Dear University of California Office of the President: We’re Not Stupid

I am an elected student senator at UC Berkeley. Linda Morris Williams, an employee of the UC Office of the President (UCOP) visited the Senate meeting this week to represent the UCOP’s opinions on the budget cuts, speaking before the faculty panel. She explained how the administration is eliminating excess and being more budget-conscious themselves.

Unfortunately, as she spoke it became more and more apparent that perhaps her personal actions in the past had not reflected this budgetary concern she spoke of. Ms. Williams was, in fact, the recipient of a $100,000 severance package from UCOP, only to be immediately hired as the associate chancellor of UC Berkeley, where she now earns $300,603 yearly. To Ms. Williams’ credit, President Yudof ended the program shortly after her hiring. But for some perspective, keeping our libraries open for 24 hours during finals week would only cost approximately $30,000.

I am eager to hear from representatives of the UC Office of the President, but I truly hope that next time, UCOP respects Berkeley students enough to send someone who has not personally benefited from the excess and dearth of oversight that caused the current squeeze on faculty and students.


Women in progressive states healthier, less cancerous

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation,(not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente) just released a state-by-state review of women’s health services health providers are allowed to deny, including contraception, sterilization, and abortion. Albeit with incomplete data, Kaiser alleges that only 7 states have no restrictions on these women’s services.

Working with this data, and data from on campaign contributions to Congress, I compiled a data table.


Women are less likely to be uninsured than men.

There is no U.S. state where a higher percentage of women are uninsured. The general assumption attributes this to higher Medicare and government program eligibility among women; women are more likely to be below the poverty line, and thus qualify for these services. As of 2007, 56.6% of Medicare recipients nationwide were women. But in reality, there is a very weak correlation (.23) between women’s Medicare enrollment and uninsured rates.

The higher percentage of 2008 votes for Obama, the lower the state’s death rate from cervical cancer.

Continue reading

California marriage equality groups risk rights for petty rivalry

A rivalry between California’s two largest marriage equality organizations to publicly define the timeline of repealing Proposition 8 has become a bitter spat that threatens to cripple the effort.

On August 12, Equality California (EQCA) announced their decision to put an initiative to repeal anti-marriage Proposition 8 on the 2012, rather than the 2010 ballot. As the self-described largest queer rights advocacy group in California, EQCA deciding to wait until 2012 received statewide coverage and was perceived as representative of the LGBT activism community as a whole.

EQCA was the defendant not only in the original 2008 California Supreme Court case in which same-sex marriage was first allowed, but also in the 2009 case to challenge Proposition 8 after its passage. EQCA has traditionally set the agenda for marriage equality in California, even passing a bill in the state legislature Wednesday night to recognize same sex marriages from other states.

Still, several organizations who were fighting for 2010 before the announcement have not backed down. EQCA’s primary competitor for funds and political clout in the California marriage equality fight is the Courage Campaign, which works on myriad political issues unrelated to equality. Continue reading

Fight Like a Girl (In Iraq and Afghanistan)

Cross-posted at Feministing.

The recession is driving up recruitment rates for the U.S. Armed Forces. When men and women are laid off, they frequently turn to the one agency that is always hiring: the Army. But women, increasingly seeking out the Army for employment, are being turned away because of the struggles of the Army to accommodate their mentally and physically wounded. One woman I know who enlisted in January had her basic training canceled, while 2009 ROTC graduates in America’s colleges have to wait until well into 2010 to take Officer Basic Courses, their first step towards deployment after graduation. This is not unique to women who attempt to enlist, but disproportionately affects women because of the recession.

Back in July, a U.S. fighter plane called the F-22 was essentially discontinued by the Senate, because Secretary of Defense Gates deduced that the U.S. owns enough. He proposed using the saved money to expand the Army by 22,000 troops. This was approved.

My knee-jerk reaction was “No more troops.” The Army is requesting additional troops because, on paper only, it has bumped up against its Congressionally-mandated end strength (maximum size) of 547,000 soldiers. The Army is “full.”

Active duty soldiers sustaining mental or physical injuries are classified as Wounded Warriors. There are 55-60,000 Wounded Warriors in the lengthy process of medical evaluation under the Department of Defense, but not yet discharged into the Department of Veterans Affairs. In limbo, these 55-60,000 are unable to deploy, while their numbers count against the Army’s limit. The Army is 10% smaller than we think it is. Continue reading

Aung San Suu Kyi and the Mothers of All Movements

Cross-posted at Feministing.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the PM-elect of Burma, was sentenced Tuesday to 18 additional months of house arrest for being secretly visited by an American who swam to her house.

Of the last 20 years, Suu Kyi has been imprisoned for 14. For the first time, other South-East Asian nations have condemned the Burmese government’s sentence, widely seen as a preventative measure against allowing Suu Kyi mobility to participate in the Burmese elections, scheduled for May 2010. In the 1990 multi-party elections, Suu Kyi’s party won 392 out of the Burmese Parliament’s 485 seats and was denied power. Suu Kyi, the Prime Minister-Elect of Burma and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, is the daughter of General Aung San, the “father” of Myanmar. She has been offered freedom if she leaves her country, but refuses under fear of being denied re-entry, remaining under house arrest even while the father of her children died of prostate cancer in Britain. She is widely referred to as “Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,” as “Daw” roughly means “aunt.”

