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Student activism changed the face of academia

Student activism changed the face of academia

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Three students came together in the 1970s to form the Center for Research on Women, the first of its kind.
Three students came together in the 1970s to form the Center for Research on Women, the first of its kind.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: The Clayman Institute on Aug 15, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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In 1971, less than six percent of professors were women and only ninewomen held tenure at StanfordUniversity. Three students dared to
question, “Where were the women’svoices on Stanford’s cam
pus and in
academia as a whole?” Finding the
answer to that question changed their lives, as well as the face of the Stanfordcampus. These students bandedtogether to create an institute that theyhoped would change the world. Nearlyforty years later, you are reading thisarticle published from that sameInstitute.
From insight to action
In 1972, Stanford’s Graduate School of Business appointed 
Myra Strober as their first femaleprofessor. Local press about Strober ignited. She was a rarity: a woman economist doing researchon women. The press caught the attention of Cynthia Russell,an anthropology undergraduatetaking a cross-cultural course about women. The issues raised in the class prompted Russell tohold informal meet-ups with other students. She sought to raise awareness of the research thatwas being done by Stanford faculty about the changing roles of women. The students discussed
how they could connect and support faculty engaged in women’s research and held the first
forums for faculty to discuss their work.In the winter of 1973,Susan Heck
took Strober’s course, Women in the Workforce.
The courseopened her eyes to gender inequalities. A first-year doctoral student in the School of Education,Heck took a research assistantship with Strober and spent the summer of 1973 buried in thearchives of the Stanford library researching U.S. Department of Labor statistics.
The founding of the Clayman Institute for Gender Research
on 01/03/12 at 11:19 am
Beth Garfield, Susan Heck, and Cynthia Russell 
Heck was incited as she uncovered large-scale institutionalized occupational gender segregationand wage differentials. She could not believe the statistics were
not common knowledge. “Before,
I had the notion, as many white educated people did, that you just try and you would succeed. If 
you don’t, it’s an individual short falling, not necessarily systemic,” recalled Heck of her research.“[I became] more and more aware of the institutional barriers [facing women]. It wasn’t right.”Heck began to transform these insights into action. “There needed to be a place on campuswhere women could do research that has a gender component,” recalled Heck. “To say these are
he facts, the inequities. To bring people together and do research and then disseminate it.”
By the spring of 1973, Heck joined Russell in the efforts to create a center devoted to supportinginterdisciplinary research on women. At the same time,Beth Garfield,an undergraduate running
for student body president, included the idea of establishing an institute for women’s studies in
her successful campaign.
Creating a coalition
Working together, the three students formulated a proposal for the institute and presented it tothe Provost. They were encouraged to continue their work and were informed they would needa faculty sponsor for the project to be seriously considered.Starting with Russell, each of the students independently approached Strober about serving in
that key role. Initially Strober laughed at the idea and turned each student’s request down; sheexplained in a Winter 2007 Imprint, “Assistant professors don’t start research centers.” Thestudents protested, “But there’s no one else who will start one. You have to do it.” Strober 
eventually agreed.
Gathering support
Strober and the founding students sought ways to bring attention to and expand academic
research on women’s issues while, at the same time, obtain the necessary support for their proposal. “We weren’t intentionally breaking rules. It was just what had to be done,” recalledHeck, “They told us you had to get faculty to join, so we put flyers in faculty boxes. We wentaround on bikes, posted flyers in dorms, gave talks on women’s issues.”
Their first objective was to gain support across the campus. Their efforts began with theexpansion of the lecture series organized by Strober and coordinated by Heck and Russell.The series served many objectives, from featuring faculty engaged in gender research tobringing together faculty who were often isolated in their research interests. It also served tobring interested women faculty to the Stanford campus.In addition to convening and supporting gender scholars, the lecture series also exposed theStanford and local communities to little-
known research on women’s issues.
While such
lectures fill Stanford’s events calendar today, at the time these were groundbreaking. Women
were thrilled that these topics were being discussed in public
and at Stanford! Heck
remembers, “The more we got into it, the more we realized it was
like throwing stone into a
lake. It made a splash; the ripples go out and out. It permeated every piece of our lives.”
With campus interest gaining momentum, Strober and the founding students set out to gain
institutional support for the center. Strober and the students held their first meeting with a smallbut supportive group of faculty: Jim March from the School of Education, Eleanor Maccoby fromPsychology, Elizabeth Cohen from Sociology, and Leah Kaplan, the Dean of Women. As a resultof the meeting, they established the first Policy Board and an official name: Center for Research
on Women (CROW). The students then applied for and received a small “student project” grant to
develop the center, operating in the old firehouse with one desk and a phone.Strober and the student founders sought administrative support for CROW from the Presidentand Provost and their wives, as well as from some influential male Deans. An early feministtrailblazer, first lady Jing Lyman,was instrumental in helping the nascent center thrive. To obtain funding and administrative approval for CROW, Strober and Russell, with the supportof senior faculty members Eleanor Maccoby and Jim March, wrote grant proposals to obtain seedfunding. In October 1974, they received the first series of grants for planning and implementation
from several foundations, including the Ford Foundation. Strober became CROW’s founding
faculty Director, and Russell served as Administrator.
Establishing a presence
With the award from the Ford Foundation, CROWwas
officially recognized and moved to Stanford’s Center for 
Interdisciplinary Research operating out of Polya Hall andoverseen by Dean of Research, Fred Crawford.
Garfield recalled, “some tried to dismiss us as a merelystudent organization.” They
got push back, but CROWwas buttressed by networks of interest and support frommen and women across campus, alumni, and communitymembers.In her forthcoming book,
Grandma Is A Feminist Economist: A Memoir 
, Strober remembers the formal
launch of the CROW. “The occasion is actually more historic than we know at the time. Eventually there
will be more than 100 Centers for Research on Women in the U.S., but in 1974 Stanford and Wellesley
College are the first two.”
 In 1979 CROW was given a home in historic Serra House, former university President David Star 
Jordan’s retirement home, where it continues to be housed today.
The future
By the late 1970s, the three founding students moved on to their respective careers. They left behind alegacy of institutional change. In forthcoming Gender News articles, each of these trailblazers will beprofiled.
When asked to look back on the evolution of the Institute, Garfield remarked, “It’s an exciting thing in life
to have an idea and be a part of watching it really grow into something. To watch it change, reassembleitself and redefine itself over the years
—it’s amazing. I honestly never dreamed it would become what it
has. That it would have the kind of faculty support that it does. That it has the kind of reputation or callthat it does.
That it would become such a preeminent organization. It went way beyond our expectations.”

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