Forty years after she first came to Brown as an assistant professor, Louise Lamphere donated $1 million to create a visiting professorship in her name for young, untenured academics.
In the decades since her arrival, a lot happened. Lamphere filed a class action lawsuit against Brown when she, the only female in her department, was denied tenure and a male granted it. She won, running up more than a million dollars in the process in legal fees for the University. Brown instituted one of its most significant changes in its hiring history, and in two decades, the number of female faculty increased by a factor of five.
It's quite a bit of ruckus she caused - ruckus we're glad has shaped the Brown we now enjoy. We wonder if a younger Lamphere would have believed that within her lifetime, she would see Brown hire a female president - the first black president of an Ivy League. Female students now outnumber males on campus. We now have residential counselors geared specifically toward women's needs.
Maybe she wouldn't be surprised. Kay Warren, professor of international studies and anthropology, told The Herald that gender studies has become the norm since it was first a hot-button subject. "There's so much mainstreaming of (gender studies research) today that was extraordinarily controversial in the early 70s," she said.
But although we can assume that many of our courses will include a gender component - whether it be looking at women's roles in HIST 1670: "History of Brazil" or at gendered manners of public speaking in TSDA 0220: "Persuasive Communication" - women's concerns still deserve to be forefront on our social conscience. We know glass ceilings in hiring still exist, that female students are still targeted for sexual assault, that many female students still have a delicate, though overwhelming, internal debate on how to use their education when society still expects them to be the primary caretaker should they start a family.
The women's movement has come far since Lamphere first protested, and it still has far to go - even and especially in our academic sphere.
A 1993 New York Times article reported that Ivy Leagues had few female professors, around 10 percent - "The more prestigious the institution, the fewer women there are," it said.
We like to think of this university as one with a progressive history, but we can't confuse prestige with progress. Nods from college rankings and employers are nice, but we must evaluate our progress as a Brown community based on whether we know in our gut that the campus we cross each day is home to open minds and hearts.
Lamphere's donation shows that an epoch in the University's history has come full circle. But that certainly doesn't mean that we've matured beyond the need for Lamphere-esque criers against the ways of the institution. It shows the our possibility for progress and how much farther we need to go in a world we know is still full of injustices.