Women are frequently rallying points for political movements, and even more frequently referred to as relatives, “Mothers” or “Daughters” of political activism. The familial rhetoric serves not only to endear these leaders to their followers, but also to uniquely characterize each movement as friendly and nurturing in media coverage to the international community. Continue reading

Never Send a Woman to Do a Man’s Job: North Korea Edition

Cross-posted on Feministing.

In Kinshasa, Congo yesterday, a Congolese student asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton her husband’s opinion on an international economic issue.

“You want me to tell you what my husband thinks? My husband is not secretary of state, I am,” she replied.

Since Pres. Bill Clinton’s productive visit to North Korea, Secretary Clinton has faced this line of questioning, which endangers American foreign policy efforts.

On the day that Pres. Clinton went to North Korea, I predicted there would be a media backlash about her absence. Now we see U.S. media, including not only Fox but also Huffington Post, perpetuate the idea that Bill Clinton succeeded where Hillary failed. Why send a woman to do a man’s job? Clinton had obviously lost credibility with the North Koreans, but U.S.-North Korea relations had soured during the Bush administration, long before she arrived.

Fox News may have started it with the declaration that Hillary was excluded from negotiations, because she had to “eat crow” after calling North Korea an “unruly child”, and couldn’t “show her face” in the country. But Huffington Post continued the insult with their front-page headline, which dangerously falsifies an imagined rivalry between Bill and Hillary.

Why not Hillary? Continue reading

Longer view: The pay gap in the Bush and Clinton administrations

As discussed, the trend of men dominating the ranks of senior White House staff spans administrations. The Obama administration’s July 1st report, titled the “Annual Report to Congress on White House Staff,” was the first such report available (and searchable!) on the White House website. The Bush administration released the same reports from 2001-2008, which were posted on The Washington Post’s website by none other than recentlyfired Dan Froomkin. It would make sense that each administration would employ at least as much disclosure as the Bush administration did, but as the White House reminds us,

“Since 1995, the White House has been required to deliver a report to Congress listing the title and salary of every White House Office employee.”

The Clinton administration invited this yearly report by refusing to disclose their White House staff salaries. In 1993, the Washington Post procured a printed list of White House staff and their salaries which was not even available, at the time, to the staff themselves. After publishing the full list on November 1, 1993, a kerfuffle ensued: White House staff learned that they really weren’t getting paid so much, after all. Their highest-paid earned $9,000 less than their George H.W. Bush-administration counterparts. This was great journalism on the part of the Washington Post. As a result, from 1995-on, the White House was incrementally more accountable to the public through the Annual Reports to Congress. It does make the 1993 data very skewed.

Just the numbers:

2009-Obama 2007-Bush 1993-Clinton
Median salary (woman) $57,314 $50,645 $45,000
Median salary (men) $65,000 $57,463 $70,000
Difference ($7,686) ($6,818) ($25,000)
Average salary (women) $72,956 $61,894 $53,525
Average salary (men) $82,346 $77,195 $71,470
Difference ($9,390) ($15,301) ($17,945)
Women as % of WH staff 50.90% 47.50% 59.70%
How much on the dollar? $0.89 $0.80 $0.75

Just the charts:

Data tables are published for the 2009 numbers, 2007 numbers, and 1993 numbers.

The Clinton numbers are indeed skewed–for the 289 employees disclosed by the Washington Post in 1993, a refreshing 59.7% of the staff were women. Unsurprisingly, these women were concentrated in the lowest levels of staff. From the chart, it is clear that women far outnumbered men in the lowest paid positions. But of the 17 employees receiving the maximum salary of $125,000, only four were women. The median salary for a woman was $45,000, and $70,000 for a man. That is a monumental difference, reinforcing the difference in seniority. Of course, this entire thing reads like a joke about the proliferation of female interns and secretaries in the Clinton administration.

The Bush numbers are worse in some ways, better in others. Obviously, at 47.5%, women make up a significant proportion of staff, though not as much as the Democratic administrations. Yet the trend observed in the 2009 chart is strengthened in the 2007 chart; women outnumber men at lower-paid positions and are themselves outnumbered in higher-paid ones. Knowing that the Republican party does not enjoy the 60%-women demographic that the Democratic party boasts, I consider it unsurprising that the senior levels are all male-dominated. Out of the 122 highest-paid White House employees in 2007, only 35 were women.

This is where I really feel that the trend is self-perpetuating– and it’s not a trend of poor representation of women, because women were relatively well-represented (59%, 47%, 49%) overall, but rather a problem with upward mobility. Where, in the process of education, political involvement, recruitment, and retention, do women disappear?