In mid-1970, a small group of women formed PROBE Into the Status of Women at the University of Michigan, an informal organization of University women that included women who had been involved in preparing the sex discrimination complaint against the University, as well as faculty members, clerical and blue-collar workers, and graduate and undergraduate students. It complemented the work of FOCUS on Equal Employment for Women, which filed the complaint, by trying to reach out to women at all levels of the University, gather information about the discrimination they had encountered, monitor the progress of the complaint through the federal bureaucracy and keep pressure on University administrators to make changes.
An early member recalled that PROBE was one of many feminist organizations on campus at the time, but that it was more moderate that those associated with radical feminism. Still, she said, the members of the group became more "radicalized" as they became aware of "fundamental problems in society that had to be addressed along with employment discrimination."
This document provides a snapshot of PROBE's earliest days, as it scrambled to get organized and approved as an official student organization, which would give it access to additional campus resources. Initially, it used the address and phone of Kathy Shortridge (see Document 6) and the office of Jeanne Tashian, who was responsible for the preservation of the organization's papers. The memo also anticipates the approaching celebration of the centennial of women's admissions at the University. In a compilation of campus women's groups prepared for that celebration, PROBE was described as "a coalition task force researching the condition of women at the University."
PROBE tried to communicate regularly with University women, as it sought to expand its ranks and uncover more instances of campus sex discrimination. "Remember. . . . PROBE's purpose is information gathering," the document concludes. "No idea is too far out, too small or too grandiose to be considered for publication or simple availability. Don't let those ideas, anecdotes, or facts die. Send them to PROBE."
Many PROBE members later remembered what fun they had had, working to come up with creative ideas to raise the campus's awareness of sex discrimination. (See Documents 35A-35D) This memo describes an idea for a booklet documenting case studies and personal experiences involving sex discrimination. "For graphic appeal," the memo notes, "a centerfold and a gallery of chauvinists were suggested."
Probe Notes 6-16-70
Until a permanent place is definitely established, PROBE will use Kathy Shortridge's address and phone and Jeanne Tashian's office (see agenda June 16) as contact information input and output and mailing address. PROBE will become a student organization, thus enabling it to benefit from facilities and services offered by the University for student organizations.
Women's Liberation House at 824 McKinley will include notes on PROBE in its newsletter and post information on PROBE at the House. Mary Bolton, Literature Co-ordinator Women's Lib, asked that any other news pertaining to Women's Liberation be called to her attention at the House.
Gaye Crouch noted that a grievance committee for non-academic personnel has been formed by the UM, and suggested that PROBE make a formal complaint and a few formal demands to this committee. The affinity group on non-academic personnel has become a committee with Carol Tomke and Terry Moers joining it.
PROBE's planned Fall publications, commemorating the Centennial of Women at UM was discussed. Areas that could be covered are salaries, employment, admissions, placement, financial aid, medical advice, academic counseling, athletics, male chauvinism within student organizations, comparative demands of women here several decades ago and presently. The following committees and considerations developed:
- Investigation of the Fall Centennial and Teach-in on Women (Carole Ginns)
- Placement of UM Women (Ellie Ragland)
- Consideration of Idea of Male Chauvinism in Student Organizations (Nancy Wechsler)
Later it was suggested that work begin on investigating possibilities for having a booklet published and financed. Jeanne Tashian and Gaye Crouch will begin work on a proposal to the Playboy Foundation for funds.
The appeal of anecdotes for the booklet was agreed on and women in PROBE were asked to keep records of case studies and personal experiences they heard about or underwent themselves. For graphic appeal a centerfold and a gallery of chauvinists were suggested.
The Questionnaire Committee reported that it had decided to work on a simple model questionnaire to be sent out around the beginning of the Fall term so Arlene Fabrizio presented one model at the first meeting. The committee will work on the idea of a questionnaire by bringing suggestions and modifications on the Fabrizio model to the next meeting. A fact sheet containing statistics on mean salaries from the AAUP[A] and
[p. 2]the AAWUP[B] will accompany the questionnaire as motivation for participating in the questioning project. The techniques for approaching women faculty have not been clearly articulated but are on the drawing board. The alphabetized list of women faculty is now available on 3 x 5 index cards for use and is in Room 1011, Jeanne Tashian's desk. Carolyn Stoloff discussed a survey done by Judith Birnbaum on women faculty at UM, which will probably not be pertinent to PROBE's survey, but in spite of its length of 40 pages elicited a 38% response from the women professors. Ros Daly obtained the sample questionnaire from Columbia and it will be distributed at the next Questionnaire Committee meeting Thursday, June 25, main floor, SAB, 7:00 p.m.
REMEMBER...PROBE'S PURPOSE IS INFORMATION GATHERING. NO IDEA IS TOO FAR OUT, TOO SMALL OR TOO GRANDIOSE TO BE CONSIDERED FOR PUBLICATION OR SIMPLE AVAILABILITY. DON'T LET THOSE IDEAS, ANECDOTES, OR FACTS DIE. SEND THEM TO PROBE.