Document 32: Daniel Zwerdling, "The 'U' Crusade For/Against Women," The Michigan Daily, 14 February 1971, p. 4.


Introduction

   Ten months after Kathleen Shortridge's Michigan Daily article chronicled the discrimination experienced by women on the University of Michigan campus (Document 6), one of the paper's senior editors, Daniel Zwerdling, wrote another magazine-style feature, summarizing the impact that the HEW investigation had had on the University.

   Zwerdling does not mask his cynicism that the University's affirmative action plans amount to somewhat empty promises. In particular, he notes that because of current budgetary constraints, the University will be unlikely to hire or promote many women because it will be doing little hiring of any kind.

   Zwerdling's article includes several unguarded statements by key male administrators, and captures their attitude that they were being forced to address a problem that they believed was not of their making. The full-page article highlights two particularly inflammatory quotations, one by William Cash, assistant to President Robben W. Fleming, and the University's highest-ranking African-American administrator, and Fedele Fauri, vice president for state relations and planning, who by now was responsible for managing the University's response to HEW. Neither of these quotes appears in the text of the article itself. At the time, Zwerdling was also working as a stringer for The New Republic magazine, and the quotations got a wider audience when they appeared in a similar story he wrote for that magazine the following month.[120] Zwerdling went on to work as a reporter for The New Republic before joining National Public Radio as an investigative reporter.

   Despite the University's promise to top HEW officials to abide by Secretary Elliot L. Richardson's decision regarding the department's jurisdiction over graduate school admissions, Zwerdling quoted Allan Smith, vice president for academic affairs, as saying that the University would sue the department if Richardson agreed with his subordinates that HEW could require the University to address discrimination in graduate student admissions.

   One administrator who came out as more sympathetic to women's issues in this article was Barbara Newell, the top-ranking woman at the University who had been installed the month before as chair of the new Commission on Women. Throughout this period, Newell had been working, along with all of the University's top officials, to achieve a settlement with HEW. However, in this article, she appeared critical of the University's grievance procedures and the initial level of support that it had provided to the commission.

   Newell had been mentored by Fleming since they had worked together at the University of Wisconsin. But some women believed that her own perspective changed as the University responded to the HEW investigation. "Eventually as she worked on this, I think she got madder and madder," recalled activist Jean L. King. "You can't work on the complaint we had with the discrimination she was experiencing without getting mad."[121] King said that during the course of the investigation, Newell "complained vigorously about her own salary (at least $5,000 below male comparables) even as she worked to stem this investigation."[122] Newell left the University the following year to become president of Wellesley College.


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A special report by Daniel Zwerdling

The ‘U’ crusade for/against women

    PITY THE POOR University: one of the great educational institutions in the nation, famed for liberal achievements, it is berated publicly by the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare because it discriminates against--not blacks but--women. HEW ordered the leaders here, all of them men, to upgrade women: they must revamp hiring procedures, formulate employment goals and timetables, and scour their records, scrutinize every one, search their souls to discover women they have oppressed, and then pay back every penny which these women should have earned but didn't.

    Think of the work! Allan Smith, vice president for academic affairs, calls this demand an "imposition." "Our objection is the godawful number of man hours it will take to do it," Smith complains. But University administrators are getting something out of the agreement: the national press has hailed the University's commitment as "historic," and even University officials trumpet their affirmative action plan as a nationwide first. It's true the University is the first college in the country to tackle the problem of sex discrimination. It sounds so glorious! One begins to forget the University started the discrimination in the first place. But behind administrative doors, the men of the University are grumbling.

"We just want to get those bastards at HEW off our backs," confides Fidele Fauri, vice president for state relations and planning. He's supervisor of the University battle against sex discrimination.

    The University has treated the HEW investigation and agreement hostilely from the beginning, HEW shocked the nation's college system when it blocked new government contracts last fall to four major universities because they discriminate against women--the University was one them.[A] Women felt powerless to challenge discrimination in university employment until last year, when the Washington-based Women's Equity Action League (WEAL) discovered the potentials of a 1965 Executive Order 11246, amended in 1968 to prohibit discrimination by federal contractors for reasons of sex as well as national origin, religion, age and race. Since then, WEAL has demanded investigations at more than 200 universities, including all medical schools plus the entire state systems of California, New York, Florida and New Jersey.

