Filling in the gaps
A rallying cry for many women around the world has been this: “Women deserve a seat at the table.” This statement of empowerment was put on full display in the University of Dayton's Roesch Library on International Women’s Day where a group of female students participating in the Humanities Commons program sat together at a large table, hard at work.
Around the table, the students clacked away at their keyboards and munched on cookies as they took part in the program’s very first edit-a-thon, editing the Wikipedia pages of prominent and influential women of their choosing.
Some of the students focused on well-known alumnae such as Erma Fiste Bombeck ’49 while others wanted to look at current and former faculty members. Some students sought to create a whole new Wikipedia page from scratch while others wanted to add information that was missing, like notable books or publications that the women they chose had written.
Elizabeth Mackay, associate professor of English and Humanities Commons coordinator, said that the idea for the edit-a-thon at UD came from some outside institutions that have their own edit-a-thons, such as the British Library and the Museum of Modern Art.
Mackay said one of the goals of the event was to get students out of their comfort zones.
“We thought it would be something new and different,” Mackay said. “I thought it would be fun because it creates community, which is what the Humanities Commons program is all about.”
The Humanities Commons program is a collective endeavor of the English, history, philosophy and religious studies departments as part of an effort to consider to what extent the humanities have shared intellectual interests, goals for student learning and connections to the rest of the University.
With the assistance of Carlos Gardeazabal Bravo, assistant professor of global languages and culture, and Patrick Thomas, associate professor of English and director of undergraduate studies, the edit-a-thon helped level the playing field and promote equity in regard to articles about women compared with those about men on Wikipedia, Mackay said. Bridget Retzloff, assistant professor and digital pedagogy librarian at University Libraries, assisted the students.
One of the attendees of the event, sophomore English major Katie Montgomery, sought to achieve this goal by editing the page of Katrina Kittle, a lecturer of English at UD and published author.
Montgomery admitted that editing a Wikipedia page was nothing new to her.
“I was in middle school and would edit Wikipedia pages when I was bored, which is so nerdy,” she said.
But, Montgomery said, events like an edit-a-thon can help to serve a very important purpose.
“We’re helping to erase the gap and disparity of information between women and men on online databases,” she said. “If people like us don’t provide information that people might be looking for, then who will?”
Mackay said she hopes to have more edit-a-thons in the future, such as during Native American Heritage Month and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
“We’re really hoping that we can make this a regular event for years to come,” she said. “We’re so happy to do it for International Women’s Day and, while that’s a modest start, we’re happy that students are engaging in it.”