Lawsuit: Lab students at university in Ohio grouped by sex


CINCINNATI (AP) — A University of Cincinnati student is suing the school in federal court, saying she was told she had to sit and work with other female students and not with male students in a physics lab.

Casey Helmicki filed a gender discrimination lawsuit this month asking the university to stop segregating classes or educational programs by sex.

Helmicki said a teaching assistant last August told her to work only with other females.

“It’s a little bit demoralizing to realize that we weren’t able to work with other genders in the lab,” Helmicki told The Cincinnati Enquirer. “As a woman in science, studying chemistry and neuroscience, it was alarming that a school like UC would allow something like this to be permitted in the classroom.”

Helmicki’s attorney, Chris Finney, filed copies of email exchanges between the professor who created the policy and other officials.

The professor states that studies show females perform better in small lab groups made up mostly of females. He said he told instructors to rearrange groups if one has three males and a female, and, if possible, to have all-female groups.

Ken Petren, the university’s dean of arts and sciences, said what happened was an isolated incident and that there was no policy forcing students to be segregated.

Petren told The Associated Press the head of the physics department told him a student teaching assistant misinterpreted instructions on how to guide students to form groups.

“The lead instructor encouraged teaching assistants to allow female students to be put in groups with other female students if they wished,” he said. “One teaching assistant misinterpreted this to imply that they should segregate the whole class.”

Petren said the issue lasted a short time and has been fixed.

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This story has been corrected to show that it was the university’s dean of arts and sciences who commented, not the dean of its biological sciences.

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Information from: The Cincinnati Enquirer, http://www.enquirer.com

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