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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Mary Turner Lane, September 9 and 16, 1986; May 21, 1987; October 1 and 28, 1987. Interview L-0039. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Faculty apathy for the new women's studies program

Though the proposal for the new women's studies program passed through the faculty council without much opposition, Lane also did not remember there being a great feeling of commitment on the part of either the faculty or the students. She hypothesizes that the reason there was so little opposition was that those battles for equality had already been fought by African Americans. The new program had similar rationale and purpose to the already-approved African American programming.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Mary Turner Lane, September 9 and 16, 1986; May 21, 1987; October 1 and 28, 1987. Interview L-0039. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

May is when we finished the report. September is when it went to the Faculty Council.
PAMELA DEAN:
And it was accepted. The recommendation was accepted.
MARY TURNER LANE:
Yes.
PAMELA DEAN:
A committee was established to search for a director?
MARY TURNER LANE:
Yes, but the recommendation that the Faculty Council accepted was the set of recommendations that came out of the report, essentially, which as you go back and look at it, it very loose and not very….
PAMELA DEAN:
To develop a program [laughter] .
MARY TURNER LANE:
To develop a program. There are no strong guidelines in there except that there be three core courses on the model of the existing American Studies Program which would be interdisciplinary in nature. So, yes, the report was adopted. As I recall, Dean Gaskin, who was dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, was then asked to appoint a search committee for the director. The understanding that came from both Dean Gaskin and Chancellor Taylor was that the director should come from existing faculty. Well, existing faculty of women, at that time, would be a very small faculty of women. Ninety percent of whom would be junior faculty.
PAMELA DEAN:
Let me back up just a little bit. Why, what was the rationale for selecting within existing faculty, do you think?
MARY TURNER LANE:
I don't know. Maybe it had to do with money, I'm not sure.
PAMELA DEAN:
Might it represent a tentativeness of commitment?
MARY TURNER LANE:
I think it could. I still think that the men who were making the administrative decisions on this knew so little about this and found it to be such a new idea, on this two hundred year old, men's campus, that, yes, they were tentative about it. I'm sure that the idea was that we'll start small. There's no great pressure, and there really wasn't any great pressure. We didn't have students marching on this. Faculty women were at such junior ranks that they could not assert themselves too strongly on this. So, yes, I think there was a notion that we'll start small and if they can pull it off, fine, and if they can't, we haven't invested too heavily in it.
PAMELA DEAN:
On the reverse of that, I think there's a question. There was no great pressure for this? Why did it go through? I don't recall in the records of the meetings that I found in the archives, or in the Daily Tarheel, any really overt opposition to this.
MARY TURNER LANE:
I think that the great battles had been won for blacks on this campus. The great battles in civil rights had been for blacks. And now here were women who were asking, really, for what blacks had already asked for and gotten. And that was what we were calling at that time, compensatory education. That was the term that we used in my building, the School of Education. That was the great area of research and writing and program development, focused primarily on children. Children who went through their whole public school life without ever learning anything about their black heritage, their black history, and whatever. We presented, part of our presentation of a Women's Studies Program was as compensatory education. I used that term because it was part of what I was accustomed to.
PAMELA DEAN:
And that is a concept that you find in those reports, the recommendation keeps coming up. There was so little known in this area.
MARY TURNER LANE:
There was no way for men to deny the fact that women graduated from college without knowing anything more about women's place in western civilization or society in general than they'd come into college with. The literature had been proving greatly that they weren't learning this in high school. So here we had college graduates who would go out knowing nothing either about the contribution of women or the development of self or the socialization of gender. We were also beginning to talk about role models. We began to talk about this with the blacks. We said black children have no role models that would enhance their being and becoming. So we could say exactly the same thing about women. So I think that part of the liberal heritage of this University was awakened when women began to say….
PAMELA DEAN:
Me too.
MARY TURNER LANE:
Me too. That's exactly what we were saying. That it would be less than appropriate for this great University to limit the offerings or to deny the fullest education possible to the student body that was now in place. We still were not having increasing numbers of women but that was an appropriate time. I'm looking for the one aspect of the rationale that we finally adopted because I think that emphasizes that point very clearly there.
PAMELA DEAN:
I think that comes through, particularly in that section that Joan Scott wrote.
MARY TURNER LANE:
Yes, that was the appendix. This was the rationale for our recommendation, rationale for recommending a Women's Studies Program at UNC-Chapel Hill. And the first statement was, "There has been neglect, bias, and omission in the fields of study and traditional disciplines which should include the study of women." And we certainly were able to support that, and there was no question about that. The second strong statement that we made was, "A goal basic to any liberal arts curriculum should be the development of the full capacity of the individual student." And it was easy to say that the traditional liberal arts program is incomplete. And we elaborated on that. We also made the point that because the systematic, scholarly study of women had not been fostered, then there really was no accurate presentation of women. And what there was, was often filled with inaccuracies and gross exaggerations. And then we were able to turn to what was going on in society. There was a general concern about the need for social change in society where women should and would be playing new and more significant roles. So I think that this appeal, really, to fairness had something to do with it. In our getting the foot in the door.
PAMELA DEAN:
Right, that explains why you were able to get it passed at all.
MARY TURNER LANE:
To get the foot in the door. Now that's being fair. Now what happens to you after you get the foot in the door is something else. [laughter] Everything's equal, or so the assumption was on the part of the administration.