URI President Brings Women’s Issues to Top of Agenda

KINGSTON, RI — Monday, December 20, 1999 — URI President Robert L. Carothers and Provost M. Beverly Swan have announced the establishment of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women at the University of Rhode Island, the formation of a steering committee, and a series of steps intended to advance the progress of women at URI. “The Commission is being created to help promote an environment free of discrimination in which the unique contributions of each woman will flourish,” said President Carothers. “The University recognizes that creating a climate of inclusion for women is essential in sustaining a strong and productive institution of higher learning. Furthermore, we believe that a healthy environment for both minority and majority groups helps build a sense of community for all,” he added. “The University has proven to be an institution committed to issues of diversity. In keeping with that commitment, the President has determined to bring issues related to women to the forefront by making them a priority on the University’s agenda,” said Provost Swan, who also holds the title of vice president for academic affairs. President Carothers and Provost Swan have been meeting with members of the URI Committee on Equity for Women since June, discussing a wide range of issues of concern to women. As a result of those discussions, in addition to the Commission, the president announced that the University will: find a new home for the Women’s Center-the process will begin to include a new facility to house the Women’s Center in the capital improvement plan. The Center is now located in an aging building on the periphery of the Kingston Campus. In the interim, one of the vacant fraternity houses on Upper College Road is being prepared to serve as a temporary headquarters for the Center. Appoint a full-time director to the Women’s Center and provide funds for programming. Put in place a process for keeping the university community informed of outcomes of cases involving sexual discrimination, harassment or assault. Begin the process for a permanent Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity and Diversity Officer with a commitment to women’s issues. Continue the search for a full-time assistant Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity Diversity Officer with special responsibility for sexual harassment education. “Women constitute approximately 57 percent of the student population at URI. This initiative will aid in assuring that their unique needs are addressed,” said Provost Swan. Lisa Harlow, professor of psychology, and one of the faculty members involved in the recent planning efforts noted that, “Although there have been enviable gains in recent years surrounding women and science, there has been a growing realization that a few pockets of inequity and injustice exist on campus, and that these need to be addressed so that more can share in the spirit of engaging learning and collegiality. “These issues have been met with sincere concern and the offering of constructive solutions by the president and provost at URI,” said Harlow. “Though the suggestions may not always be implemented quickly enough to alleviate the disheartening conditions for some, the formation of a Commission on the Status of Women at URI is moving us forward in a collective undertaking that may well lead to campus wide change.” A steering committee for the President’s Commission on the Status of Women has been appointed by the president. Its charge is to refine the Commission’s mission statement and further develop its objectives and goals. The steering committee will activate the Commission early next year and propose Commission membership to the President. The Commission, which will include men, women, and traditionally underrepresented members of the community, will be comprised of no fewer than 25 voting members. Appointments will be for three years with one consecutive reappointment possible. The members of the steering committee of the Commission are: Carolyn Sovet of West Kingston -Assistant Director of Student Life Laura Tanner of Warwick -undergraduate, Women’s Studies major Sarah Bendoraitis of Lebanon, Ct. – undergraduate, Women’s Studies and Political Science major Lisa Harlow of Exeter – Professor, Psychology Donna Hughes of Kingston -Director and Associate Professor, Women’s Studies Christine Wilson of Narragansett -Assistant Director for Student Leadership Mavis Nimoh of Pawtucket -undergraduate, Political Science and Theatre major Ex Officio Advisor to the Committee: Dana Shugar of Wyoming-Professor, Women’s Studies and English President’s Commission on the Status of Women The newly appointed steering committee for the President’s Commission on the Status of Women will refine the Commission’s mission statement and further develop its objectives and goals Among the proposed objectives of the Commission are: Establish a specific agenda around issues that concern women at the University of Rhode Island. Recommend additional strategies to enhance or change existing policies through the review of polices and programs already in place. Provide and circulate information concerning programming, reports, and educational opportunities and materials to the University community and the public. The proposed goals of the Commission include: Ensure that personal safety for women is preeminent with an emphasis on prevention through educational programs for the university community. Intensify efforts to recruit and retain women of color in all sectors of the institution and increase the presence of women in areas/disciplines where they are underrepresented. Ensure that sexual harassment is addressed through increased emphasis on prevention, reporting, and effective disciplinary measures. Address issues of tenure, retention, and promotion of women to bring their numbers more in line with those of their male counterparts. Address any issues for the correction or prevention of a “chilly” campus and classroom environment. Provide an adequate Women’s Center as the single best source of information, education, and advocacy in matters of concern to women. Address the issue of needed enhancement of family leave and childcare. -xxx- FOR MORE INFORMATION: Linda A. Acciardo (401) 874-2116