The following speech was delivered to the University Senate on May 1, 1972.
|Address to University Senate
May 1, 1972 (Knoxville)
WOMEN IN HIGHER EDUCATION
I want to share with you some of my thoughts about women in higher education. What I would like to do for you is to share with you a background analysis of the work that has inspired and motivated your Task Force on Women- this is without any intimate knowledge of your Task Force but because what your Task Force is doing now is being done all over the country, and I am very familiar with the basic assumptions and motivations.
I think we are all anxious to have an impact on three aspects of education through this concern with women. The first is--and I call this the argument from justice because it is the way the old suffragists described it--simply put, the affirmation of the fact that women should have equal opportunity in the world of work. Broken down, this means there should be no discrimination in any of the traditional or exceptional ways. Secondly, there should be no differentiation of pay or rewards or status or research support. Thirdly, and this may be a little new, there also should be no penalties for their life style. I'd like to expound for a minute on the third one because it is a little out of the ordinary.
Even those of us who look forward to an androgynous society, one in which the differences between men and women will be minimized, have to admit that as things are now--assuming traditional sex role, socialization, parental pressure, and social pressure--there are professional women who are enjoying a life style which is deviant from the dominant life style of men at work. Therefore, when we say we are anxious to eliminate penalties which women suffer for their life style, what we're talking about are the penalties that they suffer as deviants. You may wonder sometimes why women are referred to as a minority at all because, as you know, numerically they do make up over fifty percent of the population. But in terms of power, in terms of privilege, they are in many ways a minority. Now the way in which we at Wesleyan and at other universities are dealing with this life-style question is by opening up many subjects that were long considered completely closed. one, for instance, is the sanctity of full-time work. There are many, many women who work part-time and very efficiently on many campuses in the nation; but because of faculty legislation, they are denied the privilege of faculty status. Normally they fill all the other qualifications and requirements: They have the terminal degrees in their field, many of them are able in research; and they have, some of them, national reputations. Because they are not able or willing to work full-time, however, they are denied faculty status. It will interest you to know that this problem is being tackled in a variety of ways. Stanford, Princeton, my own university, Wesleyan, Columbia University, and others are trying to introduce faculty legislation first to permit and then encourage a full-status, half-time slot for women. This option should also be available for men because it appears as soon as you have opened the issue and made possible a viable, respectable career for part- time people, the very first applicants are men. This is something we noticed at our own university where the first applicant for this new status (we haven't passed the legislation yet but we've been soliciting interested requests) is a man who is a novelist. He would much prefer to work two-thirds or three-quarters time in order to pursue the novel in which he is now involved but has been fearful up until now of having to relinquish all his accumulated seniority, his research support, his sabbaticals, and so on.
The details of working out a full-status, half-time appointment are difficult but not insurmountable. I shared with some of your administrators this noon a matrix we have drawn up to distinguish the "moonlighter," the person who is part-time because he is otherwise full-time employed and we borrow for a course; from the "twilighter," the person who is probably otherwise unemployed, possibly a woman who is not prepared nor is the department to give her full status but she needs fringe benefits; from the "sunlighter," a person who is precisely the sort of applicant the department would gladly hire, would like to make a long-term commitment to but who is, at least for the foreseeable future, unable to work full time. It is the "sunlighter" who will benefit most immediately from this.
Now the life style of some women extends beyond their capacity to make full-time commitments. There are aspects of their lives that are traditionally their responsibility--some of us believe these should be rather the responsibility of parents--that also intervene and one of these can be cured with daycare. It may seem to you strange that a university has a commitment to daycare; but if one is seriously committed to increasing the number and quality of women in leadership positions on a campus, it is important to think in terms of day-care. At our university we are trying to establish day-care for children of faculty which would also be appropriate for children of staff members and even of families in the community on some sort of sliding fee scale. In some universities they have taken the nursery school experimental laboratory in the College of Home Economics and expanded it to provide real day-care for their members. There are many other areas about which we can talk but I thought I'd introduce you just to this issue, that women should not only not be discriminated against but should not be penalized for alternate life styles. I predict that men in the future are going to want more varied life styles and that the university which is experimental in this regard is the university that is going to have its real choice of high-level faculty.
