The University Record, January 16, 1996

Duderstadt eager to continue work on Women's Agenda

Mary Jo Frank
University Relations

President James J. Duderstadt will use the next six months to continue his strong advocacy for equity and opportunities for women.

After that he will continue to promote diversity. "I will still work to effect change in any way I can," promises Duderstadt, who credits his wife, daughters and female colleagues for educating him about the need for the University to provide a more hospitable and professionally rewarding environment for women. One of his immediate goals is "to broaden and deepen the involvement of all parts of the University in the Michigan Agenda for Women."

The Agenda, launched in April 1994, is a series of strategic actions aimed at achieving gender equity and fostering the success of women in all facets of University life. Its goal: By the year 2000, the University will become the leader among American universities in promoting and achieving the success of women of diverse backgrounds as faculty, students and staff.

The first progress report on the Agenda, published last fall, summarizes some of the issues that were raised by women in a series of town meetings held in 1994 and 1995 and the University's accomplishments in such broad categories as campus safety, flexible scheduling and dependent care, special challenges faced by women of color due to prejudicial attitudes based on race and gender, the need for more women in leadership positions, hiring and retention of faculty women, and equal opportunities for women students.

The Michigan Agenda for Women is patterned after the successful Michigan Mandate, a strategic plan to make the U-M a national leader in creating a multicultural community and a leader in achieving racial and ethnic diversity among faculty, students and staff.

"The difference between the Michigan Agenda and the Michigan Mandate is that the Mandate is a mature initiative, launched in 1988 as part of President Duderstadt's inauguration," notes Provost J. Bernard Machen. "It has had time to take hold on campus."

The Agenda still needs support from central administration and input from faculty, staff and students to keep it going, Machen says. "Newly hatched, it is just now beginning to come to life." Campus commitment to the Agenda is manifesting itself in many ways---from a willingness to try to arrange work schedules that are accommodating to employees, to an interest in being sensitive to the needs of faculty and staff who have family and other responsibilities, notes Farris W. Womack.

Womack, executive vice president and chief financial officer, says most of the initial accomplishments of the Agenda have to do with identification and determination of issues that need to be resolved.

One key area where the U-M has improved, Womack says, is campus safety. Parking regulations have been modified to increase the availability of nighttime parking, and the Regents approved a $2.5 million project to improve campus lighting.

The new President's Task Force on Violence against Women on Campus has issued its preliminary recommendations. A Human Resources/Affirmative Action task force on violence in the workplace held public hearings across campus. As a result, a set of interim guidelines were issued by the Office of Human Resources and Affirmative Action. Two new training programs for supervisors and employees regarding workplace violence are being offered by Human Resource Development.

Since Duderstadt announced in September his plans to step down from the presidency June 30, some members of the U-M community have expressed fears that the University's commitment to the MichiganAgenda may falter. "I don't think of this as Jim Duderstadt's agenda," Womack says. "It's Michigan's agenda. While Jim gets the credit for the energy he has brought to this agenda, it certainly is not going to be dropped nor the enthusiasm for it reduced because he is leaving the presidency." "The issues of the Michigan Agenda belong to all of the University," Machen says. The Office of the Provost will continue to follow through on the issues raised. We must all work harder to deal with problems of inequity." Looking forward to the results of a faculty survey on the campus climate, Machen believes "we will become aware of many more ways to make the University a place where women will thrive." The survey is being conducted by Carol S. Hollenshead, director of the Center for the Education of Women and chair of the President's Advisory Commission on Women's Issues, and Robert T. Blackburn, professor of higher education.

Through the Senior Hiring and Recruitment Effort, known as SHARE, Associate Provost Susan S. Lipschutz has been working with departments to recruit more senior women faculty. Although women comprise half of the U-M's undergraduate student population, only one in 10 full professors are women. Central funding is being provided to units that recruit outstanding senior women to their faculties. So far six senior scholars have been hired with this support, and two offers are pending. The Target of Opportunity program has made major progress in the hiring of women of color: 16 of the 23 individuals hired in 1995-96 were women.

A number of faculty women have reported that they are expected to perform a disproportionate amount of University service, including student advising, informal counseling and committee work. In recognition of disproportionate service responsibilities, Faculty Career Development awards of $5,000 each have been created specifically for women. Since the program was instituted in 1994, 80 awards have been presented. The awards are being used to enhance the professional development of faculty women.

The Women of Color in the Academy Project, a component of the Agenda, is supported by the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic and Multicultural Affairs and the Office of the Vice President for Research. Central to this effort have been a number of initiatives, including a symposium held Dec. 6 on issues affecting faculty women of color at the U-M and a major research conference held Jan. 12 on issues surrounding "Women of Color in the University and the Community it Serves."

The new Institute for Research on Women and Gender, established by the Regents this fall, also is a significant commitment on the part of the University, Machen says.

The Institute provides an umbrella for ongoing faculty research efforts focusing on women and gender; will coordinate, stimulate and support interdisciplinary research; and will raise Michigan's national profile as a major source of knowledge about women and gender. Many of the changes resulting from the Agenda and issues raised by women benefit both men and women, notes Jackie R. McClain, executive director of human resources and affirmative action. She cites:

 

New training programs for academic administrators.

 

The Consultation and Conciliation Service, started in 1995 as an alternative to the formal grievance process for handling disputes.

 

The hiring of two staff to receive formal complaints of and lead educational seminars about sexual harassment.

 

Re-evaluation and reorientation of career development programs to better meet the needs of employees.

"We've accomplished a remarkable amount this year. We know there is still much more to be done," McClain says. "We started with programmatic and policy issues that could be addressed within a reasonable time frame.

"We're also working on bigger, long-term problems, including the representation of women in top administrative and senior faculty positions. This is not a quick fix. We have made some progress and will continue to work in this area." McClain says some philosophical issues that cut across the entire organization require a long-term focus. One example is flexible scheduling. Duderstadt has sent letters to administrators encouraging them to offer flexible scheduling for men and women who have family demands. A number of units, most notably Business and Finance and the Business School, are trying flexible scheduling.

However, in single-person offices the ability to schedule flexibly is limited. "We need to assist these units so they can be more flexible," McClain says. Leave policies also need to be examined, and a task force is reviewing policies and practices to see if there are better ways to meet family needs, she adds. McClain, like Duderstadt, Machen and Womack, is confident the University will continue to move ahead in its efforts to achieve diversity.

"The Women's Agenda is a program that will continue to thrive. This is an important message for people in the University community to understand, and it is true of both the Michigan Agenda and the Michigan Mandate. It is a long-term commitment for the University as a whole," McClain says.

To keep up the momentum of the Agenda, Duderstadt says, "We need to have a strong buy-in from the executive officers and the deans." He will meet individually this spring with each of the University's 18 deans to talk about what is being done in the schools and colleges to implement the Michigan Agenda. "I've been here for 30 years and have led for 15. The first 15 years I pushed. After July 1, I'll move from leader to pusher. Ask those I've worked with in the past: I can push very hard. I promise I will push to make sure the Universitystays on track."

Eventually Duderstadt would like to see the Michigan Mandate and the Michigan Agenda for Women woven into one strong Universitywide diversity effort.

"I have challenged the Council on a Multicultural University and the Women's Agenda Implementation Group to come up with suggestions related to the Michigan Agenda," says Duderstadt, "and I am prepared to implement their recommendations."

Editor's Note: Copies of the "Michigan Agenda for Women, Toward a Full and Equal Partnership" are available from the Office of the President, 2074 Fleming Administration Building, 764-6270.