I first learned about F.A.A.D. over fifteen years ago when I went to a conference session in which women faculty who had been helped by this organization talked about their academic discrimination cases. Many years later I found myself talking to other women about my case and how I had been helped by F.A.A.D.
By attending F.A.A.D.-sponsored conference sessions every year, contributing to the organization newsletter, and reading about the cases that were described in the applications for funding--I have gradually learned a great deal about how women faculty become subjected to discrimination based on sex, gender orientation, marital status, age, and disability. I have also learned about the often crippling effects of discrimination on one's self-esteem, physical, mental and emotional health, socioeconomic status, and professional life. And, very importantly, I have learned about strategies to prevent and fight against academic discrimination as well as ways to mitigate its terrible effects.
Despite the influx of women Ph.D.s into the profession since the '70s, they continue to be eliminated by an entrenched male power structure. The FAAD Board consists of academic feminists who have fought and won Title VII cases. Because we know first-hand how difficult and ruinous these suits are, personally and financially, we do everything in our power to help women faculty and students.
Our primary work consists of evaluating a plaintiff's case: we interview her extensively and read all of her material about the school and the department. We read all the legal documents, and we look at her attorney's work as well. If we conclude that but for discrimination she would have been tenured, we accept her case.
Sadly, the primary champion of women faculty, the American Association of University Women, has drastically cut back its support despite the vital importance of female faculty as role models. That leaves FAAD and We Advocate Gender Equity (WAGE).
FAAD has several concerns when it comes to discriminaton: we are concerned about faculty women who are targeted because they are supposedly "abrasive," "strident," or, the current favorite, "uncollegial." As everyone knows, these are male code words for assertive, independent, and most importantly, NOT submissive! We are concerned with women in male-dominated fields such as the sciences, and those labelled "too political." We don't think it's a coincidence that these supposedly over-political women just happen to teach Women's Studies. Clearly, teaching about oppression gets in the way of those who oppress.
In addition to awarding funds to women faculty who are litigating discrimination based on gender, race, ideology, and sexual orientation, FAAD also writes letters on behalf of a plaintiff to those who could make a difference in her case. We also do counselling and attorney referrals.
The need is great, unfortunately. We are all volunteers, and every penny goes to academic women waging David and Goliath struggles. But nothing will change unless women, with their vastly improved earning ability, start donating in significant numbers and amounts. Justice is not a right; it is a commodity like any other--except that it is far more expensive than most commodities. For more information and donations, please visit the FAAD website: www.f-a-a-d.org.
With fellow English Professor Annette Kolodny, I founded Feminists Against Academic Discrimination in the early 1980s. At that time, women were severely unrepresented at the tenure level in university departments. I had experienced gender discrimination myself when looking for my first position, and I wanted women coming up against unfair roadblocks to their advancement to know that they were not alone.
Although our principal activity was to make donations to such women to pay their legal expenses, I always felt that our phone calls and our correspondance with plaintiffs, some of whose cases went on for years, was as important in lifting their spirits.
Over the years, I wrote a column called "Dancing Through the Minefields" and edited a newsletter called "The Strategist: Tips and Tactics for Women Faculty," to further women's advancement in the academic world.
During my years as Co-ordinator of FAAD, 1984-2004, we aided 78 women in their cases against colleges and universities.
I have been working as a board member in FAAD for twenty years, and before that, I was helped by FAAD when I litigated against the institution that had denied my tenure in Women's Studies. I felt so grateful to FAAD for understanding that my credentials for tenure were equivalent and in some cases better than those of my male peers who were receiving tenure. FAAD understood how "confidentiality" was being used to hide the fact that evaluations of academic work were subjective and biased in favor of the Old Boys Network. There are patterns that occur when administrators deny tenure and promotion to qualified female faculty, and FAAD helps women faculty identify those patterns when they surmise that discrimination is taking place.
Feminists who are litigating against academic institutions for sex, gender, racial, ethnic, and other kinds of discmrination can apply to FAAD for seed money to help underwrite their legal fees and costs.
We have helped scores of women over thirty years of operation, several of whose cases have helped to expand legal precedent. Unfortunately, the political climate is experiencing backlash, and many women today continue to find academic culture anti-gay and anti-feminist, so that scholarship on women is devalued and discouraged. Women who engage in collaborative research, which is encouraged in fields like Women's Studies, are being evaluated negatively, while male peers in the sciences who work with others are encouraged to do so and are rewarded. These are the kinds of inequities FAAD helps to identify.
We need continued funding to help women fund lawsutis when they are courageous enough to blow the whistle on issues like pay inequity and discrimination on the basis of sex, gender and race. Can you help us keep our resources plentiful, so that women's voices for gender equity remain alive and well in academia?
I have been serving on FAAD for the past two years and have learned much about workplace discrimination against women in academia and the strategies we need to use to help our clients. Reading about our clients' cases and discussing them with the other members has been an eye-opener. I admire how FAAD is a cohesive and supportive group that is constantly seeking to expand its expertise by consulting lawyers and other experts in the field of jurisprudence, as well as raising funds in order to help our clients toward paying their legal fees.
As part of FAAD, I have benefited from the panel discussions we have set up at the annual National Women's Studies conference, in order to make the larger academic and activist community in the U.S. become aware of academic discrimination against women in different fields.I have also learned how a non-profit organization works, as well as the importance of non-hierarchical governance, and decision making that is based on a democratic process aimed toward consensus.
The existence of FAAD and my work in it has given me the courage in my own college to speak out against discrimination in the hiring, tenure, and promotion of faculty.
The main drawback FAAD faces in its courageous work is the challenge of finding enough funding to help its deserving clients. With enough funding, FAAD will be able to make its voice heard loud and clear in the academic world, which will make administrators and faculty promotion committees think twice before discriminating against their female members, especially when it comes to tenure and promotion.