Wayne State University

Aim Higher

1971 - 1975

Commission members met regularly through the end of 1971 and the beginning of 1972. However, it became clear that the amount of data to be gathered and the scope and complexity of the issues to be investigated precluded the completion of a final report by the Commission's original expiration date of June 1972. To ensure that the Commission had sufficient time to make a thorough study and to provide continuity during implementation of recommendations for change, Acting President George Gullen, Jr. extended the term of the Commission's service to June 30, 1975.

Nearly a year and a half of investigation culminated in August 1972, in the Commission's first Annual Report, analyzing the status of women as students and as employees. The Report identified inequities regarding women and made recommendations to resolve these. Because most of the Commission's recommendations in its preliminary report a year earlier had not been implemented, the first Annual Report included many of those recommendations as well. Not surprisingly, the major inequities identified in the status of women at WSU were similar to those previously documented by the national Commission's report issued in 1962. The 1972 Report revealed that the inequities were far more numerous than had been thought originally and urged the establishment of a formal mechanism to monitor the implementation of the Commission's recommendations and to assess the impact of such implementation on the inequities identified.

The major findings of the 1972 Report regarding women students were: women comprised 41 percent of the total University enrollment, yet representation of women decreased from 47 percent in the freshman year to 40 percent in the senior year, and to 21 percent in graduate and professional schools; women enrolled in nursing, education, and social work in large numbers, but were virtually absent in the business, engineering, medicine, and law schools; women experienced discrimination in classrooms, admission, financial aid, counseling, placement. and physical education.

The inequities identified in the Report regarding women employees included: women were overrepresented in service and secretarial/clerical areas and underrepresented in the professorial ranks; women were virtually absent from the upper levels of the central administration; women earned an average of $2,000 less than their male counterparts; women faculty took about twice as long as men to obtain tenure and remained at their ranks twice as long as men; part-time faculty and student assistants of both sexes received no fringe benefits, including Social Security; regulations required secretarial and clerical staff members to take a maternity leave after six months of pregnancy, resulting in financial hardship; and, upon retirement, women received smaller annuity payments than their male counterparts.

In light of these findings, the Commission made several major recommendations for action by the University to address the inequities.

Regarding women students, the 1972 Report recommended that:

  1. WSU undertake a total childcare feasibility study and give financial support to a cooperative day care center
  2. WSU establish and fund an annual career conference for women students
  3. In-service training programs be initiated for all Wayne State counselors and advisors; and, a women's center be established at WSU
  4. Regarding women as employees, the 1972 Report recommended:
  5. Use of University-wide position postings, with all position vacancies being widely publicized
  6. Preference in hiring, whereby preference would be given to women and minority group applicants when several applicants met qualifications
  7. Vigilance against nepotism so that hiring and promotion would be based solely on professional qualifications and abilities without regard to family relationships
  8. Support for a compassionate maternity leave policy as an integral part of a program designed to facilitate the professional advancement of women employees
  9. Consistent, explicit grievance procedures
  10. Equity in retirement benefits without reference to gender, in opposition to the TIAA-CREF retirement fund's procedure of distinguishing between male and female retirement benefits;
  11. The establishment of an ombudsperson for all employees;
  12. Re-examination of benefit policies for all part-time employees; and, creation of an affirmative action program.

In December 1971, the U.S. Department of Labor had issued Revised Order No. 4 in response to accusations of non-compliance with Executive Order 11246 as amended. Revised Order No. 4 established affirmative action guidelines for federal contractors when hiring and promoting women and racial minorities. The guidelines were to be followed by the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in investigating compliance by colleges and universities. The Commission's stress on access and action in the Report was consistent with the affirmative action guidelines of the federal government as specified in Revised Order No. 4; implementation of the Report's recommendations would help the University meet the federal government guidelines.

The Commission's Report was made public on November 9, 1972, at a joint press conference held by President Gullen and members of the Commission. At this press conference, the President announced that immediate measures would be taken by WSU. In response to several of the Commission's findings and recommendations. Some women on the WSU faculty and staff, whose salaries were found to be lower than those paid to men doing similar work, would receive salary increases. Funds would be provided for both the recommended career conference and an in-service training program for WSU counselors and advisors. He also promised further review and possible implementation of other major points.

The Commission then implemented two of the recommendations the President had agreed to fund. In recognition of the importance of successful women professionals as role models for women students, the Commission sponsored a one-day career conference for women in May 1973. It also sponsored an in-service training workshop for counselors and advisors in an effort to sensitize them to the causes and manifestations of gender bias in the counseling relationship.

Through the end of its term of appointment in June 1975, the Commission continued to work toward an improved status for women in several arenas. At the urging of the Commission, a list of courses under the heading "Courses of Special Interest to Women" was included in the Class Schedule beginning in the summer of 1974. This practice continued until the creation of the Women's Studies Program in 1976, when these courses were included in its course offerings. To bring women's issues and achievements to the attention of all WSU students, faculty, and staff, the Commission placed a greater emphasis on providing news releases to The South End, Wayne Report, and other media when appropriate. It also published a one-page newspaper, WomeNews, during 1973 and 1974, and prepared for women employees a Handbook for Women, which unfortunately remained uncirculated due to lack of funds for printing copies.

The Commission's continued concern regarding the gender-based inequities in the TIAA-CREF retirement plan resulted in a meeting between the Commission, the University administration, and representatives of TIAA-CREF in 1974. Although TIAA representatives agreed to submit a plan that would eliminate discrepancies in benefits paid to men and women, the TIAA-CREF problem ultimately was not resolved until a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1983.

Other Commission accomplishments during this period included the sponsorship of a two-day conference, "Women in the World of Work," in March 1975, agreement from the University to institute a policy of posting vacant positions within the University, and the establishment of a child care council. The Commission also encouraged the University to comply with new legal requirements concerning women in the area of maternity leaves, improved maternity benefits, and pregnancy coverage regardless of marital status. A meeting with President Gullen in June 1975 resulted in his agreement to establish a Women's Center.

The Commission achieved a sense of permanency in the spring of 1975 when it was provided with office space and clerical support. And, as the June 30 expiration date for appointments to the Commission approached, President Gullen requested that the Commission continue to meet. At a special meeting to review the future of the Commission, members agreed that it should continue as an advisory group to the President.