ED 044 095
HE 001 836
The Status of Women at Cornell.
Cornell Univ., Ithaca, N.Y.
EDRS Price MF-$0. 25 HC-$0.40
Admission (School) , *Discriminatory Attitudes
(Social) , ^Females, Financial Support, ^Higher
Education, Social Discrimination, Women Professors
The purpose of this report is to point out some of
the discriminatory policies and attitudes which "tend to make the
Cornell environment a difficult place for young women to achieve the
personal and intellectual maturity necessary for lifelong active
participation in today's society." The report opens with an excerpt
from a paper by a Junior describing her campus experiences, which
include strong criticisms of student, faculty, and institutional
attitudes toward women. The report then details discriminatory
practices in admissions policies, financial aid and housing. It
suggests the provision of day-care centers, the need for sex
education and a change in university clinic policy, a change in
counseling practices, and the need for exposure to more female
faculty members and women in positions of responsibility in
administration to help change conventional stereotypes and
The Status of Women at Cornell
qs Cornell claims the distinction of being one of the first universities to
q permit women as well as men the luxury of a good education. The past century of
,-j. unequal admissions opportunities for women at Cornell, however, is easily over-
looked by those who would boast progressive policies. Prejudice on the basis of
sex is so inherent a part of our social system that it frequently goes unrecognized
C3 as a form of discrimination.
LsJ The Cornell environment is perpetuating the limited cultural stereotypes
of femininity typical of that found on T.V. commercials and magazine advertisements
instead of promoting an atmosphere in which a young woman can define herself in
terms independent of her sex role. The following description of her personal
campus experiences, written by a Cornell junior, perhaps best speaks to this
"Four years at Cornell is at best a mind-blowing experience
and, at worst, a first rate education. So it is not without some
bitterness and perhaps self-reproach that, as Junior women, we
reflect upon a regressive freshman year spent in mindless activity
and a sophomore year pre-occupied with reclaiming our "birth-
right." We mean to speak dramatically and even, forgive us, with
exaggerated intensity. For after four years of being tenderly
cultivated as the intellectual elite of the American high school,
and almost heroically daring the strict sex quotas of Cornell
admissions, we regard a campus atmosphere commensurate with our
demonstrated seriousness to be our due.
Upon arrival we are hailed as the new herd of "coeds",
branded with a huge degrading name button so that fraternity men
may select their dates from a distance, and confronted with a
dorm-sweety, usually chosen from a sorority, to orient us to a
female’s life at Cornell. And what an orientation it is: Corri-
dor dates, fraternity teas where beer flows ankle deep, exhor-
tation from representatives of Women's Student Government "to
really rally"; even upperclass women seem to be conspiring to
engulf us in a system where women are treated as objects to be
dated, partied, and spirited.
Admittedly, things quiet down a bit after the first cultural
shock, but some women never recover from the radical change in
self-image experienced in the first few weeks. Indeed, the feel-
ing of constituting a second-rate adjunct of male Cornell is rein-
forced by most of a woman’s experiences here.
Inevitably, part of the discrimination against women at
Cornell is built into the institution itself. We have already
mentioned discriminatory admissions quotas, but this inequity
is especially marked in the professionally oriented schools
U S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, EDUCATION
OFFICE OF EDUCATION
THIS DOCUMENT WAS BEEN REPRODUCED
EXACTLY AS RECEIVED FRO M THE PERSON OR
ORGANIZATION ORIGINATING IT. POINTS OF
VIEW OR OPINIONS STATED DO NOT NECES-
SARILY REPRESENT OFFICIAL OFFICE OF EDU-
CATION POSITION OR POLICY.
which are not considered appropriate for female aspirants:
Industrial and Labor Relations, Architecture, Engineering.
Even in the College of Arts and Sciences, where the male/
female quota is a relatively high 2/l, women are concentrated
in the so-called "artsy" majors: English, art history, languages.
Fields which inspire passivity and quiet scholarship are encouraged.
The more aggressive, professional or worldly oriented careers
are tacitly the province of the male. This situation reflects
the reality of the outside world, yet the tragedy of Cornell’s
treatment of women is that this bastion of open-mindedness,
where "any person may find instruction in any study" has failed
to liberate itself from such prejudices.
