by Sophia Contreras
The Elihu Burritt Library held a “human library” on Wednesday, April 11, where students and faculty shared their personal stories with ‘readers.’
The “human library” encourages people to share their different backgrounds and life experiences with others.
The “human library” books included topics such as race, mental health, LGBTQ, substance abuse and gender. ‘Readers’ were able to ‘check out’ a book for 15 to 30 minutes to learn more about the story behind the title.
President Dr. Zulma Toro shared her story “The Pink Baseball Bat and The Blue Doll,” that consists of her personal experience with sexism and race during her early adulthood.
Dr. Toro shared that when she first attended the University of Puerto Rico, her major was civil engineering, and she soon realized she wanted to pursue a different kind of engineering. Dr. Toro said she had a greater interest in Mechanical and Industrial engineering.
“I was going to be the only woman ever to be a part of the mechanical engineering department, and the moment I realized that I decided not to pursue it anymore,” Dr. Toro said.
After completing her studies at the University of Puerto Rico, Dr. Toro went to Georgia Tech where she encountered an unpleasant experience regarding her gender and race
“[When I walked into class] the professor was screaming at me and asked me to leave the room, saying ‘you’re a female and Hispanic and I cannot deal with you in my class,’” Dr. Toro said.
Dr. Toro explained the hardships she felt, and when she tried to substitute the class, she realized it was a required course and it was the only time she could take it.
“I stayed in the class, and I had the highest grade in the class, but he gave me whatever grade he wanted,” Dr. Toro said.
During Dr. Toro’s time as Chancellor at the University Of Puerto Rico, she met with the university legal advisor. During their meeting, the legal advisor told Dr. Toro she had to leave.
“I respect you Chancellor [Dr. Toro], but I respect my granddaughter even more,” she said.
When Dr. Toro asked why she had to leave so suddenly, the legal advisor shared that she made a commitment with her granddaughter to buy her a baseball and a bat. The legal advisor then explained that her daughter refused to buy her granddaughter a bat because “she is a girl” and insisted on buying her a doll instead.
Dr. Toro shared that eliminating gender stereotypes at a young age, like her legal advisor did, are things society needs to start doing to eliminate biases.
Dr. Toro shared her experience to open the conversation about gender and race stereotypes, specifically to recognize that we still have a long way to go before we can consider those issues of the past, and come together to realize how we can stop those stereotypes from spreading to future generations.