End of the Year Report and Recommendations for 2014-2015
On behalf of the President’s Commission on Women and Gender Equity, I am writing to report on the Commission’s activities, accomplishments and recommendations for 2015-2016.
Because this past academic year marked a new era in many respects for the Commission, I’ll start with a reminder of where it all began: At the end of the 2013-14 year, the Commission organized a panel discussion with women senior faculty, followed by a meeting of women senior faculty with you and Provost Rick Miranda, to discuss concerns these women had about several issues relating to gender equity and fairness for faculty at CSU. This meeting led to others, including my meeting with you, Rick Miranda and Cara Neth about ways in which the Commission might help facilitate positive changes in response to their concerns. As a result, it was decided that we should rewrite the Commission’s charge to include a standing committee that would monitor and address equity, fairness and climate concerns for women faculty at CSU. You and Rick also suggested a permanent budget increase for the Commission of $25,000 to help us do our work in this regard, as well as to fund expansion of our efforts to extend gender equity, fairness and a healthy gender climate to the other constituencies represented by the Commission: state classified staff, administrative professionals, graduate and undergraduate students and faculty at CSU.
The addition of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women Faculty (SCSWF) and the new budget set the stage for a very active and engaged Commission during 2014-2015. At the end of the Spring 2014 term, Irene Vernon as the Chair of the new Standing Committee, Alex Bernasek as interim chair of the Commission in Fall of 2014 and myself as Commission Chair began to organize the first SCSWF. The Standing Committee was constituted over the summer, and hit the ground running immediately at the start of the Fall semester. In Fall of 2014, Alex and the Commission worked closely with Irene and the Standing Committees with representatives from each of the colleges at CSU to address various of the issues first raised by women faculty earlier that year, including faculty parental leave, campus climate, pay equity and fairness, and the establishment of a faculty ombudsperson at CSU (The details are on their website). The SCSWF was hard-working and productive, and their accomplishments in the short nine months since their inception were remarkable. The Commission enthusiastically supported these efforts, including committing to provide funding for focus groups as part of a major study on campus climate administered by the SCSWF, and supplemental pay for the non-tenure track faculty member on the Commission.
Another major development for the Commission was the formation in the Spring of a second committee, the Standing Committee on Communications. This Standing Committee is chaired by Kathy Sisneros (Director, Women and Gender Advocacy Center) and includes Mary Ontiveros (VP for Diversity), Caridad Souza (Director, Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research) and Becca McCarty (CWGE Safety subcommittee). This committee met several times over the course of the Spring semester to begin a permanent working relationship with the university’s Public Safety Team and campus and city police to examine our current safety messaging procedures and language, and to insure that CSU’s messaging is effective, timely, and sensitive to the needs and concerns of the campus community that receives these communications.
Apart from these new developments, the Commission’s other accomplishments included creating an application packet for the Ripple Effect Grant Project, hosting informal luncheons on how to apply for the Grant, gathering applications and convening a selection committee of CWGE members (headed by Alex Bernasek) to review them, and hosting a reception for all grant applicants to thank them for their time and effort in writing proposals. The Commission also reviewed and commented on proposed changes to the Parental Leave Policy, which were adopted January 2015, and the CWGE Safety subcommittee worked with Tom Milligan’s class to financially support their project to promote the SafeWalk Program; the subcommittee on Bullying (Tracy Hutton and Chris Henle) researched and reviewed information regarding anti-bullying programs developed at other institutions; and Mimi Houston, our graduate student representative, formed a committee of 16 graduate students from across the university who are now working on writing a questionnaire which will focus on teaching, student life, research, professional development and work-life balance for graduate students at CSU. They plan to distribute the survey in October 2015 to all graduate students (including Vet Professional students), with the goal of assessing the climate for diversity and inclusion in the graduate programs across campus, and identifying areas for future projects and improvements to improve the success of all graduate students at CSU.
Also in 2014-2015, the CWGE financially supported the Women of Color and Allies retreat; the Ripple Effect Grant Project participation solicitation postcard; printing for the Women’s Conference; marketing for the Reframe campaign; The SafeWalk student Project (working with Tom Milligan’s class); student hourly employees for the Standing Committee on the Status of Women Faculty; and, as I mentioned earlier, supplemental pay for the non-tenure track faculty representative on the Standing Committee on the Status of Women Faculty.
In the coming 2015-16 academic year we will continue to provide support to the SCSWF’s climate focus groups through funding for stenographers and other projects as the need arises. CWGE will also provide funding assistance for Mimi Houston’s Ripple Effect proposal to bring Professor Nancy Folbre, editor of the Journal Feminist Economics and Journal of Women, Politics & Policy, and contributor to the New York Times, MacArthur Fellow, and member of the National Advisory Commission of Child Care and Early Education, to the CSU campus in October 2015. She will hold a lecture and discussion aimed at enriching the dialogue about parental leave on campus among other possibilities to be determined by our goals for 2015-16. The Commission members also agreed to fund an effort to bring more visibility to the CWGE through enhanced promotion, and to hold a Commission retreat at the beginning of the Fall semester to welcome incoming members and chart the specifics of our course of action for the coming year. We will continue to work with the Ripple Effect in reaching out to the CSU community, and with other campus groups whose work dovetails in various ways with the CWGE mission. Finally, we will be proposing minor changes that should be made with respect to membership, including more specific procedures for election of new members, the addition of one more non-tenure track member, and requiring that one of our Administrative Professionals and one of our State Classified representatives be from APC and CPC respectively.
After our meeting with you in April, Commission members decided at our last meeting that a major priority for the coming academic year is to focus on low pay and poverty issues for CSU staff since these problems adversely and often disproportionately affect women employees, especially those with childcare responsibilities. We hope to work with Cori Wong in her new position to find solutions to the lack of affordable housing for the lowest-paid CSU employees, and with Lorie Smith’s work on establishing employees hardship loans. We will also task and support our current subcommittee on low-pay and poverty issues with looking into innovative and sustainable ways to help alleviate financial strains on CSU’s lowest paid staff and faculty.
Finally, on behalf of the Commission, I want to thank you for supporting our ambitious agenda for the coming years by doubling our budget for 2015 and beyond. As you know, it’s been an eventful, sometimes difficult, but ultimately very productive year for the Commission, and we also want ot thank you for all your support, concern and understanding during this time. The Commission is very much looking forward to working with you in the coming year to make CSU a much better place for women to work and live.
Jane Kneller, Chair (out-going)
President’s Commission on Women and Gender Equity