University Chiefs Abide by Gender Roles–or Else

Print More

(WOMENSENEWS)–Two leading university presidents have learned the hard way that raising funds, building reputation, pleasing faculty and inspiring students are not enough. Apparently, also required is conformity to certain ideas about gender roles.

W. Ann Reynolds, the president of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, is facing a special session of the university trustees to discuss whether she should be fired. The former chancellor of the City University of New York, Reynolds was forced out of that position four years ago as Mayor Rudolph Giuliani sought to reshape the city’s vast public education system.

Now, Reynolds is facing dismissal in Alabama, despite a hugely successful fund-raising campaign that surpassed its target of $250 million, a personal pledge of $2 million donation to the campus (made with her husband, Thomas H. Kirschbaum, on staff at the university’s medical school) and strong support from many faculty, students, alumni, local residents and religious groups.

One supporter gave this explanation to The New York Times: “My real feeling is that sometimes when you are very assertive, you overshadow other people in the system, maybe even the chancellor. And especially if you are a woman doing a job, that creates a problem here in the South. She stands up to them, and that upsets them,” said John Rodgers, the executive director of the minority programs at Reynolds’ campus.

The chancellor of the three-campus University of Alabama system, Thomas C. Meredith, said Reynolds had refused his suggestions to step down and she has sought legal counsel, The Times reported. Meredith would not elaborate on why Reynolds was being pressured to leave.

And Roger W. Bowen, the popular president of State University of New York at New Paltz– an hour and a half north of New York City–announced Tuesday that he has accepted a new position as president of the Milwaukee Public Museum. Bowen was successful in raising enrollments, graduation rates and contributions. In 1998, the American Association of University Professors gave him its highest administrator award for defending academic freedom and free speech. Yet he was the lowest paid president among the state system’s 13 liberal arts colleges.

Bowen had rankled a university trustee and the state’s governor because he permitted a women’s studies conference on his campus that included discussions of sadomasochism and included exhibits of sex toys. He also came under fire for approving a campus performance of a feminist play, “The Vagina Monologues.”

Comments are closed.