Comments on: Why we call it patriarchal equilibrium, Part I: Buffalo shuffling off women faculty History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Tue, 23 Sep 2014 05:33:21 +0000 hourly 1 By: Linda Sat, 11 Jul 2009 13:42:03 +0000 It’s disgraceful that our tax dollars go to publicly supported state universities in which gender equity runs ruampant. Many legal actions have been brought forth, but this does not seem to deter them. The University at Buffalo suffers from the illusion that they don’t have a gender gap. They do, have studied it, admitted to it and then tried to correct it, and then admitted that they failed!
The courageous ad hoc committee, which had as many men as women beating this drum, is not giving up. I applaud and support them. UB should be placed on a list of female unfriendly institutions of higher learning. The only place they are “higher” is on that list. Way up at the top.

By: Anti-hypocrisy advocate Thu, 09 Jul 2009 23:37:30 +0000 P.S. For those of a younger generation, the final quotaton of my post is adapted from Chayefsky’s screenplay for the multiple Oscar-winning film “Network”, directed by Sidney Lumet (1976) (


By: Anti-hypocrisy advocate Thu, 09 Jul 2009 23:05:34 +0000 Reality check: Talking about objecting to “outcomes” as the basis for rejecting evaluation systems gets one nowhere in the world of the current Supreme Court (cf. the recently-decided New Haven fire-fighters case of Judge Sotomayor fame).

What is compelling about the Buffalo cases, it seems to me, is precisely the fact that the top administration interferes with the processes — for men and against women. There is no reason why a provost should feel comfortable substituting his judgment for those of the department and university-level committees (other than for major fiscal crisis reasons, as provided for by AAUP principles, which are clearly not in play in these Buffalo cases).

This leads me, for one, to suspect that things at Buffalo are, in fact, worse than they appear. That, indeed, back-door politics and horse-tradings are operative at all levels of the tenure-process as an “old boys’ network”, with a wink and a nod, presses the administration to retain its favored men and not the women. Indeed, some of these dealings may involve “faked” positive votes by these “power-brokers” when they serve on these tenure review committees, confident of their “in” with the administration to effect the decisions which they mutually agree upon.

In fact, the “yes” votes are there at the lower levels precisely to stave off the charge of discrimination. The top administrators make and take the hit because, as more “removed” from the details, their decisions may be argued before the courts as “objective” and not “systemic” — especially since discrimination as “systemic” within an institution is very difficult to prove to any Federal court’s satisfaction.

These sorts of decisions by top-level administrators will likely be argued in the courts as the simple exercise of the “academic freedom of the university” — with which the courts are less likely to interfere. And recall, too, that since the Supreme Court’s decision in Garcetti v. Ceballos, any public employee may be discharged for virtually any “management of the state” reason at all.

No, Buffalo’s “administration end-game” is shrewd — and I would say that it is intricately-conceived on many levels (even to the point of having a high-placed female administrator to “shield” the top-level male power elite).

Yes, women can resort to the courts but, for all of the reasons outlined herein, it will become increasingly difficult for women to prevail there. It is becoming, therefore, more and more important for women (and minorities and those with diabilities) who have experienced discrimination to have the Fourth Estate shaming the perpetrators of these acts — and for faculty to do what those brave ad hoc committee members at Buffalo are doing: Standing up and saying “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it any more” (with thanks to Paddy Chayefsky).

By: Historiann Thu, 09 Jul 2009 21:17:34 +0000 Howdy, Jim! Thanks for your comment, and for the link to the report. I wish you good luck in forcing UB to live up to American values like fair play and a square deal. And, thanks for your activism on this issue. (No, not special thanks because you’re XY, but thanks for all of your hard work, because I know what a pain in the butt committee work is even when it’s uncontroversial!)

Feel free to send us updates or shoot us an e-mail on your progress.

By: Jim Thu, 09 Jul 2009 21:13:31 +0000 Hey yall,

I’m one of the Buffalo malcontents who are going after the administration on this, and I’m XY (hell, probably even XYY, or so my lawyer insists). If you’d like to look at the report we drew up, it’s available online at Look for “the struggle for gender equity at UB.”

