The AAUP Pays Tribute to Two Feminist Scholars

By Gwendolyn Bradley and Mary Gray

By 1970, most faculty members, men and women alike, had begun to recognize that improvements in the status of women were needed. The AAUP responded by reconstituting Committee W on the Status of Women in the Academic Profession—a committee that was founded in 1918 but had been inactive for decades. This year, the AAUP pays tribute to two women, Alice Rossi (1922–2009) and Maita Levine (1930–2008), who played key roles in the committee’s work and in advancing the interests of women in the academy.

In order for the reactivated Committee W to be taken seriously, a prominent scholar was needed to head it. Fortunately, Alice Rossi was available and willing. Rossi had achieved recognition some years earlier for her essay “Equality between the Sexes: An Immodest Proposal,” which called for a redefinition of sex roles. A co-founder of the National Organization for Women and an activist in NARAL, Rossi proposed a three-pronged program to achieve the goal of parity between the sexes: providing adequate child care, breaking the gender stereotyping of occupations, and reversing the migration to the suburbs to enable parents to work closer to home. At the beginning of her career, Rossi herself had difficulty securing a regular faculty position in spite of her research and publications, but eventually she became Harriet Martineau Professor of Sociology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and served as president of the American Sociological Association. In her later years, Rossi adopted what many considered to be less progressive views, but today many academic women are benefitting from the reforms she championed.

Maita Levine also served with distinction for more than a decade as a member of, chair of, and consultant to the Committee on the Status of Women in the Academic Profession. She was deeply involved in and devoted to gender equity work at the national, state, and local levels throughout her career— especially with respect to improving the climate for women in mathematics and the sciences. In addition, she was a strong advocate for and participant in academic collective bargaining. Levine was the 2000 recipient of the AAUP’s Georgina Smith Award, which honors “a person who has provided exceptional leadership . . . in improving the status of academic women or in advancing academic collective bargaining and through that work has improved the profession in general.” Maita richly deserves recognition of her lifetime of service and accomplishments in both capacities.

Society in general has not made adequate progress on issues affecting academic women, but AAUP policy documents initiated by the Committee on Women in the Academic Profession have at least provided sound support for reforms. The legacy of Rossi and Levine is evident in key reports such as Faculty Appointment and Family Relationship (1971), Leaves of Absence for Child-Bearing, Child- Rearing, and Family Emergencies (1974), On Discrimination (1976), On Processing Complaints of Discrimination on the Basis of Sex (1977), Affirmative Action Plans (1982), Senior Appointments with Reduced Loads (1987), Faculty Child Care (1989), Sexual Harassment: Suggested Policy and Procedures for Handling Complaints (1990), Consensual Relations between Faculty and Students (1995), and the Statement of Principles on Family Responsibilities and Academic Work (2001). The AAUP was very pleased to receive a substantial bequest from Levine to support our ongoing work.