Double standards are not acceptable

I was disappointed to see several inappropriate differences between the articles on Charles Bailyn and Tina Lu on the front page of the News last Friday.

To begin with, the captions of the photos differ starkly: “Charles Bailyn ‘81 is a professor of physics and astronomy,” while “Tina Lu works in the department of East Asian Languages and Literatures.” Tina Lu has been a tenured professor here since Yale recruited her away from the University of Pennsylvania in 2008, and moreover she serves as the department chair of the East Asian Languages and Literatures Department. Her husband, Steven Semmel’s, job title and position at Yale is made clear in the second sentence of the article, while Lu’s title is not evident until the second page. The front page gives stark impressions: “qualified” vs. “married with children.”

Such points as Lu’s lack of residential college experience (reasonable to cover in such a piece) are juxtaposed to references to the married couple as a unit: “Lu and Semmel know what they have been missing.”

But Professor Semmel is not the head of Murray College. Bailyn’s wife Rebecca Tannenbaum does not appear until the fifth paragraph of his profile. Yet Lu’s qualifications are given in tandem with her husband’s. While Tannenbaum is described as an “indispensable presence” with plans of her own to bring to Franklin College, it is not a point of emphasis. In Lu’s profile, by contrast, her spouse’s accomplishments are front and center.

The most egregious sentence is this: “Despite her scholarly distinction, Lu is also ‘very nurturing,’ said Evy Behling ‘17, another former student.”

I wonder at the use of “despite” for two reasons: Firstly, because the News seems to contradict its own emphasis on her marriage and family, and secondly, because there is no inherent contradiction between the clauses. People — including, it must be said, women — can be both excellent scholars at the top of their field and warm human beings who take on parental roles.

Similarly, the sentence “still, Lu said her various roles as a scholar, family member and administrator are ultimately complementary” casts doubt on Lu’s self-knowledge with both “still” and “ultimately.” Her statement in the paragraph above is about thinking before one speaks and making clear when one does not speak for Murray College or Yale College, in response to Erica Christakis’s email last fall. It does not relate to the influence of academia or family life on one’s administrative role.

I hope that future pieces, especially side-by-side features, will treat their subjects with equal respect.