On October 13, a week after it received a letter from the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) (Document 13A), the University of Michigan acknowledged in this press release that HEW was requiring it to respond to its findings that it had discriminated against women in its hiring practices. The University attempted to put as positive a spin as it could on the situation, asserting that it was "revising" an "existing affirmative action plan" to "include women."
On September 18, 1969, the University had publicized that earlier plan under a headline that read, "Equal Employment Opportunity Affirmative Action Program Outlines University's Positive Anti-Discrimination Efforts." Although "sex" was included along with "race, color, religion, creed, national origin or ancestry" in the prohibitions on discrimination, the affirmative action language had been directed solely at minorities. One African-American woman was named to the 11-member Coordinating Committee for Human Relations, described as "persons most intimately involved with problems of the Negro as they relate to the University."
The October 1970 press release (Document 14A) makes clear that the University was pushing back on HEW's findings. And by highlighting that "about 75 per cent of the University's research volume is sponsored by federal agencies," it may have hoped to shake loose some supporters for its position.
In contrast to the thrust of the University's press release, The Michigan Daily, the campus student newspaper, reported the development under a six-column headline in bold capitals that read, "HEW Demands 'U' Initiate Hiring of More Women; Sets 30-Day Deadline for Filing Program."
The University followed up the press release with articles in two in-house publications. On October 15, a story, headlined "Representation of Women, Minorities in Top Jobs Up," appeared in the UM News, a semi-monthly newspaper distributed to non-academic University employees. (Document 14B) The article made no mention of HEW's critical findings; rather it said only that HEW officials "are studying the University's recently completed progress report on its equal employment opportunity programs." The University then touted the progress it said it had made in hiring and promoting women and minorities.
On October 26, the University Record, which was distributed to a wider audience, including faculty members, published another article, "Report Shows Gains in Hiring Minorities." Again, the University heralded the progress it had made, but noted that "Certain 'problems' were identified by a team of investigators from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare which visited the campus in August and September." It added that nearly 50 colleges and universities had been charged with sex discrimination, and that "sex bias is a fairly recent challenge."
The refusal of top administrators to share HEW's findings with the campus, and public relations communications such as these, further infuriated women on campus (see Documents 20A, 21A and 22). Jean L. King and Mary Yourd, who filed the original complaint against the University (Document 7), wrote President Robben Fleming (Document 14C), seeking a copy of the agency's findings. (Although King and others continued to communicate informally with HEW officials, there is no indication that the agency ever replied formally to them as the original complainants.)
In Document 14D, Fleming curtly responded to the two women, noting that the University would release "the substance" of Scott's letter "at the time we respond more fully." It is notable that by this date, Fleming was already sharing the letter with other University presidents and lobbyists (see Documents 16 and 17A). He also addressed his letter to "Mrs. John C. King" and "Mrs. Kenneth L. Yourd," monikers that the two women had never themselves used when corresponding with him.
A few weeks later, PROBE, now describing itself as "a coalition of University women--staff, faculty and students--formed last spring for the specific purpose of investigating, reporting and initiating action to upgrade the position of women in The University of Michigan," prepared its own critical response to the University administration's public statements. (Document 14E)
The group, in effect, challenged the University's "spin" on the situation, as revealed in its initial October 13 press release (Document 14A) and subsequent coverage in the October 15 issue of the UM News (Document 14B), The group also pointed to Fleming's attitudes toward sex discrimination as reported in an August 30 article in the Ann Arbor News. (See Document 12)
While PROBE remained a relatively small organization, it continually worked to raise additional funds, to identify the major concerns of University women, and to try to flush out additional examples of sex discrimination at the University. The last-page of the document is designed as a solicitation that could be mailed back to PROBE.
PROBE used University staff directories to hand-address its memo to all women who worked for the University, and make use of inter-office University mail to deliver it. However, the head of the University mail service declared that the memo was not "official" University business and confiscated many of the envelopes, providing the women with yet another rallying cry. But one-third of them got through.
