Document 14E: PROBE into the Status of Women at The University of Michigan to All University Women, memorandum, 6 November 1970, Jean King Papers, Box 3, U-M Disc Folder, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan. 9 pp.


November 6, 1970

MEMO TO: All University Women

FROM: PROBE into the Status of Women at The University of Michigan

    Probe is 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.

    The attached report will tell you about misleading news University publications have printed concerning women employees. This "news" is designed to minimize HEW's report on sex discrimination. If the campaign succeeds the University may not have to take effective affirmative action. If you are concerned about this possibility, or if you are interested in sharing your views with us, please indicate your interest on the form provided and return it to the address indicated.

[p. 1]

    By November 10, 1970, President Fleming is scheduled to meet with HEW officials in response to a letter he received October 6 from the HEW Regional Civil Rights Office. The letter directed the University to submit (within 30 days) an affirmative action program to promote equal employment opportunity for women. The meeting in Chicago will determine if the University's proposed affirmative action program is acceptable and responsive to the problems identified by HEW investigators.

    The University has mounted a misleading public relations campaign on the above issue. PROBE is appalled at this campaign and wants to share our views with anyone concerned about the problem of sex discrimination at The University of Michigan. The following is a brief analysis of administrative posture as gleaned from the press.

    The UM News Service, press release dated October 13, 1970

    This release, issued from the University Relations office, announced receipt of the HEW letter of October 6 and summarized the University's initial response to it. To be expected, this is a clever bit of journalism geared to underplay the seriousness of the "alleged sex discrimination." The writer begins by:

    (1) implying that HEW doesn't fully understand what the situation is, "some serious differences are likely between the University and HEW both on what the situation is and what is ought to be" [para. 2, p. 1]. (Perhaps HEW officials didn't know how to properly analyse the data they collected, but as for what the situation "ought" to be, it ought to be clear to everyone that discrimination on the basis of sex must stop.)

    (2) implying subtly that the University willingly or unhesitatingly "provided extensive statistical information to the investigators" [last para. p. 1]. The University as a federal contractor is required by law to provide whatever information HEW asks for and they had no choice in the matter. With the threat of the possibility that 75 per cent of the University's research funds could be withheld, the University "provided" information.

[p. 2]

    (3) suggesting that the "peculiar circumstances of a University work force" [para. 5, p. 2]. are so complex that the HEW investigators can't understand it. We agree, the rationale for sex discrimination is difficult to understand--no matter who practices it.

    (4) rationalizing sex discrimination by implying that the majority of women workers at the University are wives of students. Just how many of the full-time salaried personnel are actually wives of students, Mr. Fleming? What are the actual data? Is it not true that women applicants (wives of students or not), who say they plan to stay in Ann Arbor for a year or less, are sent to the part-time employment office where they are hired at low wages, no matter what their qualifications, and this kind of appointment allows for no fringe benefits whatsoever? They are not eligible for parking permits, health insurance, membership in the Credit Union, accrue no vacation or sick time nor are they guaranteed any increase in wages, whether their "temporary" employment stretches out for two or three years or if they work eight hours a day for an entire year. In addition, the press release stated that student wives only stay in Ann Arbor "a year or two while their husbands are completing their graduate work." Really, now, how many graduate students complete their degrees in "a year or two?"

    President Fleming on Sex Discrimination

    President Fleming makes his position clear: "the eradication of sexual discrimination in employment presents more serious problems for enforcement agencies than for employers (AA NEWS 8/30/70; and (same article) "in professional fields the personnel is overwhelmingly male, and that is the preference of the market." President Fleming's market is the one we're concerned with. Further, he claims he deplores the "social attitude that blocks the hiring of women and says that management hesitancy [to hire women] can be traced to their record of leaving the labor market during the child-rearing years." In this respect, President Fleming shows himself to be as ignorant as the "social attitude" he so deplores. Public Health Service studies show that on the average men actually lose more days from work per year because of disability than women (including days lost because of pregnancy and childbirth). As for job turnover rates, a recent publication by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states that job status is the key factor--low status jobs have higher turnover rates for both men and women.

[p. 3]

    What we resent most is the hypocrisy of persons like Mr. Fleming, who view themselves as informed and reasonable people, yet consistently refuse to avail themselves of the knowledge that might upset their values and basis assumptions. It is imperative that administrators in positions of power take the initiative to first educate themselves to the facts and then to see to it that lower level administrators and staff be made aware and mandated to change their behavior to more constructive patterns.

[p. 4]

    The UM News and University Record (An Example of Distorted News)

    First, it is interesting to note that the University never saw fit to do any "self-policing" in the area of sex discrimination. The same law which forced the University to begin an affirmative action program for minority groups prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. Title VII dates back to 1964, and amended Executive Order 11246 dates back to 1968. Yet, no University publications have ever acknowledged that sex discrimination was an issue for consideration prior to October 6, 1970, when HEW demanded that the University develop affirmative actions to respond to discrimination problems identified by HEW investigators.

