Letter to the Editor: Professors speak on President’s response

The Miscellany News.

To the Editor,

First, we want to thank The Miscellany News for the thoughtful, careful report of the class action gender discrimination lawsuit brought against Vassar by five of our colleagues on their own behalf and on behalf of a class of female full professors. The article was factual, balanced and extremely clear.

We also write to respond to President Bradley’s recent “Letter to the Editor,” which appears to misstate the role of faculty-led committees in setting faculty salaries. The role of the Faculty Appointments and Salary Committee, to which President Bradley refers, is set forth in our governing documents (FASC, see The Governance, pp. 50-51 online version). Quite plainly, FASC does not set starting salaries and has no knowledge of individual faculty salaries at all. Even with respect to merit reviews, FASC merely makes descriptive (not monetary) recommendations (Faculty Handbook beginning on p. 105, online version), such as “distinction” and “high merit,” but the Dean of Faculty and the President have the power to override merit recommendations and have done so in the past.

The fact that the faculty themselves participate in reviews in no way absolves the College of responsibility for discriminatory pay practices that result from starting pay, salary increases, delayed promotions or biased reviews. In particular, although the research literature confirms that the evaluation of scholarship and teaching such as performed here are subjective and prone to gender discrimination, the College has ignored this bias and resisted our efforts to correct it. In fact, for the past year and a half, FASC has worked tirelessly with other faculty committees to explore more equitable alternatives to the College’s current practice. Regardless, to suggest that female faculty are less deserving of equal starting pay, pay raises or promotions because they have simply regularly underperformed relative to male colleagues is more than unfortunate.

Finally, we thank the many students, alumnae/i faculty, and staff who have reached out to us regarding this issue. The 41 female full professors (including the five plaintiffs) who actively support this lawsuit now (and the many more who have attempted to resolve these issues over many years) have been dedicated to Vassar. We remain firmly committed to our teaching, scholarship and artistic activity, and service to the College. As this new academic year unfolds, we eagerly embrace these pursuits and look forward to working with the College to reach its full potential as a leader on issues of equity and inclusion.

 

Eve D’Ambra, former chair, FASC, Professor of Art

Leslie C. Dunn, current chair, FASC, Professor of English

Natalie Priebe Frank, former chair, FASC, Professor of Mathematics and Statistics

Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert, former chair, FASC, Professor of Hispanic Studies

Peipei Qiu, former chair, FASC, Professor of Chinese and Japanese

Kathleen M. Susman, former chair, FASC, Professor of Biology

Denise A. Walen, former chair, FASC, Professor of Drama

Yu Zhou, former chair, FASC, Professor of Geography and Earth Science

Abigail A. Baird, Professor of Psychological Science

Pinar Batur, Professor of Sociology

Nancy Bisaha, Professor of History

Giovanna Borradori, Professor of Philosophy

Gabrielle H. Cody, Professor Emerita of Drama

Mary Ann Cunningham, Professor of Geography

Rebecca Edwards, Professor of History

Rachel D. Friedman, Professor of Greek and Roman Studies

Katherine Hite, Professor of Political Science

Jean M. Kane, Professor of English

Sarjit Kaur, Professor of Chemistry

Eileen Leonard, Professor Emerita of Sociology

Jenny Magnes, Professor of Physics

Kirsten M. Menking, Professor of Earth Science

Seungsook Moon, Professor of Sociology

Lydia Murdoch, Professor of History

Uma Narayan, Professor Emerita of Philosophy

Molly Nesbit, Professor of Art

Laura Newman, Professor of Art

Nancy Jo Pokrywka, Professor of Biology

Margaret L. Ronsheim, Professor of Biology

Miriam Rossi, Professor Emerita of Chemistry

Jill S. Schneiderman, Professor of Earth Science

Shona Tucker, Professor of Drama

Michele M. Tugade, Professor of Psychological Science

Eva Woods Peiró, Professor of Hispanic Studies

Susan Zlotnick, Professor of English

 

8 Comments

  1. Excellent letter. A question from off-campus: Where are Vassar’s male professors? I see 40+ women faculty co-signing this; where is their male colleagues’ collective voice advocating for pay equity? I’d hope that they are not staying silent on such an important issue.

  2. Kind of sad, isn’t it. When I went to Vassar the point of the whole thing was to support and advance women recognizing that there were difficulties in moving ahead in the world as a woman.
    Now there is a clear and well-known advantage for men to be admitted to the school just on the basis of their gender.
    I don’t hear Vassar doing anything to support women in sports and protect fair competition.
    I saw an article that a transvestite performance was featured on campus, something that would be done in a vulgar place. Nothing here to show academic integrity. The education and success of women is not a part of Vassar anymore.

  3. The female-only colleges have a long history in our education system. Dating back to the teaching seminaries of the 19th century, institutions such as Wellesley and Vassar have been pioneers. Attending those encouraged women to make their dreams come true in an era when it was considered almost impossible.

    How about Vassar reverting to its legacy roots and getting rid of all males; It would help empower our female professors while also providing equity and inclusiveness to our sisterhood.

    • Vassar has lost purpose, the reason for existence. Purpose is as crucial for colleges as it is for individual persons. By embracing every woke trend, there is no compass, no direction and no integrity.
      I agree with the writers above on their different ideas. I completely agree that women should not claim a gender preference. This always was wrong.
      But the change to a coeducational college has not been successful.
      Some men have come in because they think it is great to be outnumbered by smart, pretty women.
      Some men have come in to act grossly and lewdly and insult the school’s liberal values to use the college as a stage for vulgar sex displays.
      While there have been honorable and respectable men as well, the impression of the college today from the viewpoint of a former student is in large part a disgrace.
      I am personally not a big fan of many of the professors listed here. But their concern seems real.

  4. As a member of the class of 2013, I was very disappointed to learn about this gender-based pay gap apparently perpetuated by Vassar for 20 years. I’m deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to study with many of the brilliant female professors who have signed this letter––they helped me grow into the woman I am today. To think that some of them might not have been paid fairly is heartbreaking.

    It’s so obvious but apparently still needs to be stated: starting pay should be the same regardless of gender.

    I’m ashamed of Vassar for not taking a lead in correcting this inequity––this could have been an opportunity to acknowledge that systemic problems exist and need to be dealt with. Instead, Vassar has been very opaque about the issue. It seems even professors who are trying to be neutral and get more information before making conclusions aren’t able to obtain any clarity.

    Further, I found President Bradley’s statement that “faculty members who brought this lawsuit have a different understanding of the relevant facts and law that is at issue in this dispute” to be patronizing. I recognize that she is limited in what she can say and how she can say it, there are a lot of legal concerns of course, but I almost think saying nothing would have been better. Suggesting, even remotely, that the pay disparity is due to faculty-led peer-review is disturbing––are we to accept the implication that male professors are paid more on average because they are better at their jobs? That the male professors reviewed by their peers are simply more effective and literally worth more than their female colleagues?

    I will be watching to see how this develops. I hope Vassar commits to a solution that ensures there is no pay gap moving forward and addresses the pay stolen from female professors who’ve worked at the college over the past two decades.

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