Even the noble lass who retains her spirit and ambition is
hardly encouraged throughout her stay here. If she encounters
some problem, she is sent to a counsellor who usually recites
the university’s panacea for every situation: learn to submit
to authority better. One dean even threatened a female student
that some day her hostilities would ruin her marriage. The
young woman at Cornell is also hard put to find viable role
models, to observe mature women who have put to use the kind
of education they are in the process of acquiring. We leave
a home situation of mothers leading considerably duller lives
than we have always aspired to, only to arrive at a university
where most of the women are secretaries. Outside of the pre-
dominantly female College of Human Ecology, only twenty- eight
of the 1200 professors are women, and only a few are full
The classroom attitude of male professors and students is
often the most demoralizing atmosphere to which a women has to
submit. When displayed by a male, the most bizarre thoughts
and personality traits are continually accepted with good humor
as the mark of creativity and spunk. Yet similar behavior
from a woman elicits doubts about her sanity, character, or
motives. Eventually learning to restrain any unseemly exub-
erance, we begin to keep our thoughts private, and then one
day bemoan the fact that women are not as articulate as their
If the university continnally reinforces this society's
absurd definition of femininity, it virtually ignores our real
biological distinction. The medical clinic has no gynecologist,
has avoided hiring one over the years, and when approached with
a gynecological problem proclaims self-righteously, "We don't
consider this sort of thing to be a student problem." The
policy on prescription of contraceptives is weak and vague, and
the student must usually depend on a sympathetic doctor or
illicit acquisition downtown. More often than not, the clinic
will only provide a paternalistic sermon.
But sweeping the issue of student's sex lives under the
rug merely shows the maturity of an ostrich. Whether the clinic
likes it or not, the sexual liberation of women is very much
with us, although sometime even the women feel that their
new-found freedom is a mixed bag. Stories about fraternity
parties are legion, and even SDS women, companions to the most
self-proclaimed radicals, often feel like revolutionary con-
cubines and have recently formed their own organization.
Authorities say that the awareness of a problem is the first
step in finding a cure, Cornell women are at last becoming
It is the purpose of this report to point out some of the discriminatory
policies and attitudes — both explicit and understood, which tend to make the
Cornell environment a difficult place for young women to achieve the personal
and intellectual maturity necessary for life-long active participation, in today's
The present system of quotas (ranging from 6-1 in ILR, 10-1 in Hotel, 2-1
in Arts with an overall undergraduate enrollment in the ratio of 3 males to
each female) is discriminatory and irrational. Such quotas should be eliminated
and admission should be based on criteria that includes motivation as well as
SAT’s, high school record and other indicators of ability. There should be an
increase of female admissions in the professional schools where many more female
applicants are rejected than admitted. In those schools where there are few
female applicants (e. g. Engineering) admissions officers should use contacts
with high school placement officers to encourage more girls to consider applying.
There should also be a re-examination of policies toward older women who
return to college or graduate school and who do not at present receive a sympa-
thetic hearing. Rigid residence requirements and course hours should be made
more flexible for the woman with a young family.
In its description of scholarships and prizes open to Arts and Science
undergraduates, the Cornell catalogue lists awards totalling $5,04? annually to
be distributed on the basis of sex. Of this amount, women are only eligible to
receive 15 % or $760 as compared to $4,285 for men.
Cornell should refuse to allow any more scholarships to be established
which place limitations on the sex of the recipient. It should also move to
rectify the current imbalance either by changing the qualifications of existing
scholarships or providing compensatory funds for women.
A married woman graduate student is currently forbidden to live in so-
called "married student housing". This policy particualrly discriminates
against widows and divorcees with children and foreign students. Although
appropriate authorities have been informed that this is a clear violation of
civil rights, no action has been taken to correct the situation. Requirements
based on financial need rather than sex should be established immediately.
Until recently sophomore women were required to live in the dorms while
sophomore men were not. In loco parentis arguments in support of discriminatory
residence requirements (and house rules) can only be made on the basis of age,
not sex. To follow the latter course is to reinforce the double standard and
the notion of woman as "object" or "property".
We assume that the official policy of allowing pregnant unmarried women
and married undergraduat e s to retain their university housing and student status
and financial aid is being fully implemented.
Serious consideration should also be given to providing day care facilities
for male and female students as jart of the housing program. Day care facilities
are clearly needed by all members of the Cornell community — faculty, students
and employees. Such a service would not only eliminate the economic elitism of
existing facilities but would significantly reduce attrition rates and turnover
of students and employees.
SEX EDUCATION AND CLINIC POLICY
As a university which aspires to provide a setting where "any person may
find instruction in any study" , Cornell has missed the chance to offer its
students some of the most "relevant" information any college age men and women
will need, want, or use. Sex educators throughout the country will vouch for the
fact that a great deal of ignorance and misinformation concerning contraception
continues to exist even in this generation's university population. Ithaca
gynecologists and local counseling agencies will attest to the fact that
significant enough numbers of unwanted pregnancies occur each semester at Cornell
to warrant preventive action.
Unfortuantely, because it is only a minority of the community which actually
suffers the visible effects of this information-gap, little has been done to
alleviate the situation. It is the Cornell coed, who endures the dangers and
fear of an underground abortion over Spring vacation; or has to ask for a
leave of absence; or completely drops out of school. Her male counterpart
suffers at beat the fee for the abortion and at worst a hasty wedding. His
educational career however, is unlikely to be seriously damaged by the accident.
