Sizing Up Women's Rights on Campus Veteran Battler against Sex Discrimination Sees Progress - and a Long Road Ahead
Elizabeth Levitan Spaid, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor
IN the late 1960s, when Bernice Sandler was one of a handful of women pushing for laws prohibiting sexual discrimination on campuses, she figured it would take a couple of years for women to achieve equity.
"I thought I'd work for two years and then go on to something else," the forthright woman says. "After two years I upped my estimate, and I started adding five years, then 10 years. Now I think 500 years, maybe even more.... We're really talking about tremendous social changes, and they don't come easily."
Ms. Sandler gave her prognosis for women in higher education in a Monitor interview and a recent speech at Radcliffe College.
For the past 23 years Sandler has shaken up the academic establishment. In 1970, she filed the first charges of sexual discrimination against more than 250 colleges. She also helped develop and pass Title IX - a 1972 federal law that prohibits sexual discrimination in athletics and academics. Now a senior associate at the Washington-based Center for Women Policy Studies, she writes and consults with universities on promoting equity for women on campus.
Compared with the chilly academic environment of 1970, significant progress has occurred for women in six areas, she says:
*Two decades ago, laws against sex discrimination didn't exist. Since then, "we've gotten rid of overt policies that prohibit women," including quota systems for professorships and students.
*Antinepotism rules have disappeared. Sandler describes instances in the early 1970s where full-time women professors received no pay because their husbands taught in the same department; some colleges required all women students to live on campus, in effect limiting their numbers. On many campuses, women's sports received no funding.
*Sexual discrimination is now recognized as a serious issue. …