Smith Women Win Suit Charging Bias, May Be Reinstated

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination found Smith College guilty of sex discrimination in hiring and promotion policies last week. The decision came in response to a complaint field in 1972 by two members of Smith's English department.

Commissioner Gloren Putnam last week ordered the college to reinstate Maurianne Adams and Mary Carothers Shroeder as associate professors, with back pay.

The two had claimed they were denied tenure because they were women.

The figures of the last 13 years show a wide system of discrimination, Adams said yesterday.

Smith has been much less successful both in maintaining an equal male-female faculty ratio and in promoting enough women to higher positions that other comparable women's colleges, such as Wellesley and Mount Holyoke, Adams said.

The percentage of tenured women at Smith has fallen from 54 per cent in 1957, to 21 per cent in 1972, while at Mount Holyoke, it has gone from 55 per cent to 54 per cent, she said.

Adams said that women had to maintain higher standards of excellence than men. "There was a feeling for many years that women should be much better then men. I believed it myself; now I don't," she added.

Lawyers representing the women showed statistical proof at the hearing that there was a disproportionately small number of women in top positions, Adams said.

In addition, the lawyers demonstrated the qualifications in scholarship and teaching excellence that the women held, she said.

The two teachers left the college after being denied tenure. Adams charged that the lesser qualifications of the two women hired to replace them is evidence of a "revolving door" effect, with women constantly maintained at lower level jobs.

In an official statement released after the hearing, the college said it would appeal the decision.

Adding more women to the faculty is diffcult because of the small proportion of women in the academic world, Alice Dickenson, dean of Smith College, said yesterday.

Dickenson added that Smith hires more than double the national average of women hired.

The small proportion of tenured female professors was caused by a larger number of women leaving than men, either because they retired or left to follow their husbands, she said.

The college now is going through old records to investigate charges of promotion bias, Adams said.

The very low number of women coming out of college in the 1950's is one reason for the declining number of women hired, Mary McDougal, head of public relations at Smith, said.

The decision has already had an affect on the hiring policy of Smith, which is making a greater effort at recruitment of women, Adams said.

A statement in a pamphlet attracting prospective students specifically promising "more than half the faculty are men" was cited in the hearing as evidence of discriminatory attitudes. However, the statement has not been printed for 7 years, Dickinson said