I appreciate the intelligence and solidarity of these comments. I’ve just written my union discussion list linking them to this one in order to shame them into some vocal solidarity.

By: ADM Wed, 08 Jul 2009 22:23:03 +0000 Historiann — I never meant to imply that the decisions at Buffalo didn’t seem fishy as hell to me — just that I wondered about why so many decisions would have been overturned…

By: Historiann Wed, 08 Jul 2009 12:54:59 +0000 Anon–I agree with you completely. See my Part II on Patriarchal Equilibrium, just posted.

By: anon Wed, 08 Jul 2009 12:23:39 +0000 At my university, the new provost said outright in her first departmental meeting that the College of Arts & Sciences *tenures too many faculty*, with the underlying hint that this would change on her watch. I found this comment stunning, since I was under the impression (clearly delusional) that universities wanted to tenure faculty they had mentored for 3 to 6 years. Was she saying that people who were not qualified had been tenured? Or just that it “looks bad” if the tenure rate is 90%. I wouldn’t be surprised if administrators applied some kind of half-assed “quota” system to tenure cases (only so many can be approved every year) and then it’s no surprise that women and people of color are the ones who don’t “make the cut,” regardless of the excellence of their files. And of course by what criteria would people be denied tenure? While it’s true that some faculty get into trouble and can’t finish their books, or make other kinds of mistakes (no book, bad teaching evals, little service) the vast majority (85%?) meet the requirements.

Believe me, I’m not a litigious person – but here’s what I say all you tenure-track women out there – if you’re denied tenure after being approved by your department GET A LAWYER. If anybody denied tenure at SUNY Buffalo is reading this: GET A LAWYER. You have the data you need to prove systemic discrimination. (At my old uni there was a bitter tenure battle – female [need I say it?] faculty approved by department but denied by provost. She lawyered up, and they came to a “compromise” – ie she got an extension and they didn’t get sued. She got tenure the next year; I don’t know if she’s recovered yet from the bitterness of the experience.) I know the expense and psychological drain of a lawsuit isn’t something everyone can do, but consider it. The old white boys’ club is not going to throw open the doors spontaneously.

Will I get tenure at my school w/ this new provost? Who knows. We’ll see how the 3rd year review goes (I have a book contract, so . . .)

(I also agree with everyone who remarked on the governance crisis at universities. The idea that a provost or president would overturn a faculty decision made by faculty is outrageous and a sign of complete administrative failure.)

By: Why we call it patriarchal equilibrium, Part II: Historiann says, “Make my day.” : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Wed, 08 Jul 2009 12:04:41 +0000 [...] hinted at in yesterday’s post, “Why we call it patriarchal equilibrium, Part I,” Historiann has had her run-ins with this phenomenon, patriarchal equilibrium, and with the [...]

By: Historiann Wed, 08 Jul 2009 11:49:33 +0000 Shaz–great points/ideas. I have observed differences in the tenure file evaluation letters written on behalf of women and men candidates.

Ann O.: I like your point about shame. I wish it were more powerful more of the time! I think it’s quite easy for institutions to turn evidence of sex bias into individual failures on the part of tenure candiates, rather than looking at the sum total of the results of the process and deciding that they have a sex bias problem.

I think you’re right that data is important locally, so that people in a given uni can target the specific problems or the specific places that women faculty are being hung up. After all, locally is where the action is on this front. In her presentation at the Berks on the 2005 AHA report, Liz Lunbeck said, “we know all the reasons” women lag in tenure and promotion rates–she listed the ususal suspects, then added that she thinks that “institutional cultures matter, and leadership matters.” At her uni, women are paid 101% of what men are paid–because a Dean there and department chairs make it so.

A comment Lunbeck made that really stuck with me is “I’m struck by how we’ve been drawn in repeatedly [by a whig narrative of progress for women]. . . when the situation remains the same.” That might resonate with historymaven’s career and experiences.