Real Equality in this Nation
November 4, 1971 — US House of Representatives, Washington DC
Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.
Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the Erlenborn amendment to Title X of the Higher Education bill. It is utter nonsense to argue that the Federal Government has the responsibility to protect the civil rights of its citizens, and to exclude women from this protection! That is the essence of the Erlenborn amendment.
He states that it would be a dangerous precedent to empower the Federal Government to cut off funds from colleges and universities if they adopted discriminatory admission policies. This precedent was established with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And the gentleman from Illinois agrees that this power is appropriate for graduate schools. If so, there is no justification for limiting opportunities for women in undergraduate education. I doubt whether we have to tell this House that funds have been stopped in accordance with powers already granted the Federal Government under that act. This is no new precedent. It is simply an extension of an existing policy not to fund programs with taxpayers’ funds which deny any individual equal protection of the laws. Any college or university which has an undergraduate admission policy which discriminates against women applicants, which requires by policy that they be higher qualified, which admits men students of lower qualification than women applicants because of any arbitrary preferential quota system is free to do so under our bill but such institutions should not be asking the taxpayers of this country to pay for this kind of discrimination. Millions of women pay taxes into the Federal treasury and we collectively resent that these funds should be used for the support of institutions to which we are denied equal access.
We do not advocate quotas and certainly we do not insist upon an even split of all college undergraduate enrollments. But just as we insist that schools be color-blind, we must insist also that they be sex-blind as well. Why ask whether Leslie Jones is a boy or girl? Why not consider only the overall qualifications and potential for success as a student, and admit or not admit solely on that basis. This is all that the provision of the bill requires — fairness and impartiality. It is ludicrous to even ask whether the applicant is male or female. If we really believe in equality, we must begin to insist that our institutions of higher learning practice it or not come to the Federal Government for financial support.
Institutions which are either substantially all male, or all female are not affected by the bill. Since they do not hold themselves out as coeducation, and the applicants select them because they are exclusively of one sex these institutions are exempted.
I was astounded to read the letter inserted in the November 1, 1971, Congressional Record from Charles U. Daly of Harvard University by which he would have you believe that sex discrimination is the right of the institution because it is a matter concerning education policy. He also suggests that having a non-discriminatory policy would impair their financial condition because men alumni contribute more generously than women alumnae. It is appalling to be asked to make national civil rights decision upon such extraneous matters. To do so would be to say that money is more important to Harvard University than its social responsibility to support equality of opportunity.
Further, Mr. Daly raises the specter of women flooding “traditional” female fields such as the humanities and social sciences and causing under-utilization of Harvard’s science faculties. This is a false issue since admissions could obviously be based on the department sought. Even if 90 percent of those admitted to science departments were men, there could be no complaint as long as those women who did apply were considered on an equal basis with men. We are not trying to tell the schools who must be in what department, or how many, but only that those who apply must have equal opportunity for admission to the department they seek.
So, let us not be distracted by the archaic role-playing of our classical universities. Let us not be fooled by silly arguments like gift-giving or reduction in academic standards, or other ambiguities. All this relates to, is whether we shall have real equality in this nation. I would remind my colleagues that this vote will be seen my women all across the United States as a true test of our commitment to this cause.
Your vote on the equal rights amendment, which passed with little opposition, will not distract the women, and I for one shall do my very best to bring the vote on this matter to the attention of the women who are so extremely concerned over this issue of education. When my own daughter applied two years ago to Stanford University, she was turned down even though the University acknowledged she was abundantly qualified. The University told her in her rejection letter that its quota system permitted only 40 percent of the admissions for women, no matter what their qualifications. I say this is wrong and the women of this country also declare it is wrong. I ask your support for Congresswoman Green’s sex discrimination provisions as approved by our committee.
Source: Congressional Record, Proceedings and Debates of the 92nd Congress, First Session, Volume 117 — Part 30, November 2, 1971 to November 8, 1971 (Washington DC: US Government Printing Office) 1971, pp. 39251-39252.