    HEW fingered the University as its test target. We're a good place to start. Barely six per cent of the University faculty with professorial status are women, and most of them cluster in the school of nursing (all women there), library science, childhood education, social work and the literary college (romance languages are biggest).[B] Few of the women who work on the nonacademic staff rise past secretarial positions. It's common to find a woman cleric with a BA or MA performing the same duties as a man classified higher up on the scale who is earning $8,000 more per year. If you wear a skirt you're an administrative secretary; otherwise you're an administrative assistant. Even when women do make the senior administrative assistant level--their peak at the University--they average up to 27 per cent less money than men in the same job.

    Deep in the recesses of University files, there is sordid information the University wasn't anxious to reveal. When a team of four HEW investigators arrived last August, University officials balked at opening all personnel files. "There's confidential information in personnel files which we don't feel just anyone should be able to look at," says one administrator. He says the Univeristy was protecting its employees. HEW threatened to block automatically federal conracts, and the University loosened up. For what? Two months later HEW delivered a scathing 20 page report, crammed with evidence of sex discrimination (the University refuses to release the report, claiming that it is full of "misinformation" which would cause more public harm than good), and demanded a tough affirmative action program to increase employment of women throughout the University.

    President Robben Fleming responded with a program which promised, at best, to "keep staff members informed periodically that the Michigan Civil Rights Commission is available to review and process discrimination, including sex, complaints." HEW flatly rejected the proposal, and to enforce its point, blocked up to $7.5 million in federal contracts.[C] After frantic negotiations with top HEW officials in Washington, the University finally wrote the nation's first affirmative action program which HEW hopes will pave the way for achieving employment equality between the sexes.

    HEW has 200 more sex discrimination complaints pending; our agreement will provide the model. If you study it closely you'll know what progress to expect in the sex discrimination battle.

The Plan

    The highlights of the program promise the University will:

    • achieve salary equity between men and women employees who have the same qualifications, responsibilities and performance in the same job categories;

    • pay back wages to any women who has lost pay due to discrimination, retroactive to the date she was hired;

    • undertake the "vigorous" recruitment of women in faculty positions;

    • give "priority consideration" to eligible women who seek promotion in nonacademic jobs;

    • treat tandem husband-wife teams equally, and pay back wages to any wives who have been discriminated against;

    • recruit men and women for employment without any classification by sex;

    • create a special commission on women.

    But women at the University aren't applauding. The plan may prove to be more of a public relations hoax than a genuine commitment to fighting sex discrimination. Political maneuvering, bureaucratic obstinence, economic realities, and a deep seated male--i.e. University administration--distrust of women may sabotage it.

"Once you let women know they've got you over a barrel, they'll take everything they can get from you," William Cash, the University's human relations director and member of the negotiating team with HEW, told me. "Women just make life difficult." I leaned over his desk to squeeze a little horn that's mounted on wood and goes "blaaht." It's a "Secretary Caller."

    For example: Under its pledge for "vigorous recruitment" of women professors, University officials must send HEW by March 8 detailed numerical employment goals and timetables. Just how many women will the University actually hire? Fleming has told all departments the University won't hire any staff for at least three years. All new personnel must come from normal turnover, which means a woman's only hope is capturing positions vacated through resignations or retirement. Tight economic conditions will mean abnormally small turnover. "In the short run," says Barbara Newell, an institutional freak as assistant to the President, and chairwoman of the Commission, "I'm afraid what we may be doing is just making sure that women aren't the first to be squeezed out."

    When it comes to actually formulating goals and timetables, each department chairman follows his (they're all men) own conscience: there are no University-wide guidelines. Smith defines the guarantee women will get: "We have a University policy that says to department heads: ‘You will be active, you will be aggressive, you will set up a goal.’ Then it's up to the individual units to achieve it."

    University officials aren't eager to compensate women who are lucky enough to have jobs but haven't been getting the salaries they should. The executive officers seriously considered suing the government in federal court to challenge its clause on retroactive pay. "The normal procedure, overwhelmingly, in labor practice is to pay retroactive to the date of the complaint, not some arbitrary preplace in the past," complaints Smith, Furthermore, he says, "We objected to the imposition of our reviewing 15,000 files" to find cases of sex discrimination. The University said: let those with grievances come to us. "But we finally decided, it's just work."