    If the University administration cared to set an example for the "lawless elements in our society" it would have taken the initiative to comply with the law when it was passed, rather than waiting to be forced.

    Suddenly in the UM News and the University Record we see the word "women" included with minorities, just as though the University had had a long-term policy of including reports on the status of women.

    Essentially, the articles appearing in the two publications presented the same statistical information except that the UM News (Oct. 15), which is distributed only to non-academic personnel, failed to even mention the HEW investigation. The University Record (Oct. 26), which has wider distribution to faculty, mentioned that HEW had identified certain "problems" and presented their statistical information in the form of a hideously complex graph (which incidentally, left out two rather significant explanatory footnotes--watch for correction next issue).

    In 10-point caps, the UM News heads its article with "REPRESENTATION OF WOMEN, MINORITIES IN TOP JOBS UP." The article claims "significant increases in top employment classifications, while correspondingly significant decreases are evident in the lowest category" (for women): that is--in 1969 women held 27.2 per cent of the total "executive, professional, administrative and instructional staff positions" as compared to an increase to 32.8 per cent in 1970. We are suspicious of these figures and have attempted to learn what they mean. We think we have a clue:

[p. 5]

    In December 1969, a two-page questionnaire was sent to administrators and top supervisors in all departments. The questionnaire included a covering memorandum from S.A. King of Personnel's Office of Salary and Wage Administration, explaining the purpose of the questionnaire. Excerpts from the memo are [1st para.] "This project is being undertaken at this time in anticipation of further organizing efforts for office employees," and "Labor laws and mediation board determinations permit supervisory positions to be excluded from collective bargaining units of employees supervised." The questionnaire was aimed primarily at collecting information about C-5 and C-6 positions but the 4th paragraph reads, "If you believe there are other clerical employees within your unit who exercise supervisory responsibility, please complete a blank survey form and forward it."

    What were the results of this survey? We have no idea but it would be a shame if certain C-4's or even C-3's were unknowingly re-classified and thus made ineligible for union membership.

Or the other possibility is that the Personnel Office discovered that they have many people on their payrolls who act in supervisory capacities and are not being paid for it and thus maybe they set about the task of upgrading the positions of these people and raising their pay accordingly. This latter consideration seems unlikely--just ask anyone who's ever had the experience of trying to get a secretary's position upgraded.

[p. 6]

    The point is clear--a person's title or classification can be changed without necessarily changing that person's income. For example, according to the University's "Professional and Administrative Compensation Schedule 1970-71" the minimum salary grade listed on the schedule is $4,200. Do they consider sompne making $4,200 per year as "top level staff"?

    The second part of the above quote from UM News states that "significant decreases are evident in the lowest category." We don't know what accounts for these figures either, but significant decreases in the number of women in the lowest level does not necessarily mean they were promoted to higher levels as the article might imply. It might just mean a larger number of people out of work and unable to collect unemployment insurance because you cannot collect unemployment benefits as an ex-employee of the University. Are our fringe benefits all that great here? We believe if you will check the dates of every increase in fringe benefits offered by the University to its non-union represented employees, the benefits have occurred at the times that AFSCME[A] won increased benefits for its union members.

    The report states that 48.2 per cent of University employees are women, as compared to 47 per cent the preceding year. That information is irrelevant unless one is attempting to point out the interesting fact that the University is keeping up with national trends; that is, the number of women entering the labor force nationally is rapidly increasing--over 70 per cent of the 2.2 million new workers entering the labor force last year were women. It is not surprising that the University should find more women in its labor force.

    As for the insignificant increase in minority employment (13.1 per cent this year compared to 13 per cent last), it seems a public apology would be in order from the University for its apparently ineffective recruitment efforts.

[p. 7]

    None of the figures presented in either of the two articles make any sense until the University defines what they mean by the terms "top level jobs," "lower levels," etc., and present some factual information that can be dealt with.

    The only telling figure in either article is that women hold 95.6 per cent of the office classification jobs. How long could the University stay open with only 4.4 per cent (males) of its office staff trying to run it?

[p. 8]

    As a beginning, we've listed just a few areas we think are of concern to women; we request your help in identifying others

(Check if Interested)
1. One page in each of the University publications specifically for women--to serve as a communication network and express our points of view. _____
2. A publication of all job openings with descriptions and required qualifications so that anyone who feels qualified can apply for the job. _____
3. The University could provide tuition free courses (not, as is the current policy, restricted to job related courses, nor requiring the department or unit to cover the costs) to allow employees to change their career directions. _____
4. University sponsored child care facilities (client controlled) _____
5. A University employee grievance committee composed of women like yourself (rather than the current committee composed of six men). _____

I am interested in learning more about PROBE, its purposes, membership and activities:

_____ Send publication (I enclose a small contribution to cover mailing and publication costs)

Please return this form plus your own ideas (use separate sheets if needed) to:

P. O. Box 317
Ann Arbor, Michigan


If you have pressing concerns you would like to discuss with a PROBE member, call 769-3945 between 6:00 and 8:00 p.m. or weekends.



A. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the union which then represented some University workers, including janitors and cafeteria workers.
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