The second aspect of the Task Force's action falls under the heading of education of women. In this regard many of you may see connections as obvious, but I would like to give you a little historical background and put it in some other perspective. When we look at the historic evolution of the education of women, we are struck with how feminist the first women educators were. it is inspiring to read the stories of M. Carey Thomas, who was the first president of Bryn Mawr, and of the women who founded the Troy Academy, Vassar, and Mount Holyoke. These women had every intention of creating an educational system that was equal in every regard to the educational system provided men students, and the only reason they set up separate units was simply because the men's colleges would not accept women. A college that was coeducational 125 years ago was Oberlin, and even there they gave a watered down literary course to women students and didn't allow them to take scientific courses.
Now in the past twenty-five years, when the expansion of higher education has met and surpassed anything that has gone before, we have found ourselves educating women in large measure through the B.A. or B.S. degrees without any attempt to analyze what the objectives were of that educational system. If you had asked the students, the professors, and the parents what they thought they were doing, they probably could not have given you a coherent answer. Frankly, in many of the women's colleges, particularly in the South and Northeast, the goal was to provide a sheltered environment for the young girl between her two stages of being daughter and wife. It was important for her to be educated-so that she could communicate with a highly educated husband. Lest you think I am being radical, let me tell you that the Danforth Foundation, which until recently did not provide a postgraduate scholarships for women but provided outstanding and generous postgraduate fellowships for men, allowed the wives of their recipients to go to school all expenses for tuition paid. The rationale for providing the wife of the recipient with money for training and not a woman who was a scholar in her own right was quite simply that they did not want to break up marriages and feared that a very highly educated male might be out of step with his undereducated wife. Out of the goodness and generosity of their hearts, they guaranteed the wife of a Danforth scholar tuition rebate if she were going to school.
As a historian I am very tolerant of yesterday's assumptions and yesterday's analyses, but I think it is very revealing of what was indeed in the backs of people's minds when it came to educating women. In fact, someone else has said that the purpose of the elite women's colleges in the Northeast was to educate women to be high status wives; and as the middle-class woman entered this elite college community after World War II, the implicit goal was to educate women to be wives of upwardly mobile men. In every respect the status, goals, and objectives of the husband shaped the kind of education the women got.
Today we are not sure of how to answer the question, "For what are we educating women?", however, we are sure that we want to open this question for some new debate. One of the most exciting parts of my job, and of the women's movements within the universities, has been the introduction of the consciousness about educating women which was absent before in coeducational schools. I got my political training as a feminist at a very elite coeducational school in Ithaca, New York. Cornell had been coeducational from its inception in 1862 and felt that it had done the job of educating women simply by allowing women to attend, but they never saw the connection between women faculty, women administrators, and women students. They thought you educated women simply by opening the admissions door for women and went no further. Today they have introduced a program on female studies which is an introduction for men and women to the subject of sex-role socialization, the status of women in America in general, and cross-cultural studies of the status of women elsewhere--they are trying to raise awareness in order to do a better job of educating women.
For now, we have three running goals for educating women that are the very minimum we would seek in a coeducational establishment. First, some kind of exposure for credit to women's studies; secondly, a conscious effort to raise the aspirations of women, that is to compensate them for brainwashing which lowers their aspirations in elementary and junior high schools; and thirdly, to provide them with role models among the faculty and administration so that they have some notion of what they could become.
