OWA Staff in the News
We have two articles about OWA and our staff that originally appeared in the UIC News:-
This article is a section of a longer piece which appeared in UICNews on March 24, 1993:
By Patricia Weismantel
Women's History Month is a time to reflect on the accomplishments of women at UIC, including four centers founded by women, for women.
The traditional roles and expectations of women in society may have changed, but many policies have not. Women often find regular channels don't address their concerns about issues such as child care, sexual harassment and lay-offs. The Women's Studies Program and the Center for Research on Women and Gender address the academic needs of students and faculty. The Chancellor's Committee on the Status of Women and the Office of Women's Affairs are the watchdogs of campus policies and procedures -- a place to find answers for students and employees.
Watchdog for women's issues
Office of Women's Affairs
"We are here to be on women's side," said Renee Redd, director of the Office of Women's Affairs and a psychologist in the Counseling Center. The office is the result of 20 years of work to establish a campus women's center, including demands by student protesters over sexist and racist incidents in fall 1990. The office, which has two staff members, opened last April in 1153 Behavioral Science Building. Its goal is to make UIC a place where women can pursue their educational and professional goals effectively and safely. The office will examine the effects of university policies, programs and practices on women. Redd plans to educate the university community through programs and collaboration with other campus organizations. "We are a watchdog of the university for women's issues," she said. Advocacy is an important service. Any woman who has experienced discrimination, sexual or racial harassment, or sexual or physical assault can receive help. "Sometimes, with sexual harassment, it is first identifying it and knowing it is illegal. That helps, even if it goes no further than that," said Redd. Staff members are a liaison with university, medical, police and court systems, providing resources, referrals and information -- all the while insuring respect for the client. "Confidentiality is very important," she said. In its first year, the office focused on gender- and race-related issues such as sexual harassment, sexual abuse, incest and hate crimes. Programs have covered self-assertion, acquaintance rape, sexual harassment and self-esteem.
Thursday the office is sponsoring "Mother Courage Tour II," a panel discussion with women from the former Yugoslavia about rape and violence against women. The discussion begins at 7 p.m. in the Illinois Room of Chicago Circle Center.
UIC women are concerned about sexual harassment, child care, pay, tenure and the lay-offs of women, Redd said. "Women's issues affect us all," she added. The office is also a meeting place for groups such as the Aframerican Women's Alliance, Latinas Unidas and Women's Caucus of Pride. "It is a place for women to get to know each other," Redd said.
A level playing field for everyone
Chancellor's Committee on the Status of Women
Women who have been sexually harassed turn to them. The chancellor asks for their advice. The 50 members of the Chancellor's Committee on the Status of Women "are a resource for women no matter what the problem or their status is," said Bernice Wright, administrative assistant in the Benefits Center and co-chair of the committee with Peg Strobel, professor of women's studies.
For more than 20 years, the committee worked to improve the status of women at UIC. he group makes recommendations to the chancellor on attitudes, policies and procedures that affect women students, staff and faculty. "We are the eyes and ears of the chancellor on issues concerning women and have direct access to bring those issues to him," said Wright. "There are no restrictions as far as our access to him. Often he calls meetings."
Committee members are appointed for their activism on campus on behalf of women. "You have to be a risk taker, be willing to speak up on behalf of women," Wright said. They interview candidates for academic positions; attend the chancellor's retreat; and serve on the Human Resources Task Force, the Standing Committee on Campus Priorities and the Cultural Diversity Task Force.
They help prepare the Safety Committee Report, advise on policies for warning the campus community about serious crimes and serve on the Victims' Assistance Committee. "We have a mixture of members pulling from all ends of the employee spectrum," said Wright. The committee meets quarterly to discuss common goals. Subcommittees and executive committee meet more often. "Our role is to be an advocate for women, whatever their role on campus," said Wright.
The committee addresses problems that range from child care, sexual harassment, tenure track and layoffs to age discrimination. "All we ask is for an equal opportunity to be the best we can be. We don't want anything other than that," she said. "We want to compete on a level playing field."