Personnel woes

    The Personnel office is combing the files, ostensibly searching for women who are getting cheated out of honest wages. But they're playing games with statistics: when personnel investigators recently studied job files to find cases of wage discrimination, as HEW ordered, they considered only job categories which include both men and women--less than 25 per cent of the total work force. Then, instead of comparing the average female to the average male salaries--which would show an enormous discrepancy--they compared the average female salary to the average salary of men and women together. That weights the figure down.

    Predictably, personnel found only 160 women in a total work force of 10,000 whose salaries are inexplicably below "normal." Director of Personnel Edward Hayes says his department can "explain away" all but 35 cases.

    Personnel won't even consider raising the pay of the mass of women employes--clerical workers with bottom pay and scanty worker benefits. There aren't any male workers to compare them with. Nor will Personnel investigate whether women with one classification are doing the same job as a man who's classified higher.

    As a result, notes PROBE, the campus women's research group, the administration "neatly sidesteps the most blatant inequity in the University's present salary structure--that is, females are systematically hired into job classifications beneath their training and abilities."

    "That's a horrendous task," says Hayes. "To gather facts on what an individual's duties and responsibilities are takes four hours. Six thousand women times 4 hours is 24,000 man hours of effort."

    But, Hayes says, that's not the main issue, which is: the University doesn't need such a study. "We think job classifications are equitable," he says, "because that's been one of our most fundamental concepts--that men and women doing the same job get the same pay."

    What about women who qualify for better jobs but don't get promoted because of their sex? This is an example, says Vice President Smith, where HEW's "interpretation of existing conditions is wrong. They blame discrimination as the cause of few women being in top jobs, when that's not the reason.

    "HEW sees we have a large number of secretaries who have high degrees, and says we're discriminating because they aren't in higher jobs. We have hundreds of well qualified faculty wives who want to work to help support their husbands. Many of them have training to qualify them for jobs better than secretary. But we don't have many jobs available better than secretary. Do we tell them they can't work? They say they want to work, so we hire them as secretaries."

    Smith continues: "We have a good many employees, knowing their tenure here is only three to five years because their husbands will leave, who don't seek a shift to a higher position. They don't want that additional responsibility."

    But Smith concedes there are some women who do deserve promotion, want it, and don't get it. "We'll put their names on a list along with everyone else and consider them when there's an opening," says personnel director Hayes. That's the University's "priority consideration."

    Women who don't like the University's sense of justice can protest as a last resort through normal grievance procedures: complain to your supervisor ("that's the man who hired you and is responsible for the grievance in the first place," observes Newell), then to the department head, and finally to the University Grievance Board: Director of Personnel Hayes, the chief of the employe's department, and--as a special new feature in sex cases-- a woman.

    Personnel director Hayes has already formed his verdicts. "As far as Personnel is concerned, discrimination against women does not exist." He adds, "Maybe it does not insure the most fair and impartial review since we are reviewing our own judgments." University officials say they'll use this procedure only for nonacademic employees; the faculty maintains a tradition of settling disputes informally among colleagues. Most, of course, are men.

    The best summary of the University's commitment to fighting sex discrimination is the new Women's Commission: it has no budget and no powers. Administration officials (none of them will take credit) selected these two men, eight faculty women and two nonacademic female employees, by "asking around to see who was interested" according to an administration source. The University recently granted the commission members time-off every Friday afternoon; before then, the commission was "a floating crap game," says chairwoman Newell.

    Newell says the commission plans to begin hearings in March on sex discrimination and hopes "to have a few concrete recommendations by the end of the semester."

    But the Women's Commission won't review the crucial employment goals and timetables which the University will send HEW in March. "We simply will not have time to get everybody into the act," says Smith.

    The affirmative action plan might work at the University if government enforcement could outmuscle the administration's begrudging attitude. Only punitive economic sanctions, the contract bans, forced the University to look at sex discrimination at all. But HEW, despite its sudden fervor, doesn't have the money, the staff, or the legal power to make its orders work.