The third aspect of any Task Force action of this sort is the education of men for a changing world. I think we are fooling ourselves if we think that things "as they were" are going to be the future. There is no question in my mind that women's studies, along with women role models, will educate men students quite as well as they will educate women students. For this I refer you to Tofler's book, Future Shock, which, even if only part of it comes true, suggests that among other things, all of our students are going to become obsolete twice in their lifetimes as far as vocational goals are concerned and will have to go back to school for retraining. At this stage, the only model for going back to school for retraining is, of course, continuing education for women. Here we see where men in their own lives are going to become more like women are in their lives today. Moreover, as anyone knows who has observed the economy, we're moving rapidly from a production economy to one in which the bulk of work is done in human services. For these services the kind of human skills are needed that until now were associated traditionally with the training and socialization of women. Therefore, I truly believe that the men will be better served by being exposed to women in high level positions and to a more naturally androgynous community and college than they are today.
Now I'd like to turn to what is happening nationally because I gather this is why I was brought here. Let me review very briefly the legislation on the subject which may answer some of your questions. Before 1961 there was no federal legislation and no federal recourse for any woman who felt or had proof that she was discriminated against. I think this is a very interesting footnote or commentary on our own recent past because, as some of you may know, there was created during World War I a Woman's Bureau in the Department of Labor which continued to exist throughout this period but never saw as part of its mandate the subject of discrimination. Rather, it saw as its mandate the compilation of statistics about women at work and the support of protective legislation for women. In other words, the notion that women were equal and should be treated equally was foreign to the Women's Bureau!
In 1960 President Kennedy established a Task Force on Women, the first of its kind in our history; and in 1963 the very first act that forbade sex discrimination was passed--that is less than ten years ago. It is called the Equal Pay Act, and it is applicable to the blue-collar worker and specifically exempts professional, managerial, executive professorial, etc., which is, perhaps, why it is not very much a part of your own information. It also exempted all those occupations outside the federal reach like domestics, farmworkers, etc., but within a year, Title VII of the 1964 Act was passed. Some of you may know the story. It was a joke through which the word "sex" was added to the list of categories for which discrimination was prohibited. It was a West Virginia Senator who in trying to demonstrate how impossible it would be to legislate equality for blacks and whites, said "You might as well legislate equality for men and women," and proposed an amendment which he thought would kill the bill. To everybody's astonishment, the bill was passed with that language intact.
From 1964 on, we have legislation that forbids in the area of employment discrimination on the basis of sex. That legislation was incomplete from the view of this group because it exempted government and educational institutions. Why it did is another legislative story which will fascinate historians but in fact, it did. After 1964, although we had a precedent in legislation which is very significant, we had no enabling power to bring any kind of suits through the court showing discrimination against women in schools or universities.
It was a woman, an Ed. Psych. Ph.D. with no training in law but with a lot of pizazz who noticed, in about 1966, while reading the office of Federal Contract Compliance Regulations that there is legislation or at least an executive order which covers sex and for which universities, she thought, might be liable. It turns out that the Federal government in its negotiation of contracts, usually with missile companies and research institutes, have very strict rules about discrimination and equal opportunity, and it includes sex. She personally brought suit against twenty universities which were receiving Federal funding in order to test her hypothesis as to whether Federal contract compliance regulations would cover universities. Indeed, they do, and as a result 350 universities have so far been filed against under the OFCC, which is the office of Federal Contract Compliance; and cases you read about taking place at Michigan, Columbia University, and the like, are all happening under that executive order. Now the reason HEW does the investigations is simply an administrative arrangement that the Office of Federal Contract Compliance has made, delegating the authority for investigating universities to HEW for purposes of convenience, but it is indeed this executive order that governs these suits. And the reason the universities have responded with such alacrity is that the penalty is not just a rap on the knuckles, the penalty is the restriction of Federal monies. The most that has happened so far has been delay, for those of you who are interested. No university has actually lost a contract or has actually not gotten money but in the case of Columbia $14,000,000 was withheld, or threatened to be withheld; and as all of you who are working in research know, all that is needed is the threat that your money won't come in, and the impact is the same.
