Wayne State University

Aim Higher

1980 - 1985

In the early years of the 1980s, the Commission increased its collaborative efforts with other women's groups on campus. Between May 12 and 15, 1980, the Commission co-sponsored with other groups a successful International Women's Mini-Film Series featuring women directors. During 1981-82, the Women's Center was threatened with extinction when it appeared that the Center would be merged with University Counseling Services (UCS). Due in part to the efforts by the Commission, although the Center merged with UCS, its autonomy as the Women's Resource Center was maintained. In 1981, the Women's Center and the Commission began joint publication of a newsletter which continued publication until 1987.

A social hour, inaugurated in fall of 1981, to enable members to become better acquainted, evolved into a well-attended, campus-wide "Getting-To-Know-You" series of brown bag luncheons that featured as speakers a variety of successful WSU women who had achieved position such as vice president, dean, director and associate professor. On May 21, 1984, the Commission introduced the annual spring luncheons, which would feature well known Michigan women, with Lieutenant Governor Martha Griffiths, a key figure in the struggle for the Equal Rights Amendment, as the guest of honor at this first event.

Sexual harassment also became a focal issue for the Commission during this time. The Michigan Legislature amended the Elliott-Larson Civil Rights Act to include language prohibiting sexual harassment and requiring environments free of sexual harassment; it was approved by Governor Milliken on July 18, 1980. The Commission's initial effort to educate the community on this issue was the presentation, on December 8, 1980, of a panel that examined sexual harassment and informed women about sources of help. The Commission scheduled another well-attended panel discussion on March 31, 1982, along with a showing of the film 'Workplace Hustle." Following that event, the Commission passed resolution asking the Board of Governors of WSU to issue a public statement condemning the sexual harassment of students and employees. This statement was forwarded to the new president, David Adamany, in November, 1982, and was approved by the Executive Council on May 25, 1! 983. Two months later, the Board of Governors adopted the WSU Sexual Harassment Statute on July 15.

Promulgation of the new policy was also important, and the Commission asked for its widespread distribution. President Adamany agreed to the Commission's request to disseminate it and asked the Board of Governors' Office to distribute copies to deans, directors and department chairs. An article on the subject appeared in Inside Wayne State during fall 1983. At the same time, the Commission established an ad hoc Committee to develop educational workshops on the subject of sexual harassment.

The Commission had since its inception advocated equitable pension benefits for employees. Several charges of discrimination brought against TIAA-CREF had languished for years, including one filed in June 1976, by a group of 80 former and then current women employees. Although the Commission was not actively involved in litigation, its members felt vindicated when, in its 1983 TIAA v. Spirt decision, the U.S. Supreme Court finally ruled that "the practice of paying female retirees lower monthly benefits than male retirees, despite equal contributions, is in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits sex discrimination in employment." The ruling, however, was not retroactive and applied only to benefits paid after August 1, 1983.

The Commission also sponsored several topical workshops and seminars to help women achieve equity in employment. In "Putting Your Best Foot Forward," WSU employees learned how to find new positions within the University system. Another workshop honed women's skills in resume and cover letter writing as well as in interviewing techniques. "Meet the Candidates" allowed women to meet and talk with candidates for the WSU Board of Governors. "The Economic Status of Women in Michigan," a successful panel discussion on May 24, 1983, explored women's economic prospects.

The Commission had long recognized that the University's lack of a system for distributing information on available campus job opportunities had been a serious obstacle to women's advancement in employment and had sought a broad dissemination of such information. Though a policy on position postings existed, its implementation had been sporadic, and postings were not consistently advertised campus-wide. In April 1985, President Adamany issued Executive Order 85-2 on Position Posting, which established uniform open position announcements and mandated the placement of these announcements in conspicuous locations in every unit on campus and the publication of such information in Inside Wayne State. The University finally achieved a position posting policy that would not systematically eliminate women from applying for positions for which they believed they were qualified.