Sandler, Bernice Resnick

Alternative names
Birth 1928-03-03

Biographical notes:

Sandler (University of Maryland, Ph.D.) has been director of the Project on the Status and Education of Women (PSEW) of the Association of American Colleges since 1971. Earlier she taught psychology, was a nursery school teacher and adult education instructor, served as Education Specialist for the U.S. House of Representatives' Special Subcommittee on Education and as Deputy Director of the Women's Action Program at HEW, and chaired the Action Committee for Federal Contract Compliance of the Women's Equity Action League.

From the description of Papers, 1970-1980 (inclusive). (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 232006974

Bernice Resnick Sandler (known as "Bunny" since childhood) was born March 3, 1928, in New York City to Ivy Ernst Resnick and Abraham Hyman Resnick. She studied psychology at Brooklyn College (B.A., 1948) and the City College of New York (M.A., 1950). From 1951 to 1952 she was a research fellow in clinical pyschology at City College. In 1952 she married Jerrold Sandler; they had two children, Deborah (1954) and Emily (1956) and were divorced in 1978. After marriage, the Sandlers moved several times for Jerrold's work. Unable to find work in her field of psychology, Bunny worked various jobs, including pre-school teacher, guitar instructor, and secretary. When the family moved to the Washington, D.C., area in the mid-1960s, she enrolled in a doctoral program in counseling at the University of Maryland (Ed.D., 1969).

While studying at the University of Maryland, Bunny Sandler worked as a lecturer and instructor of psychology and counseling. Upon graduating, she hoped to get a tenure-track appointment in the department, but was discouraged on account of her sex. Sandler began to conduct research into the legality of sex discrimination, and at the same time began corresponding with Elizabeth "Betty" Boyer, a founder of the Women's Equity Action League (WEAL), a group formed to work for women's equality through legislative and judicial channels. Sandler's research led her to Executive Order 11246 of 1965, as amended in 1967, which "prohibit[ed] federal contractors ... from discriminating in employment decisions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." Sandler determined that this statute would outlaw sex discrimination in hiring for most colleges and universities. Under the auspices of WEAL's Committee for Federal Contract Compliance (Sandler was the entire committee), she filed administrative complaints against over 250 colleges and universities under the U.S. Department of Labor, charging the department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance with failing to enforce federal contract compliance at colleges and universities. The complaints did not require a specific plaintiff's name for filing, and generally contained detailed data about university staff and faculty gender ratios, which Sandler compiled with the help of sympathetic men and women from the institutions in question.

One of Sandler's tactics with the WEAL complaints was to send copies of each complaint to the congresspeople who represented the state of a specific college or university, and ask them to write a letter to the Secretary of Labor (and later to the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, who also had jurisdiction) asking the secretary to enforce the executive order for colleges and universities as required. Sandler suggested that those involved in informing her about discriminatory practices write to their congresspeople as well, in an attempt to raise the profile of the complaints. Sandler additionally sent copies of each of her complaints to Representative Edith Green (D-OR), who was a member of WEAL's advisory board. What Green learned about sex discrimination in higher education caused her to hold hearings on the topic in June 1970, and to introduce legislation that eventually became Title IX. Green invited Sandler to testify at the hearings on the equality of women in academia, and to suggest other witnesses as well. She then hired Sandler to edit and distribute the testimonies from the hearings; Sandler was Education Specialist on the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor Special Subcommittee on Education from June 1970 to February 1971. In March 1971, Sandler took a job as Deputy Director of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare'sWomen's Action Program, a new government program meant to study the status of women within federally funded programs, including education.

In September 1971, Sandler became Director of the Association of American Colleges (AAC) Project on the Status and Education of Women (PSEW). PSEW began as a clearinghouse for the members of the AAC, who often needed government laws and regulations translated for them. Sandler ran PSEW for twenty years, giving hundreds of speeches and writing dozens of articles on women's educational equity, until she was asked to step down in 1991. The focus of PSEW and Sandler's work changed over the years, as the issues facing higher education changed. In the early 1970s, attention was focused on the passage, interpretation, and implementation of Title IX, affirmative action requirements, improving hiring and recruitment of women, and achieving gender balance in student and faculty ratios. By the late 1970s and early 1980s, Sandler and her staff also conducted research on sexual harassment and rape on campus, pioneering the phrase "chilly climate" to describe seemingly non-overt ways women were discriminated against in the classroom and on campus.

From August 1991 to August 1994, Sandler was a Senior Associate at the Center for Women Policy Studies (CWPS). Beginning in 1991, she also created and edited About Women on Campus, the quarterly newsletter of the National Association for Women in Education (NAWE). In August 1994, Sandler became a Senior Scholar in Residence at NAWE. NAWE ceased to exist in 2000; at that time Sandler became a Senior Scholar at the Women's Research and Education Institute (WREI). Sandler was not paid directly by these organizations (except for her editing work for NAWE), and supported her own work through a combination of grant projects, speaking engagements, and other consulting work. She continued to travel to campuses, speaking on and learning about issues relevant to women. Most of her work in the 1990s continued to deal with sexual harassment, rape, and the "chilly climate." Sandler worked on several books on these topics: The Chilly Classroom Climate: A Guide to Improve the Education of Women (1996, with Lisa A. Silverberg and Roberta Hall); Sexual Harassment on Campus: A Guide for Administrators, Faculty, and Students (1997, edited with Robert J. Shoop); and Student-to-Student Sexual Harassment, K-12: Strategies and Solutions for Educators to Use in the Classroom, School, and Community (2005, with Harriett M. Stonehill).

Sandler's advocacy work on women's issues has often occurred in conjunction with her professional work. Her mix of contacts within the government, the women's movement, and academe helped her in these endeavors. In the early 1970s, Sandler worked with multiple women's organizations, government officials, and congressional staff to gain passage of the bill that became Title IX of the 1972 Educational Amendments, and then lobbied the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare's Office of Civil Rights to affect the tenor of the agency's regulations. She was also active in the struggle to ensure passage by the Congress of the Equal Rights Amendment, and frequently corresponded with congresspeople and their staffs on the language of the bill, possible amendments, etc. In 1972, President Richard Nixon appointed Sandler to his Council of Economic Advisors' Advisory Committee on the Economic Role of Women. In 1975, she was appointed by President Gerald Ford (and reappointed by President Jimmy Carter) to the National Advisory Committee on Women's Educational Programs (NACWEP). Sandler attended the National Women's Convention (Houston, 1977) as part of the Maryland delegation. She attended the 1985 United Nations Decade for Women Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, as part of a delegation from the American Jewish Committee.

Sandler has been a member of many women's organizations, including WEAL, National Organization for Women, National Women's Political Caucus, and Women United. She has been a Democratic Party donor, and was part of several groups to assist with the party's platforms on education and women's issues. Sandler has served on the board of directors or on advisory committees for a large number of organizations and institutions, mainly in areas of higher education, women's education, women's rights, women's health, Jewish issues, and international women's rights.

From the guide to the Papers of Bernice Resnick Sandler, 1963-2008, (Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute)


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