The University of Maine
The President's Council on Women



10/26/2006:  A Lively Meeting with the Provost
Notes taken by Laura Brothers

Introductions:  Pauleena MacDougall,  Jean MacRae, Ann Schonberger, Janet Waldron, Sharon Barker, Robin Arnold, Nancy Lewis, Sue Estler, Sandra Sigmon, Carol Kim, Diane Genthner, Sherri Dow, Marie Dubord, Laura Brothers  (LB:  apologies to any I left out, I started taking notes after introductions)

Ann Schonberger -Saturday Nov. 18 the -Maine Women's Studies Conference: Globalization, Immigration and Borderlands,

 A 20 minute prep session before the arrival of the provost.
Some topics the council wanted to address included:
-What’s the provost’s experience with bodies similar to the PCW at other campuses?
-How does she feel about the Strategic plan in regards to its goals and repercussions for women?
-What’s her experience with campuses/departments segregated by gender?  What’s her experience in establishing more gender equity.
-How will the
University of Maine’s aspirations to be a Top 50 Research Institution (T50RI) address or exacerbate the university’s disciplinary segregation?  How will these aspirations affect teaching loads particularly for female-dominated disciplines.
-How do “Family Friendly” policies fit in with the T50RI-goals?
-What are her impressions of U of Maine?

A break before the Provost:  Some issues with the PCW webpage. The webpage will now be addressed by Sharon Buchanan in Janet Waldron’s office.

We review some avenues for looking at gender segregation on campus:
- Women majors (numbers and departments)
-faculty senate
-Department Chairs
-Occupational trends/segregation

Meeting with the Provost, Dr. Edna Mora Szymanski:  There’s a new sheriff in town and her name is Edna.

Dr. Szymanski has experience with campus equity issues though never has she specifically dealt with a group like the PCW.  At the
University of Wisconsin there were large problems with gender equity.  These problems were addressed via legal pressure.—probably not the route U of Maine would ever want to go-LB

Dr. Szymanski’s recommendations for recruiting and retaining more women faculty involve removing the more subjective biases in hiring/tenuring. Candidates should be evaluated on a more quantitative basis instead of being compared to well established faculty.

Gender Implications of T50RI:  Dr. Szymanski expressed interest and moving up the University’s research profile without disadvantaging women.  She encouraged research to be undertaken despite small sizes of departments.  She spoke highly of Dean Cobb who has made an effort not to privilege certain disciplines in the selection of the “Distinguished Professor Award.”  Dr. Szymanski and Dean Cobb want to recognize the diverse compliment of people in researchers at UMaine.  Sandra Sigmond mentioned that recognition by Deans of female faculty accomplishments in the classroom leaves a strong favorable impression on students particularly females in underrepresented fields.

There was some discussion of “traditional female or male” disciplines.  Dr. Syzmanski encouraged researchers to look for grant money to study the draws and or setbacks to women in the science, technology, engineering, and math, (STEM) fields.  Ann Schonberger was familiar with these types of grants and pointed out that even if that money is secured women in these STEM fields receive no reward for conducting such research.  It would require a dedicated research faculty to look at these numbers (probably in the education department).

Addressing how a push for T50RI impacts departments with high teaching loads: 
University of Maine is in a structural deficit.  The university is underfunded for what it wants to do.  There has to be a trade off in certain loads, because many departments’ teaching loads are not comparable with the T50RI research goals.

Dr. Syzmanski suggested that there may need to be increases in class size.  
To get the teaching load in check Dr. Syzmanski offered her enrollment management strategies so that the university maintains a neutral budget.  She would like to increase the profile of students attending UMaine. 
Right now UMaine is letting in almost everyone.  This management plan would work on the basis of tiers.
The bottom tier-instead of everyone getting in, the very bottom (~30 students) would not be admitted.
The second to bottom tier (~150 students)-  students here would be accepted into a program termed ‘Transitions’ they would take a prescribed 10 credits (Eng, Math, Sci, or Soc Sci and one credit of Intensive Study Skills).  They will be given everything in the first semester (tuturoing, intervention) with strong expectations in first semester, so that they secure the required GPA for whatever their desired discipline.—Mitigating the ‘redirects’-students who do not have the GPA to be accepted into their desired field- that wallow in ‘Explorations’ for 3 or 4 years and then drop out.
The Next tier:  We currently lose these students to out of state or private schools.  To remedy this the strategy suggests ‘beefing up’ some of UMaine’s successful programs (S-cubed) with new cohort like structures, faculty advising, additional on-campus recruiting for engineering, honors, etc.
Dr. Syzmanski even suggested a fourth Living and Learning for STEM fields.  To this the council brought up the need for balance between integration and isolation. 

Talking about the climate at the University of Maine:
Dr. Syzmanski noted an “adversarial mode of discourse” at the University of Maine which tends to privilege men while marginalizing women.   The PCW confirmed that Dr. Syzmanski’s observation was not unique.  Several examples were shared by different parties.  Dr. Syzmanski charged the counsel with looking at civil discourse and who we are as a university.  The counsel enthusiastically agreed that discourse should become more civil at UMaine.  The provosts’ office would co-sponsor any programs we might want to implement on campus to highlight this issue.

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