According to one PROBE member, at least one secretary "in a very high place, a really critical place," passed on "some really critical information in terms of salaries and stuff like that, and she certainly could have lost her job. It was a very courageous move on her part."
Among the documents forwarded to PROBE leaders over the next few months was a document described as HEW's second communication to the University about its proposed affirmative action plan. It was sent anonymously and signed "a friend." A PROBE member wrote King, "We've decided it might be best to not talk publicly or in meetings, about having a copy of this, in order to protect whoever sent it--thinking that security over there might tighten up if it was discovered that we have this copy."
Hand-written notes on this copy of the PROBE memo (Document 14E) were likely added by King, in whose papers the memo was found. One, which read, "Are you sending Hodgdon the original UM News," is a reference to John Hodgdon, who then directed HEW's Chicago regional Office of Civil Rights. King continually strategized with campus women about how best to keep government officials focused on the investigation.
THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
6014 Administration Building
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104
October 13, 1970 (41)
Contact: Jack H. Hamilton
Phone: (313) 764-9238
ANN ARBOR---An existing affirmative action program to promote equal employment opportunities for members of minority groups is being revised by The University of Michigan to include women.
But, according to U-M officials, the plan is not likely to be ready by the first week of November, to meet a 30-day deadline set by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) regional Office of Civil Rights. And some differences are likely between the University and HEW both on what the situation is and what it ought to be.
A team of investigators from the HEW civil rights office in Chicago visited Ann Arbor in August and September in response to allegations of discrimination by the University on the basis of sex. The complaint was filed with the U.S. Secretary of Labor by an organization called Ann Arbor Focus on Equal Employment for Women.
The investigation was assigned to the HEW civil rights office, whose authority comes from amended President Executive Order 11246. The order forbids employment discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, age and national origin by those holding federal contracts. About 75 per cent of the University's research volume is sponsored by federal agencies.
The University provided extensive statistical information to the investigators, who also met with U-M officials and representatives of the complaining organization.
A month following the on-campus visit, a letter was sent on Oct. 6 to U--M President Robben W. Fleming. Signed by Don F. Scott, Civil Rights Specialist in the Chicago regional office, the letter said an affirmative action program "must be submitted to this office within 30 days" for evaluation to determine if it appears "acceptable and responsive to the problems we have identified."
President Fleming, in a letter the next day, assured HEW of an immediate analysis and the development of a revised affirmative action program. But, he said, "it would seem unlikely that an affirmative program of the kind you envision could be generated within 30 days, even assuming we were in complete agreement."
Fleming said, "It is probable that there will be points of disagreement between us, some of which may be serious."
"We do not differ with respect to the principle of equal treatment for women," said the U-M president. But he added that "there are extraordinarily difficult problems in establishing criteria for what constitutes equal treatment, and we believe they are quite different from the now familiar problems in the field of race."
Some examples cited by the investigators as discrimination on the basis of sex reveal an apparent lack of understanding of peculiar circumstances of a university work force, according to U-M officials.
The HEW letter noted women with college degrees in job classifications below some occupied by men without degrees. A University spokesman said, "We have wives of students who are working a year or two while their husbands are completing their graduate work.
"The result may be women in jobs for which they are over-qualified. First, we may not have openings to fit particular qualifications at the time employment is needed. Second, both the student wife and the University recognize that the employment is going to be for a limited time. We have to consider longevity as well as qualifications in placing people."
Since the Executive Order dealing with discrimination on the basis of sex was issued Oct. 13, 1968, the HEW statement calls for compensatory back pay to any female employee identified as having lost wages due to discriminatory treatment by the University during that period. How such individuals are to be identified, and a judgement made as to whether there has been discrimination, may be matters of serious disagreement between HEW and the University according to U-M officials.### (R1, 2; Edl; Labl; Woml, 2) bjw