Women's Support after Coeducation
Mentioned earlier, the Faculty Women's Club, sometimes referred to as the Faculty Wives Club, had existed from the 1920s, and it served as a social group for women on campus. A Women's Staff Association was organized in 1948 under the name of the Union College Secretarial Association, and it pushed for labor issues, such as an increase in salaries, and it organized social programs.28 It eventually changed its name to the Women's Staff Association. Women students and faculty did not have many support groups in place until the Women's Caucus formed in 1974, which became the Women's Network in 1977. It sponsored "Women's Week," as well as discussion groups. According to the Concordiensis, it was "...a group on campus which deals with issues facing women at Union College, " and it sought to create a sense of community among women at Union College. It was responsible for planning activities,29 and it disbanded in 1987.30 There were other support groups for students that lived shorter time spans, and many of these helped support women with issues such as sexual harassment, assault, and discrimination, all of which were issues present in the community.
The Committee on Coeducation was put together in 1989. It found that the College needed to do more to recruit and hire women and to support them as students, staff and faculty.31
In 1975, President Bonner established the President's Commission on the Status of Women. The Commission compiled data about women and planned programs and activities designed to broadcast awareness of issues on campus. It tackled problems surrounding women's issues and encouraged diversifying the faculty's gender make-up.32
Assistant Professor Catherine Clinton of the Department of History came to Union in 1979, but left in 1983.33 She led the President's Commission on the Status of Women for a period, but resigned. In her resignation, she stated: "After a prolonged period of working on the Women's Commission on issues which I thought were top priority and should be of uppermost concern to a college of Union's caliber, I was distressed by the 'malignant neglect' of a host of issues. Not merely the indifference to these issues, but also what I perceived was the growing hostility to my efforts on behalf of women's issues alarmed me... I have witnessed affirmative action violations, failure to follow procedures spelled out in the Faculty Manual, campaigns of harassment of women faculty by various petty tyrants and a range of improprieties which are difficult to believe, a lot less justify."34
The educational program of Women's Studies began in 1989, and faculty member Sharon Gmelch of the Anthropology Department became its first permanent Director in 1990.35 This was the first time that discussions around gender were introduced into the curriculum on a formal basis. Today, the website for Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies at Union College tells us: "A central goal of the program is to help students become aware of unexamined assumptions and stereotypes about sexual and gender differences, and how they shape human organizations and institutions. Many courses also introduce students to differences of class, race, ethnic and sexual orientation in a range of societies."36 Oral histories conducted by students for one of Prof. Gmelch's courses have been digitized, and a selection is available later in this exhibition.