The fight for gender equity is not a new one. The events and revelations of the last year, locally and globally, have seemed all too familiar to many of us. In fact, this report by the Commission for Women and Gender Equity in Academia comes in a long line of diversity reports, climate surveys, and efforts to improve the University of Rochester community.
For the last several months, we've been researching, listening, and advocating.
We heard many examples of success, but also saw plenty of areas for improvement. And the more we learned about the problems we are trying to solve, the more difficult it seemed to solve them. But that complexity is not an excuse for delay.
Addressing issues of gender equity on campus is vital to our success as a community. This report digs beneath the surface to uncover issues that are preventing us from achieving excellence — but it is not conclusive. Our scope was broad. We asked questions that we weren't able to answer. We offer suggestions that we're not sure about. We identified problems that we can't solve alone. There is still much more work to be done.
This report is a starting point, to create a more welcoming campus. The issues we face are structural, cultural, personal, political, and intersectional. They will take work to solve. They will take time. And they will take patience, with each other and with ourselves. But we're confident that we can solve these challenges. And we know we must.
The issues that women and gender minorities face on campus are intersectional. We recognize that the power structures that create barriers for women are often the same ones that affect race, sexual orientation, or disability.
The Commission came together with unique perspectives from different parts of campus, but we don’t represent all of the diversity of our community. We look forward to working with the new University Diversity and Equity Council to answer our lingering questions, improve our suggestions, and implement our recommendations, so we can all move forward together.
"As a parent of a son and a daughter, I want to make sure that my daughter has the same potential to succeed as my son. I see inequality every day in this world and participating in this commission has allowed me to work toward the goal of gender equity. . . . This is the first step in many in not only ensuring equal footing for all people in this university, but ensuring that future generations will succeed."
Our decentralized structure can help us get things done quickly in ways that work best for our individual schools or programs. But if we do things differently in every department, we leave ourselves vulnerable to inequities.
We need to provide more resources for our diversity and equity initiatives, foster more collaboration between units and divisions, and hold ourselves accountable for consistent and equitable policies and practices.
"This University boasts a legacy of lovely traditions—our individualism, our resilience, our celebrations. But our core value has always been Meliora, and in that spirit, some of our traditions—hierarchy, exclusion, and separation—need to go. I’m proud of our work this past year, but we have a long way to go to unravel our past and weave something much better."
These themes, suggestions, and findings are not new. In fact, there are people all over this campus who have been working on these issues for years. Women have been excelling for centuries, in spite of these barriers. It’s time to make their struggle and their successes visible.
Below you’ll see phenomenal women alums, who until recently, had been left off the University's “Points of Pride” page. The Commission has identified several of these hidden women of the past and will hopefully be showcasing even more in the months to come.
There are no more excuses. We know these topics are multifaceted, but the time to address them is now.
"I have been very grateful and profoundly humbled by some of the stories I have heard. It is clear that the impacts of harassment and discrimination can be serious, long-lasting and broadly felt. The individuals who have spoken out have been hurt or disappointed, but some remain genuinely hopeful that we can make changes. Their openness has been critical in helping us to understand how important and urgent our work has been."
We were amazed by the number of innovative ideas and suggestions that we heard from the community. We share many of them in our report, but our scope was broad and big-picture. Some of these ideas were too specific for us to evaluate or write about.
So, we want to enlist your help.
Form your own task forces or committees in your own schools, departments, or divisions. Brainstorm all of the ways that you can make your communities more welcoming and respectful. Implement those ideas and tell us about it.
Leverage our efforts, and our decentralization, to create more equity where you learn, teach, and work.
"One of my friends called me last fall and asked, 'What's going on at U of R? It sounds really bad there; why would you stay?' I responded, 'you're right, the news is not good, but University of Rochester is a great place. We have to fix this and be even better.'"