March 22, 2001
John La Tourette
Northern Illinois University
Dear President La Tourette:
We are enclosing a ten-year review of the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women's 1989 report on the status of women at Northern Illinois University, together with new recommendations. We began this intensive review a year ago, and we have now reached conclusions which represent the collective thinking of the Commission. The final two recommendations merit further attention, so we are continuing with our review of those items.
Please let us know if you need additional information. We look forward to receiving a response from your office, and in the meantime, we hope you will join us for some of the special events during Women's History Month in March.
Sheri C. Kallembach
In January, 1989, President John La Tourette reviewed a copy of "The New Agenda of Women For Higher Education: A Report of the ACE Commission on Women in Higher Education." At a time when women students have come to comprise over half of the student population in higher education, the American Council on Education (ACE) Commission asked "that each campus take a new and continuing look at all aspects of the institution and how they affect women's education and the education of men about women." Accordingly, President La Tourette asked the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women to determine where Northern Illinois University currently stands in relation to the fifteen [now twenty] recommendations of the ACE Agenda and to advise him of steps which could be taken to improve conditions for women on this campus.
In developing a response to the president, the Commission consulted with a wide range of interested groups and individuals. Comments were requested from the Women's Studies Advisory Committee, the Organization for Academic Women's Equality, past members of the Commission on the Status of Women, and numerous women in positions of leadership on campus. The Commission also scheduled an open forum on two different occasions to provide the participation of women from all areas of the university. Each of the 15 [now twenty] recommendations of the ACE Agenda was assigned to a subcommittee of the Commission for study, and each recommendation was discussed by the full Commission during the spring semester, 1989. These discussions, and the related comments and responses received throughout the year, were the basis for this report.'In the fall of 1998, the Commission began to review the 1989 report. The review had two objectives: to evaluate progress made toward improving the status of women at the university and to make further recommendations for improvement. For the review, the Commission spent a year seeking information from numerous campus units, including the Provost's Office, Women's Studies, University Resources for Women, Campus Child Care, and Athletics. Each part of the report was discussed by the Commission as a whole, and the new recommendations represent collective judgments rather than those of individual Commission members. Overall, the 1998-1999 and 1999-2000 Commissions found much progress in some areas and considerable need for improvement remaining in others.
The Commission thanks President La Tourette for his interest in women's issues. It hopes that the incoming President will exert leadership in considering and, where feasible, adopting the recommendations in this document; at the same time, the Commission urges other units in the university to take action to implement recommendations that affect their particular missions and responsibilities. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Commission advises that similar reviews of the status of women at Northern Illinois University continue to be conducted at ten year intervals.'
Neither the Board of Regents nor the Board of Higher Education has made issues pertaining to women a high priority. However, the Board of Regents has taken an interest in campus policies on sexual harassment, and the Board of Higher Education has recently called for an expansion of public universities' annual institutional reports on the participation of underrepresented groups in campus life.
'Although support has increased in the past 10 years, budget cuts during recent years, combined with rising speaker fees, have limited the variety of programs and rendered it increasingly difficult to attract speakers with national reputations. We have added the Empowering Women bi-annual conference to our financial commitments as well, and its expenses are mounting. Therefore, we recommend increased funding.'
'PCSW has added two awards since the Outstanding Women Student Awards were funded. The new Journalism Award (for coverage of women's issues by students) together with the Wilma D. Stricklin Award for the Enhancement of the Climate for Women on Campus necessitate some additional funding.'
'The original About Women was published for the benefit of the Board of Regents in an effort to demonstrate the need for a Women's Studies minor. The second issue was designed to reaffirm the need for the Women's Studies Program. These needs have been met, and there is a greater acceptance of Women's Studies on campus as well as nationally. Departments are now ordering gender related materials along with traditional texts for classes (for example, according to the library, 40% of the new books ordered by the History department have focused on gender). At this point, we recommend linking the Commission's web page to others pertaining to women's issues and continuing newsletters such as Argonauta and the Women's Studies Bulletin to inform the campus community. We note that although both these publications serve the entire university, publication costs have to be eked out of the budgets of their sponsoring programs. '
'The newly formed Equity Committee, combined with shifting campus demographics and mandated state and federal reporting, render this need less urgent, though still important. Moreover, discussions on diversity and the implementation of new policies pertaining to equity have helped improve the status of women.'
