Departments that get themselves into this kind of mess do such a terrible disservice to their students. Maybe you can do that at a small teaching university somewhere, where everyone applying to the place is applying to go there because they want to see Maoists fighting Marxists and want to be right at the heart of debates within a fringe part of the discipline. But pulling this crap in the economics department at the province's flagship university - it isn't right.

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