Council advises on women’s issues

By Mark Indreika

The Presidential Commission on the Status of Women is a group which has been working to help improve the lives of women at NIU.

Arlene Neher, a member of the commission, said its purpose is to gather information on issues related to the status of women at NIU, and then to report policy recommendations to the president. She said the commission acts as a liaison between the rest of the campus and the president’s office.

Commission Chairwoman Sue Mellard said their work is useful because, aside from assisting in policy-making decisions, it also helps educate the public. She said people become more aware of the different issues facing women because of the research.

“We’ve had a long-standing commitment to this (helping women),” said Mellard, administrative secretary to the dean of the College of Law.

Neher, also director of the the Arts and Science Outreach Program at the College of Continuing Education, said the commission was formed by former President William Monat in 1981 as an advisory body researching the status of women at NIU.

Neher said one of the biggest problems facing women has been their underrepresentation in leadership positions. She said one of the main goals of the commission has been to try and change this. “We encourage women students to become leaders and develop their full potential.”

Neher said the commission gives out 40 to 50 student leadership awards each spring to women students who have demonstrated leadership abilities.

NIU Affirmative Action Director Marilyn Monteiro, a non-voting ex-official member of the commission, said, “Women have talents that need to be explored and need to be utilized.”

Neher said the commission is studying how computers are affecting the lives of women in working situations. She said this is a concern because of the possible health hazards people face from sitting in front of a computer screen all day.

She also said the commission is interested in doing a possible study on the salary differences between men and women working at NIU.

Mellard said the commission is not a court, and does not handle the problems of individual people. However, she did say anyone who knows of a problem on campus concerning women as a group should contact her.

The commission has 12 voting members, three of which are students. Mellard said the Student Association appoints the student members each year. She said this year’s appointments should be announced by the end of the week.