The committee hopes to establish a one-year apprenticeship for top administration positions, mentored by the chancellor or a vice chancellor. "One position would be a big breakthrough for women," said Wright. The committee sponsors one woman each year to the Harvard or Bryn Mawr summer institute for administrators. Members would like to send more women because of the high number of qualified applicants. The group also monitors the effects of lay-offs women and minority employees. "Women are being penalized by bumping," said Wright. The committee is working on arrangements for non-traditional tenure-track faculty that don't penalize women faculty who take time off for children or other family obligations.
The committee presented UIC's first Woman of the Year Award to English professor Judith Gardiner last year. "We have programs to let people know we exist and that they have a place to go when they have a problem," said Wright. Wright has a positive outlook about the future for women on campus. "There seems to be an assertive effort to be sure physical changes happen, not just rhetorical," she said.
This article appeared in UICNews on October 12 1994:
By Elaine Belsito
As information services supervisor, she's the "jack of all trades" at the Office of Women's Affairs. She's also secretaryfor the Chancellor's Committee on the Status of Women."This office is a product of a 20-year struggle to get a women's center going. The office was founded in April of '91, and I came as the mainstay person in October of '92. Rebecca Gordon is the acting director."
The office helps students and staff determine the right strategies for all sorts of difficulties -- dealing with bureaucratic or academic problems, finding child care or mediating discrimination complaints. "Our main functions are support and advocacy. And our office is an entry point for adult students."
The office in the Behavioral Sciences Building offers a cozysitting area and ample library on women's issues."We wanted to have it comfy and homey, a place wherepeople feel safe, a place to study or hang out. People can come in to check out a book, relax. We also have files of articles on specific subjects -- for instance, sexual assault, harassment and eating disorders."
Well- Rounded Program
"Our first-year brochure was really geared to sexual assault. Now, we'd like to do preventive programming with a more rounded series -- programs on security awareness, stress management, career counseling. "We're going to repeat some of our most successful programs, like 'Reclaiming the Lost Self,' a two-part workshop on self esteem, and our credit counseling program. Speakers from the bank give advice on how credit can get away from you, money management, what to stay away from, how to get your money working for you." "We want to get Oprah [Winfrey] for the next Take Our Daughters to Work Day. She'd be someone who could identify with both children and women."
"Rebecca and I just got back from the annual convention of the National Association of Women's Centers. I was chosen this year as the regional representative for Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan. "It's a two-year term, and we're having our first meeting in October. Most of the people who are coming are from new centers, so I want to give them information on how to keep the center going, fundraising, those types of things. Beth Richie, who's a visiting fellow at the Center for Research on Women and Gender, is going to talk about coalition building."
Rape Victim Advocate
"I've been an advocate for about two years. You have a beeper bag,' with resources, cab coupons, literature for the survivor. You pass the bag off; shifts are from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. or vice versa.' The calls come from Swedish Covenant Hospital. When someone is raped and reports it, the hospital calls for an advocate. You see that person through until they call someone, or get a cab, or you put them up at the Day's Inn. We offer nonjudgmental support."
"I wanted to be a TV journalist, and just after graduation I had a great internship with Art Norman of Channel 5. "I felt especially lucky. At Channel 5, for insurance purposes, interns couldn't travel in the news car; Art took his own car every time, so I got to go on stories. "When we got back to the station, he'd write his story, I'd write one, and after his broadcast, we'd compare. It was really fun. He was a great friend and a complete mentor. "I loved having the internship -- but television is really cutthroat. I got turned off. "I learned what news is. What is presented is what they think the public needs to hear. It's as accurate as possible, but it's still not the whole story."
So Nice to Come Home
She's taking graduate classes in urban planning and "I did undergrad here in political science. I worked in the stores on campus. Then I worked out in 'Workland' for a couple of years, but [the job I had] wasn't me. "It felt like coming home when I got this job. It's so familiar -- people recognized me around campus. "And it's rewarding to give back as a staff member. I try to be as nice as possible, so students get that positive attention."