'The Commission reviewed data in institutional reports regarding the number, rank, and disciplines of women faculty. The percentages appearing in charts and tables must be interpreted with caution because opportunities to hire women differ by department due to a number of variables, such as the size of the national pool of female candidates and the number of doctorates earned in a given field. Nevertheless, the number of women in most areas has increased and the university as a whole shows improvement in its hiring of female faculty.'
'A Gender Incentive Hiring Plan was implemented. The plan rewarded departments that brought their percentage of female faculty up to 80 % of the percent of women in the national pool of doctoral graduates available in a given discipline. Shifting demographics are also contributing to the rise in the number of women faculty on campus. The Gender Incentive Hiring Plan is now being challenged legally, and the university needs to find other ways to approach this priority. Supporting retention as well as recruitment of women faculty would help the university achieve parity.'
'This objective is being fulfilled by federally mandated Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) reports based on staff surveys including such factors as race, ethnicity, sex, contract length, occupational activity (administrative, faculty, clerical staff, etc.), and salary.'
'This goal is being addressed through the trainee program sponsored by Human Resources as well as by the Secretarial Task Force; however, opportunities for professional growth remain limited.'
'Efforts are being made to fulfill this goal. In 1998, the Secretarial Task Force surveyed clerical staff to identify areas of concern and make appropriate recommendations regarding computer issues, as well as employment practices, job satisfaction, training/professional development, and work relationships. Secretarial salaries were also increased in the Fall of 1998. The Commission recognizes that the state sets operating staff regulations but nevertheless urges HRS to continue to pursue the recommendations in the 1998 report. In particular, additional attention needs to be paid to rewarding those who enhance their technological skills. Furthermore, secretaries cannot be fully rewarded for their skills until job descriptions and classifications are rewritten to reflect the technologies they use (see next item).'
'Comparable worth has remained an issue for many years, partly because the state sets salaries for these positions.'
'Supportive Professional Staff positions have improved. Sabbaticals are now available. SPS may now apply for professional development funds, and the university makes annual awards to outstanding employees in this category. Despite these special opportunities, the regular terms of employment for SPS positions in certain units (which are filled disproportionately by women) remain disadvantageous. These important members of the university community are frequently hired at salaries that are low for their skills and experience, and they may face constant uncertainty about the future of their positions.'
'This situation has improved mainly due to the Affirmative Action office and the regulations of the university.'
'Evaluations are now an annual requirement.'
'This recommendation seems to have been met.'
'These items should continue to be addressed through support of the affirmative action reorganization and the new sexual harassment policy. Together with Human Resources, PCSW is studying the need for lactation rooms in an effort to better serve nursing mothers.'
'The Faculty Development Center is being expanded. PCSW suggests that the university continue to improve staff training programs already in place, while supporting the Empowering Women Conference and the Biannual Conference for Working Women in Champaign. In addition, the Commission will host a site for a national teleconference entitled "Shaping the Agenda for Women in Higher Education" in March 2000. The Commission hopes that this teleconference will spark continuing campus conversations about the advancement and success of all women in higher education.'
'The establishment and expansion of University Resources for Women's mission and its relocation (1989-1990) have enabled it to provide a growing range of opportunities for women, many of them achieved in cooperation with other units such as the Office of Orientation, the Counseling and Student Development Center, University Programming and Activities, Women's Studies, and Human Resources. At the same time, URW has assumed sole responsibility for a variety of efforts formerly sponsored in part or in whole by other units. Some of these efforts involve providing consultation to other units or creating collaborative programming with them.
