The University Record, December 12, 1994

President briefs women faculty on agenda issues

By Jane R. Elgass

Underscoring the importance he attributes to the Michigan Agenda for Women, President James J. Duderstadt reiterated his stand last week that he is “available and accountable” for the progress of the agenda.

In a forum sponsored by the Academic Women’s Caucus, Duderstadt noted that the success of women, their leadership of and participation in the life of the institution, “is one of the important challenges we face.”

“Much of the agenda is due directly to you,” he told the women faculty. “That is why these dialogues are so important.”

Duderstadt noted that the forums and meetings with other campus groups have created a broader awareness of the agenda and that many of the initial actions taken under the agenda are in direct response to suggestions from these groups. They include:

--Central funding of 10 new senior women faculty positions. “This isn’t magic, but it is a way to get started,” the president said. “Ten is not a magic number. If we fill 10, we’ll create another 10.”

--The Career Development Fund provides time and support for women to work on their goals as scholars and teachers. A second round of awards will be made during winter term.

--Implementation of the sexual harassment policy will be centralized with the hiring of an administrator for the program.

--A task force will be formed to address the issue of violence against women. It will report to Vice Provost for Health Affairs Rhetaugh G. Dumas.

--A new staff grievance procedure is being adopted that focuses on conciliation and consultation.

--Staff from the Center for the Education of Women are compiling results of exit interviews with departing women faculty.

--A series of recommendations on dependent care made by a small staff group are being discussed.

--More attention will be paid to staff development and training. This likely will include a mandatory management institute for faculty who are appointed to administrative posts and have responsibility for supervising others.

--New manuals on faculty and staff recruitment are being prepared by Human Resources/Affirmative Action.

--The University is in the process of identifying funding sources for a new research institute on gender and feminism. Announcement of its establishment may be made during winter term.

Following the update, the president responded to questions from the audience. A sampling appears here.

On academic administrators who are in limbo and frequently excluded from the academic side of life:

“This is a growing part of the Univer-sity community and is surrounded by confusion. What is needed is a definition of faculty in power and that must be done by the faculty.”

The president expects to announce a task force in winter term that will address the roles, rights and responsibilities of faculty. It may be “an umbrella or simply a framework for units to use. This involves defining the nature of the University for the future and requires campuswide discussion.”

On recruitment and spouses, both male and female:

This is a significant problem in Ann Arbor because we are not a large urban area with many job opportunities, and is a particular concern in the health sciences. A study was done several years ago that was not conclusive. The issue needs to be looked at again.

On tenure and the composition of tenure committees:

“This also involves looking at the role of the faculty, at promotion and tenure. We need to look beyond what the numbers tell us, through more discussion and focus groups. We need to look at tenure with more flexibility and address the differences in units.

“Equity is terribly important. It’s not credible if it’s not equal. This has to be grappled with by the faculty Universitywide and in the schools and colleges. The Fleming Building can only ask questions.”

We need to be more sophisticated in our evaluation of faculty, who may be salutary scholars, teachers or collaborators. “We follow a checklist too closely. We must insist on quality but be more sophisticated in the values we assign.”

This is critical especially in entrepreneurial units, the president noted. “There seems to be a list of attributes, a set of rules to follow to achieve tenure. The most creative people can’t really do what they want under these rules. The faculty must address this. This is the time in our history to step back and take a look at rewards and promotions.”

On the retention of women:

“What is most valuable is interaction with deans and chairs in areas where there is significant underachievement. There is enormous difference across campus.” In engineering, for example, 25 percent of the students are women, only 5 percent of the faculty are women. There are units in which all the students are women and all the faculty are men.

“Some units are large and complex and medicine is one that can be described as alarming. I have scheduled a major session to find out what they are trying to do and to set out some serious objectives. This almost has to be done unit-by-unit.”

On the decentralization of budgeting with the move to Responsibility Center Management (RCM) and its impact on funding for programs affecting women:

RCM is designed to provide the institution with a more effective way for values to drive allocation of resources. “The other options are to do it the way we did before or find a person of infinite wisdom and throw darts.”

There has to be a check and balance system in place to make sure that decisions reflect the values of the Univer-sity. “I am personally involved with some units and helping them devise plans to move ahead. I’m ‘personally accountable’ and will work with the leadership or select new leadership.”

On the effect of the absence of mandatory retirement:

This absence of mandatory retirement has slowed down openings. It varies from unit to unit. In some units, 90 percent of the faculty are tenured; in others, fewer than 50 percent are tenured.

“In units with no capacity, we’ll have to do some sort of bridging; we can’t wait another generation. The resources are important but the values are more important. If we define those, then I think we can generate the resources.”

On good policy, poor implementation, accountability:

“I am personally accountable. I can bully, use incentives and disincentives or change people. We have to find out if something is working or not working; if not, why; and then determine how to correct. We have to hear about the problem.”

On getting more men involved:

“Many males view the agenda as important. The challenge of identifying and engaging them is a challenge of education. The executive officers and deans are on board. We’re now moving on. I prefer to use good intentions and carrots, but will use the stick if necessary. Change is a necessary part of any organization and people must be part of that change.”

On mentoring for junior faculty:

“Accountability” again is key here, “in the performance evaluation of deans. The success of junior faculty should be weighted heavily, but senior faculty must accept responsibility also.”

When queried on how to reach him, the president told the women to “send me a message on e-mail. I’m the only person who reads my mail,” adding that he always answers.