Women in Higher Education

By W. Todd Furniss; Patricia Albjerg Graham | Go to book overview

MASON W. GROSS


Issues of Equality and Equity

For its annual meeting in 1972, the American Council on Education has chosen as its theme "Women in Higher Education." The function of this paper is to present the context of the troubled times in which the demands of women for equality in our colleges and universities constitute only one set of such demands. If the status of women were the only problem facing our institutions today, a solution might be worked out relatively easily. Instead we have manifold demands for equality, equal opportunity, greater participation, and even new orientation, and each set of demands has been countered by strong protests from those who see their vested interest as being threatened. Furthermore, these conflicts have been staged against a background of increasing costs, a frustrating war, and radically changing life styles. In the center is the college or university president, who must not only hope to achieve some kind of answer to the demands so that his institution can maintain a degree of stability, but must also try to figure out how, over the long run, these changes will affect the character and objectives of the institution.

Note the three key terms above: equality, equality of opportunity, and greater participation. Which of these is the key demand varies with the demanding group. For women, the central term is equality, and equality is demanded in employment, pay, opportunity for advancement, and, in general, absolute equality of status. For minority groups, the demand is for equal opportunity, mainly for admission, financial aid, faculty appointment and advancement, and status. For undergraduates, the demand is for greater participation in decision making at all levels, to give them in these respects a position of almost equal responsibility with faculty and governing boards. Faculty also want greater participation in decision making vis-à-vis the president and the governing board. Alumni, too, seek a greater voice in such matters as selection of the president, athletic policy, and scholarship awards.

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