Increasingly, URW has been called upon to provide tutorials and training programs in response to complaints of sexual discrimination and other workplace inequities affecting women. The university's recent revision of its sexual harassment policy and related training, for example, has involved very heavy commitments of URW staff time. Similarly, efforts to resolve conflicts in the workplace and to provide appropriate related training have taxed staff time and capacity. More recent proposals and initiatives to improve the recruitment and retention of women of color, nontraditional students with children, poor women students, and faculty women in units where they are underrepresented have and will inevitably continue to involve increased commitments in URW staff time.
While these and other functions have been proposed, developed, and expanded, the unit's funding has been reduced, resulting in the loss of 25% of funded graduate staff assistant time. In addition, while the Outstanding Women Student awards boast five sponsoring units, the costs of the selection process, together with the general administrative support of the Commission, have for the last number of years been borne exclusively by URW.
The Commission urges the university to continue to support this office and to expand its staff to allow it to meet the needs of women on campus as indicated by a growing demand for programs and services.'
'The Women's Studies program continues to have the smallest operating (nonpersonnel) budget of the interdisciplinary units. Recent budget cuts hampered Women's Studies' ability to present a full complement of Women's History Month events. The program now has a full-time director, yet there has been no commitment that the line will remain in WS when the current director goes into a department. The Commission urges the university to make a permanent commitment to this important position. The program has lost a half-time faculty joint appointment, with only piecemeal replacement. The program now hires a half-time SPS program coordinator, whose contract must be renegotiated every year, and it has been the only interdisciplinary center without an assistant director or assistant to the director.
The Women's Studies Minor now offers more diverse courses. However, there remains some resistance to Women's Studies course content in the curriculum approval process. The program has begun to have difficulty staffing all courses and anticipates needing another joint appointment or full-time faculty member within the next few years. The graduate concentration is in place and flourishing.
The Commission further recommends creating a rotating internal "visiting" professorship in Women's Studies as a half-time joint appointment so faculty can spend a year or two focusing more intensively on Women's Studies.
To improve staffing of the Women's Studies program, the Commission suggests that the university ensure retention of the director's line; make the program coordinator position a permanent line budgeted for a minimum of 80% time, with the possibility of turning it into an assistant to the director position. PCSW also observes that staffing flexibility would be increased by a rotating internal "visiting" professorship in Women's Studies (see previous recommendation).
The university should recognize that Women's History Month serves the entire campus community by providing limited quantities of additional funds for PR, speaker honoraria, etc.
Members of college and university curriculum committees should be encouraged to participate in the Multicultural Task Force's summer institute, so they are more aware of gender issues and their complex interactions with other variables, such as race and class.'
'A total of 11 interdisciplinary Women's Studies courses bearing the ILAS prefix have been approved or are in the process of being approved. Internships in Women's Studies have been particularly popular with students and highly praised by organizations sponsoring interns. Curriculum transformation efforts are now part of mulitcultural institute.'
'When Women's Studies faculty associates or other interested professors teach for the Women's Studies program, their departments receive $2000. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to persuade departments to agree to this arrangement; in the wake of recent budget cuts; departments are too short-staffed to be able to release faculty to teach for Women's Studies. Moreover, faculty who teach Women's Studies courses come mostly from the arts, humanities, and social sciences; curriculum development and course offerings in other areas need to be improved through better incentives and more flexible scheduling.'
'Research/travel funding for faculty associates was available 1995-1996 and 1996-1997 but disappeared with budget cuts. Yet associates continue to conduct valuable research and travel related to women's issues that goes unfunded and underappreciated in merit evaluations because this work does not fit within the established boundaries of their disciplines. The Commission encourages the university to restore this funding and urges academic units to count all of an individual faculty member's contributions to teaching, research, and service in evaluations for merit, promotion, and tenure. Departments are urged to refer to the guidelines issued by the National Women's Studies Association in 1999 when reviewing professors' scholarship, teaching, and service pertaining to Women's Studies.'
