The UMD Commission for Women was founded in 1981. You can find information about our origins below, as well as check out some recent history.

In the fall of 2019, the Commission's leadership determined that a short hiatus to refine our mission and goals for the contemporary UMD population might be in order. We looked hard at our original charge and how the population who identify as female has grown and developed as we begin a new decade. 

We surveyed campus to see what people were looking to the Commission for in 2020 and saw some fairly prominent themes emerge. Things like:

  • Support and Advocacy
  • A need to have voices heard
  • Resources
  • Professional and personal development

With those things in mind, we crafted a new Strategic Plan for 2020 and will kick off our new year soon.

Going forward, we're planning activities like workshops, panel discussions, and speakers on various topics of interest, networking and mentoring opportunities as well as again making grants available for women to further education and growth. 

We invite you to join us as we collaborate in equity, growth, openness, friendship and knowledge.

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Our Origins

In 1971-72, a woman named Shyamala Rajender filed a sex discrimination suit against the University of Minnesota. She had been a temporary instructor in the Chemistry Department on the Twin Cities campus and had not been selected for a tenure-track position. The search committee members who rejected her had evidently left some discriminatory notes in her application file.
Judge Miles Lord began hearing the case in 1973. The university fought this suit, so Ms. Rajender and her attorney obtained a court ruling which turned it into a class action suit with the “class” being all female nonstudent academic employees of the university (i.e. faculty and professional administrative, or P.A.).
The university continued to fight the suit, but in 1980 finally signed a consent decree rather than actually let the suit go to trial. The consent decree was to last for ten years and specified salary adjustments for all women in the class, required stringent affirmative action procedures in hiring, and set up procedures for women to appeal for additional relief from discriminatory practices.
The university established commissions on women on all campuses in an attempt to lessen the bad publicity from the Rajender suit.
The Rajender consent decree contained a provision for filing petitions to redress grievances which stemmed from policy and procedural discrimination, including salary. As the enforcement of the Rajender consent decree came at approximately the same time as unionization on the UMD campus, UMD faculty women were fortunate enough to have the financial backing of the Minnesota Education Association (MEA), the parent organization of the UMD’s faculty union, the University Education Association (UEA).
The consent decree allowed the university to provide only $6,000 per case or petition for claimants. MEA provided the additional monies for attorney fees, and in some cases provided the actual attorney. In the end, every UMD case and petition was won and the university was required to reimburse MEA for all money spent.