Rewind

The Week in Women: child prodigies, disgraced fraternities, and all things grad

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Ah, graduation: the sunny, sentimental time of year that sees college students around the world stride across campuses in their caps and gowns, proudly accept their diplomas, and cheerily turn the corner into a gaping chasm of unemployment. In honor of the Class of 2015, let’s take a look back at the week’s most scholarly news.

Oxford University is slated to appoint its first female vice-chancellor. Professor Louise Richardson, currently the head of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, is an internationally renowned scholar of terrorism and security studies. She will take up her post at the start of 2016, following in the footsteps of some 271 men who have held the position before her. See, even fusty Oxford types can be progressive! Just keep your hands off their robes.

Penn State has shut down its chapter of the Kappa Delta Rho fraternity in response to a private Facebook page, where frat members posted photos of naked, unconscious women. One of the frat members had tried to argue that the Facebook page was a “satire,” and claimed that media coverage of the scandal could “ruin people’s lives and unjustly ruin reputations.” Evidently, the disgruntled bro failed to grasp the meaning of both “satire” and “irony.”

Ria Cheruva, an 11-year-old girl from Arizona, graduated from high school this week. And just as a side note, she’s also heading to Harvard, where she will study neural cryptography and artificial intelligence. Ria’s mother will accompany her daughter on campus, thereby fulfilling the worst nightmare of every young person who has gone or will go to college.

While we’re on the topic of secondary education, we have to talk about what universities do best: studies. Researchers from Cornell University teamed up with anti-harassment group Hollaback! to survey 16,000 women in 20 different countries. The study found that 84% of sample group had been harassed in public before they turned 17. Even more disconcertingly, 50% of women reported that they had been groped or fondled in public. “People don’t want to recognize that this starts really young,”  said Debjani Roy, deputy director of Hollaback!. “The emotional impact it has as girls develop is quite significant. This is a global problem.”

A study from the University of British Columbia in Canada posits that childbirth can permanently affect the female brain. Researchers observed that the surge in oestrogen hormones during pregnancy alters “neuroplasticity” (the regrowth of nerve cells) in the brain’s hippocampus, which is responsible for aspects of memory and spatial awareness. When it comes to so-called “pregnancy brain,” it seems the struggle is real.

Before we part ways, let us appreciate the sage advice of SNL alum Maya Rudolph, who was one of several upstanding women to deliver a rousing commencement address in recent weeks. “[W]ork hard and don’t be lazy,” Rudolph counselled the grads of Tulane University. “And be nice to jerks because we still don’t know the criteria for getting into heaven yet.” Amen.

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