'A permanent library budget line now exists. Yet in the last ten years of the 20th century, two trends made it difficult for any discipline to gain access to all scholarly writings in the field. The first trend was the publishing explosion of the 80s and 90s, resulting in the number of periodicals in any given discipline doubling or tripling in a 15-year time period, as well as an increase in books and monographs published. Concurrently, the average price of a scholarly journal consistently outpaced inflation in the 80s and 90s, with some subscriptions increasing 200 percent in five years' time (the average increase in the price of a scholarly journal subscription is 11 percent per year). In contrast, the increases in library budgets have tended to be 3-10 percent yearly. Consequently, in any field, but particularly an interdisciplinary one such as Women's Studies, the library and the department/program must make a strong financial commitment for the collection to remain at the level it was in the early eighties, much less to keep up with the growth in literature. The Commission therefore recommends that the budget for journal holdings in Women's Studies be increased.'
'To date, there is no mechanism for reviewing new policies unless they are brought to the Commission's attention by members or outside individuals. The Commission recommends that a regular policy review process be implemented.'
'The Commission observes an increased awareness of the effects of new policies on women. Since much planning occurs within colleges and individual units rather than centrally, it is difficult to ensure that women's needs are consistently considered. However, as women become more visible on campus and in committees at all levels of planning, the Commission anticipates an even greater awareness of how policy changes, facility design, and ergonomic issues affect women.'
'The changing demographics of the university show evidence of some consciousness of women's issues and an increase of female representation in new and existing planning groups. At the same time, the Commission cautions chairs of committees and other groups against overcommitting individual women faculty members (particularly women of color and/or those without tenure) to service obligations in an attempt to representation in all groups.'
'The university has addressed all of these items. The NIU Policy and Procedure Statement on Sexual Harassment (now on the NIU home page) outlines appropriate processes. Many administrators and other staff members have participated in detailed training on the Policy and Procedure Statement, and the Commission recommends that this training continue and become more widespread. The ACT video on sexual harassment was created by and made available through the Affirmative Action Office and University Resources for Women. More current videos are available through Affirmative Action and shown at scheduled times throughout the year. Brochures are distributed during training and orientation sessions, and the new Diversity Resource Center should contribute to such efforts.'
'Every year, Institutional Research compiles a data book that contains many of these statistics. Other relevant studies conducted annually include the Faculty Utilization report, EEO staff survey forms, and the IBHE Underrepresented Groups report. Exit interviews are in place for civil service, and faculty exit interviews are being put in place. The Commission requests copies of all such annual reports so that its membership may remained well informed. '
'Hiring progress remains a local and nationwide concern. Campus evidence may be found in the reports listed above. As the number of graduates increases, the size of the pool of candidates for our positions should grow as well. The Commission notes that a mentoring system allowing the university to "grow its own" (based on similar plans in the department formerly known as LEPS and other institutions) would also enlarge the pool of candidates. The Commission recognizes that this would involve changing the policy that precludes hiring NIU graduates.'
'This inventory should be dropped from the recommendations.'
'The Commission observes progress in meeting these recommendations. Most goals have been met. A family leave policy is now in place, although there remains great need for consistent and equitable maternity leave arrangements. The new child care facility will provide additional spaces and a wider range of care options. Sick child care is available at Kishwaukee Hospital. Evening child care is still cited as a problem, but the campus facility has not added this service for a variety of reasons. When evening child care was offered for a short time, attendance was low. Also, state licensing regulations prohibit youth from being in child care more than a limited number of hours a day Summer programs for school children exist, although some staff may find them too costly. The Commission notes that family sick time is available. The administration has stated a commitment to addressing the needs of dual career couples.
A residence hall for students with children will open in the fall of 2001.'
'NIU has made significant efforts to meet these recommendations. The Multicultural Task Force actively seeks to promote diversity on campus. Nevertheless, there is room for improvement. Better mentoring is needed at all levels, but especially for graduate students. Curriculum is now beginning to include information pertaining to sexual orientation, but the contributions of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals remain unmentioned or undervalued in most areas. The Commission believes that this circumstance acts as a barrier preventing all students from achieving an adequate understanding of society, and therefore is not consistent with the University's mission. Additional progress needs to be made in this area. As for hiring, an incentive plan has been in place and needs to be maintained. University Resources for Women functions as a campus women's center (see recommendation 3).'