Since March 1972, which was just two months ago, we have new legislation which corrects effectively the loopholes in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The legislation is called the Equal Opportunities Act. It was signed into law March 20, 1972, and essentially its relevancy from our point of view is the fact that it brings universities under the Civil Rights Act. Now, what this means in terms of procedure is that not only are universities liable to lost Federal contracts but they can now be sued by individual women or by class actions in the Federal courts under Title VII which is legislation. This is not my field of expertise but it's worth learning about because these are extremely powerful weapons to be used. Just for your information, business, which was not exempted from Title VII, has so far lost $40,000,000 in back pay suits to women.
The EEOC which administers Title VII reports that twenty percent of the cases brought of discrimination in employment have been on the subject of sex discrimination, and this does not count any suits brought by black women, which, for statistical purposes, were counted under race discrimination, at least for now. My source tells me that if they were to count the black women as sex discrimination cases as well, it would be closer to thirty-three percent, and the total monies lost more than $40,000,000. You know, you don't have to win them all. The fact that Anaconda had to pay $200,000 to 190 employees in back pay, the fact that Bell Telephone had to back pay a woman who was denied the right to be a switchman gets reported in Business Week; it gets talked about at the country club, on the airplanes; and the impact is enormous. And the same is true, of course, for universities. The Michigan case, the Columbia case, the Berkeley case, and the Chicago cases have pretty much warned everyone.
Now what does one do about it, and what does the government expect? This is the area in which a lot of well-meaning and sincere professors are very concerned because there is a legitimate fear that federal intervention on the level. of employment will lead to federal intervention on the level of curriculums or on the level of political point of view; and that's something all of us academicians are frightened of. I thought I would explain to you from my own experience what's happening in affirmative action and suggest to you that it is something you could very well support. In my own case, our problem is not so much at Wesleyan one of unequal pay or unequal status for women. Rather, our problem is that as a men's college, there were hardly any women on the faculty. Consequently, our number one problem has been to expand the pool of applicants for all openings. To capsulate for you the essential clause in our affirmative action plan, we call upon department chairmen to make a conscious effort to educate themselves as to sources beyond their usual ones for applicants for every opening from minority groups and from women. We assist them, as you heard my own job has largely to do with female staffing, and I am at the disposal of department chairmen, to connect them with the women's caucuses and with other groups. (I'll tell you in a minute about very effective, efficient mode we've selected, too.) The next stage is for them to bring as many persons to the campus as they feel they need to in order to expand that pool, and the Chancellor's budget has been earmarked to compensate departments for expensive interviewing costs. This is a constructive way that the chancellor, in our case the Provost, or the Vice Chancellor in your case, can assist the department chairman in indeed tapping a wider source.
At the beginning of my tenure at Wesleyan I talked frankly to professors in fields like chemistry, for example, in which I am not well trained and not very expert, and asked them to analyze for me the benefits of their going to the Ivy League for applicants for jobs in order to give me some statistical feeling for the differences between a first rate school, graduate school, and a second rate or postdoc school. In answer to my question, that one professor estimated that about 50 to 75 percent of the applicants recommended by senior professors at a top university would be up to our standards, no questions asked, twenty-five would not, Then I asked what percentage he would predict from a so-called second or less famous school, and he thought somewhere between 50 and 35 percent. We calculated that if we allowed them to interview twice as many from the lesser schools, we might be able to give them the same chance at the same quality, and he was prepared to go along with that.
