Wayne State University

Aim Higher

1971: Formation of COSW at Wayne State University

During 1969 and 1970, consonant with the national and state-wide examinations concerning the status of women, a small group of WSU women staff members met monthly with President William Keast to discuss the inequities faced by women at WSU, exhorting him to appoint an advisory group to study and address women's concerns on campus. After fourteen months of dialogue, at a meeting in February 1971, the President told the members of this group that he would like to see a formal advisory commission formed to examine the status of women employees and students at WSU. The impetus for the formation of this body may have been a HEW communication that required all universities holding federal grants and contracts from HEW agencies to be able to document equal opportunity for women in all areas and conditions of employment, in compliance with Executive orders No. 11246 and 11375.

Eighteen persons were appointed to serve on the first Commission on the Status of Women -- twelve regular members, three ex officio and three resource persons -- and, of the original informal group that had met with President Keast, four accepted appointments: Margaret Canty, Cleo Moran, Toby Cedar, and Frederica Lombard. The eighteen members were to serve for a one-year period, until June 30, 1972, and they were to submit a report at that time. An organizational meeting was held on April 30, 1971. By the conclusion of this meeting, the new Commission had established its initial committees and goals. WSU thus become the second university in Michigan to have such a commission, following the University of Michigan, which had established its commission in 1970.

The first Commission meeting was convened by Executive Vice President Ali B. Cambel at noon on April 30, 1971. The Commission initially focused on four major areas of concern:

  1. Equity and equality in policies, procedures and customs with regard to sex in employment, placement, and promotion at WSU of the faculty, non-teaching professional and administrative personnel, and non-academic staff.
  2. Policies, climate, and customs used in the counseling of women students in all schools but especially where gender was known or believed to be a determining factor in recruitment and/or admission.
  3. Establishment of an office for equal employment opportunity with special emphasis on the employment problems of minority groups and women.
  4. Compilation of a list of principal writings and resource documents on the subject of sex-based discrimination, especially as it concerned university-related occupations and professions.

Each of the four areas was discussed at the first meeting, and committees were established to address three of these. Formation of the committee to study the establishment of an equal opportunity office was postponed until the university's newly initiated affirmative action program was more clearly defined. The University created an Office of Equal Opportunity during this same period, and its new director was to begin work on August 2, 1971; the initial goal of that office was to coordinate efforts in the area of minority employment and the University's dealings with external minority contractors.

Three months after the Commission's first meeting, it issued a preliminary report, dated July 22, 1971, indicating that the Commission took their several charges seriously. The full Commission endorsed the recommendations that resulted from the investigations of the subcommittees. The major recommendations involved provision for child care; hiring, maternity leave, and grievance procedures; and retirement inequities. The Commission also requested a permanent budget.