'The Empowering Women conference is an important response to this recommendation. The Commission also urges the university to improve support for ACE Fellows in Women's Studies and the cost of the Biannual Conference for Working Women.'
'Departments should review their teaching evaluation forms to remove possible gender biases. Evaluations for merit, promotion, and tenure should consider all of a faculty member's contributions in the areas of teaching, service, and scholarship (see above), thus recognizing the importance of interdisciplinary work that focuses on race, class, and gender. In the process, departments should be encouraged to ensure uniformity in their personnel procedures so that they do not inadvertently disadvantage certain populations.'
'The Outstanding Student Awards and Empowering Women conference are designed to fulfill this goal. The Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center and other units are encouraged to promote women's leadership opportunities, training, and mentoring.'
'This objective has not yet been met.'
'To date, the President's office has met requests for additional financial support as needed. PCSW also appreciates policy support from the President's office, which takes Commission recommendations seriously and moves to implement them. The Commission looks forward to continuing positive relations with the new President.'
'As described in the original report, this position seems to be a token one. The present Commission believes it would be preferable to establish a stronger base of support women at all levels. '
'This goal can be met if the Commission and other women's advocacy groups continue regular communication with the president's office, while the university promotes a broader base of support for women, particularly those in leadership roles.'
'The Commission hopes that the university will promote funding for, information about, and access to existing resources instead of creating new offices or positions to address remaining needs.'
'The Commission favors Northern's decision to seek endorsements for the addition of women's teams to athletic offerings (as opposed to eliminating some programs and replacing them with women's sports). The university now boasts nine sporting activities for women and eight for men. In the fall of 2000, women's indoor and outdoor track will be added.
NIU has demonstrated its dedication to fostering gender equity by hiring a female athletic director and maintaining a shared athletics governance system which includes a senior woman administrator. Nevertheless, as with most goals, the program's ability to do what needs to be done depends on awareness and commitment at all levels.
A standing committee of the Athletic Board meets monthly to oversee implementation of the university's equity plan. The Athletics Department is also conducting a year-long self study which is part of the NCAA certification process. It will provide documentation of progress toward achieving goals for equity, sportsmanship, and diversity during NCAA peer review in the spring of 2000.
The United States Office for Civil Rights will continue to monitor the university's progress in meeting all the goals outlined in the Commitment to Resolve agreed upon by NIU and the Office of Civil Rights in December 1993. To date, NIU has met all requirements set by the Commitment to Resolve with the exception of the completion of the facilities needed for the indoor and outdoor track programs.'
'Four of the eight current university trustees of NIU meet this criteria. The university should continue to seek nominations or slates that include fair representation of women and minorities on all governing boards. At the same time, the Commission recognizes that to an extent, the composition of certain boards is beyond the university's control.'
'The Commission finds a need for attitude changes in many departments. Raising sensitivity is a continuous (as opposed to one-time) process that is most effective when conducted on a number of levels and in a variety of ways. UNIV 101 classes and the freshman survey address part of this need, as do HRS training sessions. The decentralization of the Affirmative Action function is intended to speak to some of these concerns as well. Nevertheless, this concern merits additional attention.'
'This statement extends the objectives of the previous recommendation. The New Affirmative Action policy and recent court decisions address some concerns regarding hostile work environments, chilly campus climates for women, and retaliatory gestures. Yet backlash and animosity may be expressed in subtle and complicated ways that are not immediately obvious. Therefore, the Commission plans to explore this recommendation further and encourages other units to do the same.'
'Several reports are mandated by state and federal authorities; for instance, the annual survey of underrepresented groups is designed to assess the university's progress in serving women and minorities. The Commission believes that such reports are adequate at this time. As indicated at the beginning of this document, the Commission urges the university to conduct similar reviews of the status of women at Northern Illinois University at ten year intervals.'