Gender imbalances in JanTerm

As the second year of JanTerm came to a close at Westminster, students are already thinking about their options for next year. Many factors play a role in a student’s decision for their course, including friends, teachers, travel, etc,. Yet an integral part of their decision process is if they’ll be singled out as the only boy or girl in their class.

While some would argue that this year’s JanTerm has been a success, others would consider it to have been lacking in many different areas. Aspects such as diversity, whether it be with gender or age, play a role in a student’s decision of a JanTerm selection. Many students may drop some of their JanTerm choices simply because they might feel intimidated. It might seem daunting entering a class that is popular among the opposite gender. Being a gender singleton in a month- long course study can have an effect on many people, but not for junior Caroline Cravens and sophomore Will Spillman.

Cravens is quick to agree that although her JanTerm course of “Mathematics of Fantasy Sports” was not one of her top choices, it was an easy class to enjoy. Despite the slightly uncomfortable situation of being the only girl, she had no problem fitting in and getting her work done.

“It’s actually not that bad,” said Cravens. “They’re all pretty nice [and] I like[d] the class a lot. The only thing is sometimes I [was] not really sure who to draft, but it’s ok [because] all the guys knew and they’re pretty helpful.”

Whenever a student is a gender singleton, director of JanTerm Chanley Small offers the student an option to switch out of the class. The students have a selection of courses to choose from. Many times the choices are classes that have available places in them, or in other words courses that are less popular.

“[Although] I did have a choice [to switch] I didn’t like my other options so I decided to stay in ‘Mathematics of Fantasy Sports.’” said Cravens. “I actually really like[d] the class, I made a lot of really good friends.”

Even though the boys tried to include Cravens and take her ideas into consideration, they ultimately did what they thought was truly beneficial for the drafting process. Cravens came to accept that her suggestions usually wouldn’t be taken into consideration due to her lack of knowledge of fantasy sports and players.

“Sometimes I suggest[ed] a player for my team to draft and they told me that they’re not good, so they wouldn’t let us draft them, but I guess it’s pretty understandable,” said Cravens.

There’s no doubt that the boys made an effort to make her feel included.

“They let me play Uno,” said Cravens.

Although the class is dominated by boys, Cravens believes that more girls would be interested if they weren’t so intimidated. Girls often worry that they might be the only girl in the class, causing them to not put the course as one of their top five choices.

Steven Stodghill, one of the teachers of the “Mathematics of Fantasy Sports,” had a little bit of difficulty describing the class dynamics as he has not noticed any tension between Cravens and the other students. However, he has indeed noticed that the guys have their own way of expressing their comfort with her.

“The guys have a way of making fun of each other when someone’s being silly or does something wrong or makes a poor choice regarding this class and they include her in it,” said Stodghill. “It shows how comfortable everyone is with each other.”

Although the guys reached  out to include her, he believes that Cravens is someone who is easy to fit in with and contributes a lot to the class.

“She [was] very engaged and I think she is a really confident student… Her level of confidence help[ed] the guys be themselves and [made] them [understand that she’s] no different in regards to what she brings to the class,” said Stodghill.

Similar to Caroline Cravens’s situation in “Mathematics of Fantasy Sports,” another parallel of gender singletons is present this year. In the “Spanish Journalism“class, sophomore Will Spillman is the only boy. Spillman was able to enjoy the JanTerm course as a result of his persona and positive attitude towards the class. Maria Russell, one of the course’s teachers, believes that Spillman’s personality allowed for a natural flow in the class atmosphere.

“The girls [didn’t] have to make an effort to include Will. He has his own personality… Everything is very natural,” said Russell.

Spillman admits that he did go into the class thinking that other boys were enrolled, but quickly found out that they had all dropped.

“At first there were more guys, but they dropped the class, so I walked in on the first day and I realized I was the only guy,” said Spillman.

At first Will expected the worst, but once he opened up, he was able to truly enjoy the class. He felt comfortable with being the only guy and met and made new friends.

“At first, I didn’t know anyone so I sat alone in the back and didn’t talk to anyone until I became comfortable with my situation…  But since then I’ve opened up and it’s been fun,” Spillman said.

Although Spillman initially faced doubts about being the only boy in a class, he quickly overcame these doubts by making the most of his situation. He and Cravens are evidence that being the only boy or girl in a class is not a bad as thought to be. Students, and specifically gender singletons, are treated normally and their satisfaction of the class is not at all affected. Without a doubt, being a gender singleton actually allows students to branch out and build new friendships. This is exactly what JanTerm is designed for: challenging students to step outside their comfort zone.