Teleconference on women’s issues first of its kind

Craig Gustafson

After two years of preparation, the University hosts the three-day National Teleconference for Women in Higher Education beginning Monday.
The conference is the first of its kind in U.S. history and will be broadcast via satellite to more than 200 institutions nationwide. The conference’s goal is to author a national agenda to improve campus climates for women.
Conference coordinator Anita Rios said that the conference, through various caucuses, will develop a list of recommendations to better opportunities for women on campuses nationwide.
“We will make sure that people who have given voice in the caucuses, that those voices are heard,” she said.
Rios added that the 20 caucus sessions form the foundation of the conference. Each of the participating schools will hold their own set of caucuses.
Topics range from gender equity to classroom environments, although participants may invent their own topics. Rios said no limitations exist on the discussions.
“This conference is casting a wide net,” he said. “It’s not just a few specific topics.”
Once completed, the national agenda will be sent to state and federal legislators, university presidents and various women’s organizations.
The University’s Office of Multicultural and Academic Affairs will keep track of the progress made by the national agenda. It plans to document improvements in campus conditions for women after one year, then again after five years.
“The goal is that the people participating in the teleconference will go back to their institutions and work on their particular interests,” Rios said.
First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton kicks off the event with a taped message to the participants. University President Mark Yudof will also be on hand to give an opening speech.
A round-table discussion between Yudof and 10 other university presidents and chancellors precedes the conference. The institution leaders plan to discuss their schools’ efforts to expand opportunities for women.
Jennifer Longnion, a University special projects coordinator, said the event could go a long way to influencing change.
“If we are able to do this successfully, it will probably be emulated elsewhere,” Longnion said.
The multicultural affairs office has already received queries from Russia, South Africa and India.
“It’s not going to end with the conference,” Rios said. “It’s really going to begin with the conference to establish a national initiative to improve campus climates for women.”
Although registration for the conference ended last month, the University has extended the deadline so people can register at the door on the first day.
For those unable to attend all three days, a $10 fee covers just the broadcast portion of the day.
The conference is also still accepting volunteers, who can attend the entire conference for free.
For more information, call the Office for University Women at (612) 625-2385.

Craig Gustafson welcomes comments at [email protected]