Information alone is not sufficient for this particular problem. Clinic
physicians should also feel free to prescribe whatever form of contraception they
feel is medically advisable for their patients ~ male or female — who request
it. Any doctor who feels it is against his or her moral principles to do so
should not have to. However, there should be a gynecologist at the clinic for
Cornell's more than 3 >000 women students, and students must know at least one
doctor to whom they can go to at the clinic for contraceptive advice and prescrip-
tions. (A more detailed discussion of the legal aspects of this problem is
included in the appendix,)
Traditional couu& -ling emphasizes women's adaptation to their traditional
roles in society, all's placement office maintains a "special" bulletin board
labeled "Opportunities for Women" which describes "Exciting Secretarial Opportun-
ities" followed by a list of typing school scholarships, with no mention of
executive training programs except where it is a •uniquely feminine field like
clothes merchandising. Likewise women are encouraged to resign themselves to the
low salaries offered to them on the grounds that they cari't- be counted on to
continue and make a career in the profession.
Cornell placement has also allowed visiting recruiters to request to see
only male applicants for positions which women are equally qualified for. This
is particularly true in the case of recruiters who interview students from pro-
fessional schools like Hotel Administration.
The informal counseling of the faculty is an equally important area in which
Cornell is failing to raise rather than lower the expectations and aspirations
of its female students. Too many tradition-bound male faculty members are encour-
aging their women students to r be practical" about their plans for the future,
advising them to withhold committing themselves to a specific discipline or
profession until they are sure it will fit in conveniently with a husband and
children. This "realistic" advice merely eliminates the acceptance of respon-
sibility of making a lifelong career decision which is like any other step in the
Exposure to more female faculty members and women in positions of responsi-
bility in administration would go a long way toward changing conventional
stereotypes and expectations. Currently the Cornell coed's role models are
female Insturetors and Assistant Professors working at lower salaries with less
chance for promotion or tenure than their male counterparts.
The Personnel Office reinforces this pattern by giving almost all women who
apply a typing test (unless they are placed immediately in the kitchens), whether
or not they have a B. A. or other skills, and offering them positions for which
they are usually over-qualified. Cornell needs to seriously re-evaluate its
wage and promotion schedules, with an eye to eliminating current discriminations.
The curriculum is one of the obvious places in which girls can be exposed
to "role models" of educated and intelligent women who have led fruitful and
creative lives by contributing to their society in more ways than raising a
family or working behind the scene for their husbands. The experimental Spring
course, CDFR 400, which studied sex differences and the nuclear family, offered
a radical re-evaluation of sex role stereotypes currently found in sociology,
psychology, history, and, literature. Such courses could provide invaluable help
to the student who wants to learn more about her sex and its special problems,
while seeking to define herself independent of her sex role.
On this campus, discriminatory incidents occur daily which are taken for
granted by both the persons who commit them and the women who are subjected to
A fe ma le doctoral candidate was recently requested to turn in her stack pass
because she was pregnant and was thereby demonstrating her "lack of motivation
and commitment to research".
The wife of a graduate student who arrived first at Cornell was not allowed
to pick up the keys to her married student apartment because "men alone" could
A 22-year old female student requested contraceptives from a clinic doctor
and was asked to disclose hew long she had known the man, whether she planned
to marry him, and how many others she had had intercourse with. After declining
to prescribe any form of contraception he referred her to another doctor downtown,
who charged her for the visit but only gave her a lecture on morals and no
medical advice except to abstain.
A female alumna who is a paid member of the New York City Cornell Club is
forbidden to use the dining room from 12-2:30 weekly; or the second floor bar
from 12-5 and 6-8:30 p.m. "Bar and Sandwich service" from 11:30 a.m. to 11:30
p.m. is for "Men Only." This "Men Only" policy is all carefully explained
on page four of the New York Cornell Club Handbook. While some may find this
worthy of a snicker and a worn quip about the "sanctity" of men's clubs, such
policies for a co-ed university club not only violate whatever pretensions
Cornell may have had of calling itself a co-ed university — but more so, it
violates the civil rights of its own alumnae.
Cornell has recently witnesssd the formation of a Chapter of N. 0. W. ? the
National Organization for Women. The response has been overwhelming, and favor-
able at all levels of the university — students, faculty, employees. Clearly
something is wrong when so many women are angered enough by their environmental
conditions to begin an organized assault on the status quo.
This report has made a number of proposals, which if ignored can only
continue the costly consequences of confrontation politics, but if implemented,
could mark the beginning of Cornell's return to progressive leadership in the
education of women.
sg: Barbara Francis, grad