"Rigor" definer Donna Riley"Rigor" definer Donna Riley

Female STEM Professor’s ‘Rigor’ Hysteria is Founded Entirely on Her Own Made-Up Definition

According to the leader of Purdue University’s School of Engineering Education, the word “rigor” contains “sexual connotations” that perpetuate “white male heterosexual privilege.”

The lack of women in STEM could be due to their inability to use a dictionary. 

Donna Riley published an article in the most recent edition of the journal Engineering Education, claiming that academic rigor is a “dirty deed” that perpetuates “white male heterosexual privilege” due to its definition. 

Campus Reform reports that Riley defines rigor as “the aspirational quality academics apply to disciplinary standards of quality,” which, in her eyes, means that “rigor is used to maintain disciplinary boundaries, with exclusionary implications for marginalized groups and marginalized ways of knowing.”

“One of rigor’s purposes is, to put it bluntly, a thinly veiled assertion of white male (hetero)sexuality,” she writes in her article.“My visceral reaction in many conversations where I have seen rigor asserted has been to tell parties involved (regardless of gender) to whip them out and measure them already.”

Riley defines rigor as “hardness, stiffness, and erectness,” and claims the word has undeniable “sexual connotations—and links to masculinity in particular.”

However, the dictionary – typically the only acceptable source for word definitions – defines rigor as “the quality or state of being very exact, careful, or strict.” 

She might be thinking of “vigor,” which can certainly have sexual connotations. 

Riley also believes that academic rigor excludes women and minorities. 

“Rigor may be a defining tool, revealing how structural forces of power and privilege operate to exclude men of color and women, students with disabilities, LGBTQ+ people, first-generation and low-income students, and non-traditionally aged students,” she suggests, adding that rigor can “reinforce gender, race, and class hierarchies in engineering, and maintain invisibility of queer, disabled, low-income, and other marginalized engineering students.”

According to Riley, “decades of ethnographic research document a climate of microaggressions and cultures of whiteness and masculinity in engineering.” 

She also claims in her piece that “scientific knowledge itself is gendered, raced, and colonizing,” and engineering contains an “inherent masculinist, white, and global North bias…all under a guise of neutrality.”

Riley believes the way to combat this is to “do away with” academic rigor completely. 

“This is not about reinventing rigor for everyone, it is about doing away with the concept altogether so we can welcome other ways of knowing. Other ways of being. It is about criticality and reflexivity,” Riley writes. “We need these other ways of knowing to critique rigor, and to find a place to start to build a community for inclusive and holistic engineering education.”

The fact that she takes it upon herself to literally just arbitrarily redefine a word with a well-established definition betrays just how little value her stance has. Nice try. 

Featured Image Via Perdue University

Sources: Campus Reform

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