    "Eradication of sexual discrimination in employment presents more serious problems for the enforcement agencies than for the employers," Fleming frankly admits. HEW employs only 27 persons to investigate contract compliance at thousands of universities and hospitals under its jurisdiction around the country. Two of the eight HEW regions, Kansas City and Seattle, don't have any investigators.

    HEW devoted an extraordinary amount of time to the first stage of negotiations with the University, but won't have the staff to follow up on the University's progress: "Now our investigations are hit and miss," says James Hedgedon, the HEW Chicago Regional director.[D] "If we send investigators back to Michigan, it means they can't go someplace else."

    The University will send periodic reports to HEW, but that doesn't guarantee the reports will be accurate, or if they are accurate, that the progress they represent will he satisfactory. "It all depends on how you rate the University's good faith," says Hodgedon. "I'm sure they're not complete scoundrels. Everybody has a little bit of scoundrel in them. But we don't expect clear sailing either."

    Major areas of discrimination against women at the University remain untouched by the HEW agreement. No mention of maternity leave, no mention of child care centers. And little mention of discrimination against women in admissions.

    HEW originally ordered the University to increase the number of women admitted to graduate programs, but after Fleming and Smith descended on the Washington office to protest the issue was referred to Secretary Elliot Richardson.

    The University contends the executive order doesn't give HEW authority to monitor admissions; HEW argues that since admission to graduate school is a prerequisite for employment as a teaching or research assistant, it falls under the HEW mandate. Few people doubt there's discrimination against graduate women: as funds get tighter, Rackham will admit male students "who are more likely to finish, less likely to drop out and have babies." associate Dean Byron Groesbeck said last year. If Richardson upholds the HEW staff decision, says Smith, the University will go to the courts.

    Undergraduate admissions, meanwhile, go completely unprotected by the executive order. The LSA admissions committee has maintained for years a male-female freshman ratio of about 55-45 percent, although there are more qualified women than men applicants in terms of standardized test scores and grades. What's the rationale? Smith suggests it might be "historic" tradition. Another reason: "The hard sciences would lose" if suddenly more women and less men were admitted. Women flock to the humanities. In any case, the University isn't going to look at admissions discrimination. "We have enough trouble," says Smith.

Raising consciousness

    On the top floors of the Administration Building, the University's male leaders pace the corridors, damning the whole HEW controversy as some vast mistake. Fidele Fauri,[E] poor fellow, is burdened with unwanted responsibility for the whole anti-sex disrimination program. "I don't know why I have anything to do with sex," he says, They're furious at HEW's "complete arbitrariness" (Fauri's words) in fingering the University. HEW negotiated an affirmative action program with the University of Pittsburgh, Smith notes, and wasn't half as strict. But then, no one nurtures any illusions that discrimination against women will disappear overnight. The University won't turn topsy-turvy.

    At least one thing is happening: men are learning a new vocabulary. "Oops, there goes my male chauvinism," says Allan Smith, who can't stop using terms like "man power." "I'm trying to learn to say ‘person’."

__________________________

A. The source of Zwerdling's assertion that as many as four universities had had contracts blocked by this date is not known. In his article for The New Republic a month later, he said the schools included the University of Pittsburgh. However, women at that university filed suit later in 1971 because of HEW's perceived inaction in enforcing the executive order. Harvard University had reportedly had contracts withheld, but because of its failure to produce data, rather than sex discrimination per se.
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B. The "literary college" refers to the College of Literature, Science and the Arts, the largest division at the University of Michigan, which included science and mathematics departments.
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C. Reports of the total value of the contracts that had been withheld varied. In mid-December activist Jean L. King had been told in writing that 12 contracts of less than $1 million each had been withheld, along with another for $1.62 million. The $7.5 million figure was repeated a year later in a Detroit News story, citing officials from the U.S. Health, Education and Welfare Department.
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D. The correct name of the director of the Chicago regional office of the U.S. Health, Education and Welfare Department's Office of Civil Rights was John Hodgdon.
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E. Fedele Fauri (the correct spelling), vice president for state relations and planning, had been given the responsibility for managing the University's response to HEW.
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