We have no quotas because our school is very small, and one faculty member can be three percentage points, making percentages rather meaningless. But we also have no quotas because I personally am anxious to see what a pragmatic approach to expanding the pool does. And the report for this year is that we made fifteen appointments of assistant professors for the openings we had-- ten of them went to women (one a black woman), one went to a black male, and four to white males. No department chairman's arm was twisted--I wish they were here to confirm this. They think they got the best person for every job. They did interview many more than normal, they did touch schools that they wouldn't have gone to before, they did use me at times, not use me at other times. In fact, the chairman of our Russian Department did such an outstanding job, that is he got such a good file of women with Ph.D.'s in Russian, that he contributed his file to the caucus at the MLA because he had a better handle on women job hunting in his field than anyone else did nationally. The only threatening clause in our affirmative action as regards faculty is that the Chancellor, arid I'm quoting, "may refuse to make an appointment where he is not satisfied that the search was broad enough"; and that is the extent to which we have a threat. of course, it is assumed that with good will and well-intentioned cooperation by the faculty, that it won't have to be any stronger than that.
Let me tell you what is available now to help support these affirmative action plans and these goals. Rosters are now being compiled nationally, particularly in the sciences, in order to provide grant-reviewing panels from national groups like the NSF, NIH, and NIMH sources of women names in the various fields so women can begin to participate in the grant giving dimension of research as well as in the grant receiving. We have been funded in New England, we being a group of women administrators like myself, to set up a placement office at Brown University for the duration of two years so that we can receive phone calls from department chairmen to convey job openings, and in turn we can refer them to available candidates and to the women's caucuses. Most, if not all, of the professional associations have women's caucuses which spent their first year reviewing the status of women in the professions and are now setting up offices with a professional staff to do the selection and the search for departments. I refer you to the AHA, my own field, American Historical Association, the MLA, APA, American Psychological, the ASA, the American Sociological, etc. The only areas in which these caucuses have not yet begun to function are the areas in which women constitute a very small percentage of the national pool. of Ph.D.'s, which ranges, by the way, from a low of three percent in economics to a high of thirty-eight percent in education and English or foreign languages. The range is enormous and of course any pragmatic affirmative action program takes this range of earned doctorates into consideration. Also, we are blessed with a national coordinator at AAC, the American Association of Colleges, who is collecting affirmative action programs, collecting good ideas from around the country and disseminating them. Her name is Bernice Sandler, and her project has been foundation funded. As some of you may know, there is going to be an office of Education funded institute on women in education in several regions this summer, one of them being at this University. The ACE, the American Council of Education, and possibly the most prestigious of all the national associations, is devoting its entire 1972 convention to the subject of women in higher education. So, for resources, there are now plenty. When we started at this, I must admit, we were working our own way, feeling out path in the dark.
I'd like to mention just one other area, and then open this for questions because I know you have other business--that's the area of the woman who has never been able even to choose whether or not she wanted marriage or higher education, that is, the blue-collar woman who has no access to higher education in her later years. Some of you may know that there has been a program of continuing education in this country for some time, but it was designed primarily for the middle-class wife who was supported by her husband and wished to return to education, get retooled for a second career, or a late career. Without in any way downgrading that program which has had some exciting results, I'd like to leave you with the idea of another kind of program which is being tried in a few places in the country. It's expensive but it's very exciting. It's called Second Start, and it's designed for women now but it could equally well apply to men who are in their thirties or older who were not ready for college or were not able because of financial pressures to go to college when they were college age and for whom a part-time, occasional-credit program is too slow to be meaningful in their lives. These are people who really need to take off four years, much like the black students, and go to college straight through. They are high-risk students and they are high-cost students but the impact on their lives would be tremendous because they would move immediately into college-level jobs. This innovative program gives credit for life experience (students are given numerous tests so that they can move in very often at the sophomore or junior level), a great deal of compensatory counseling, and all the special help that non-college-educated people need.
I'd like to end with this because it is, I think, symbolic of the kind of program that is going to come out of this concern with women. Needless to say, Second Start began on the assumption that most of the students who would apply for this kind of program would be women and yet it has instantaneously shown its applicability to men. And I would suggest that opening up the jobs and the new programs in the admissions to women is going to open an educational system, that has become, in my view, all too homogeneous both in its faculty and in its student body, to other populations in the United States. Thank you very much.
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