The University Record, April 17, 1995

From the president . . .

To all members of our University community:

Last April, I introduced a major new initiative for our University, the Michigan Agenda for Women. The Agenda is the result of years of hard work from women leaders who have pulled, pushed and sometimes dragged the institution along the path toward equality for women. It represents the beginning of renewed efforts to make women full and equal partners at the University of Michigan.

In the year since that announcement, I have discussed the Agenda with numerous groups and have listened and learned from a wide diversity of women who work and study in all areas of our University. This has been a tremendous personal education for me, confirming my belief that gender equity is imperative if we are to succeed in the coming decades, and deepening my commitment to the Agenda.

The Agenda is not a "women's issue." Like the Michigan Mandate, and in concert with it, the Agenda is everyone's issue. We can no longer afford the waste of human talent and potential that results from our current system.

Many of our policies and practices that have been in place for decades are inadequate and inappropriate in today's diverse world. And, more important but harder to address, many of our outdated attitudes are severely hampering our ability to excel. The Michigan Agenda for Women is a diffuse and evolving collection of efforts that will change this University in profound and permanent ways, through actions and education in every part of the institution.

I would like to take this opportunity to describe some of the most significant aspects of the last year's discussions and to outline several new initiatives that we have generated in response.

• Faculty, staff and student women experience alarmingly pervasive sexual harassment. Responsibility for implementing the sexual harassment policy has been centralized in the Office of Human Resources and Affirmative Action. Two new, full-time staff positions have been created to educate the community and to investigate reports of sexual harassment.

• Faculty women are expected to perform a disproportionate amount of University service, including student advising, informal counseling and committee service. Faculty Career Development Awards have been created. Forty awards of $5,000 are being given annually to faculty women in recognition of their disproportionate service responsibilities.

• Students and junior faculty (men and women alike) need more senior women faculty as role models. Women comprise roughly half our undergraduate student population, yet fewer than one in 10 full professors are women. Central funding has been made available for hiring senior faculty women. Salary support is being provided to those units that recruit outstanding senior women to their faculties.

• Most women (and some men) have serious concerns about their personal safety. Violence against women on campus, especially against women students, is a serious problem that interferes with students' ability to fully utilize the resources of the University and with faculty and staff members' ability to contribute fully. A Presidential Task Force on Violence Against Women on Campus has been created and will issue recommendations within the next month. Additionally, parking regulations have been modified to increase the availability of night-time parking on campus.

• Women of color face particular challenges in nearly every aspect of their University lives, as they are dually affected by prejudicial attitudes toward race and gender. The University is funding a three-year study of Women of Color in the Academy. The President's Advisory Commission on Women's Issues and the Council on a Multicultural University have been charged to develop specific goals and recommendations to address these issues, including opportunities for faculty and staff advancement.

• Many individuals assume supervisory responsibilities with little, if any, background or training. This lack of education often results in unnecessary personal costs to individuals in those units and in less than optimal performance of the unit as a whole. Options for mandatory training for new supervisors are being explored by the Office of Human Resources and Affirmative Action.

• Our relatively inflexible system of work schedules creates unnecessary obstacles for women and men who have dependent care responsibilities. Proposals for policy modification will be presented to the Executive Officers later this month. Units are being encouraged to explore various flexible scheduling options.

• Staff members (70 percent of whom are women) lack an effective dispute resolution system. A Consultation and Conciliation Service has been established and is available for use by faculty and staff members who desire an alternative to the formal grievance process.

• Many men on campus are unaware of the gender-based inequities that women experience. Efforts will be made during the next year to inform men on campus about these issues and to increase their participation in the Agenda.

This is, of course, only a partial list of challenges and accomplishments during this first year of the Michigan Agenda for Women. I would like to thank the hundreds of individuals who have provided insights, ideas and suggestions this year, and to invite every member of the University community to participate in this extraordinarily important initiative.


James J. Duderstadt
President, University of Michigan