The First Amendment; Barbara Newell
WGBH Boston in cooperation with the Institute for Democratic communications at the School of Communications with Boston University now presents the First Amendment and a free people and examination of civil liberties in the media. In the 1970s and now here is the director of the Institute for democratic communication Dr. Bernard Reuben. My guest today is Barbara Newell the president of Wellesley College and my co-host is the administrative staff assistant at the institute Gina Rinehart. Barbara Newell is the tenth president of Wellesley College has been there since 1972 and she is a well-known advocate of women's rights in the academic world a member of the board of directors of the Brookings Institution the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The Board of Trustees of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of teaching and so on. She's the author. Of the book is Chicago and the labor movement and our labor force. Obviously President Newell's field is labor economics graduate of
Vassar and main Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin where she later served as assistant to the Chancellor. Our subject today is women's freedom of expression women's rights women's situations in our contemporary world as pertains to the First Amendment and president. May I ask you this first question. What is your view from your own catbird seat from the perspective that you gain as president of Wellesley College of the situation that pertains to women's expression. These are the their rights under the First Amendment. My basic statement on the first amendment would become as a citizen rather than process and a lot is that any group which wishes to increase its power within a society which wishes to be heard which views itself whether numerically or otherwise is a minority out of power has a particular interest in maintaining freedoms
under the First Amendment. The most precious ingredient of the Constitution are really the rights of the minority to speak and these rights are rights. I think minority groups in this case although I'm speaking of an absolute majority in terms of women but who views themselves as a minority in society wishing to gain more political power they have that much more reason to be defenders of the Bill of Rights than the First Amendment. As a follow up question before I turn to Jane Rinehart you mentioned the word and franchise woman again. What is the situation say from the perspective of wells these developments regarding the enfranchisement of different groups within the campus. What is the flux that is contemporary what's happening on the campus. If I define contemporary as a period of the last
decade perhaps the most exciting thing that has happened has been the increased enfranchise Munda of groups within the academic community whether you're speaking of political dissidents students or as a group having more say in areas of more to say in the areas of curriculum and academic development or whether you're speaking of groups within the faculty and other community members of the academic community. I think this last decade has seen many different groups within the academic community organizing speaking really practicing. The academic marketplace of ideas. You know I've heard all of this communication between various
groups on the faculty. I mean on the campus is certainly good training. But what about speaking on a wider stage. Are women more eager and ready to speak out in their own right. Are they more secure that they are worth being listened to. I sincerely hope so. It seems to me that one of again one of the underlying social movements that been occurring since the 1970s is his increasing awareness of self and a desire to express that sense of self and motivation and ambitions of self of women and community at large. Yes I do have something to say.
I want to have it learn how to say affectively I want to be heard. And I think this is this is certainly an ideal example I'm talking about of groups within the academic communities and elsewhere that have been beginning to get a voice. During the 1970s. What are some of the social constraints on women that restrict their freedom of speech in the practical sense. I think that the greatest constraint on women is a is a social one entirely and that our society has on the whole expected women to be passive and demand for men to be doers. And in this very stereotyping of roles women have been told that through most indirect.
Social expectations but have women have been told that they should be quiet should not be as actively involved in the decision making process and speaking their mind and being involved in it seems to me one of the things we have to do is begin by saying to our young girls learn to speak a fact of life learn to organize your thoughts learn to be able to say them in a public group learn to defend a viewpoint. I think it's an important part of the training of young women. Frankly this is one of the you side benefits seems to me woman's college because I clearly have to do selling gasoline on the campus. If you have a lot of forums and one of the forums is the campus
press and is becoming more activist all the time how do you know. Looking back over the last two or three or five years of the on the campus press situation one of the main thrust that you see demands reactions new new coalitions being formed as are expressed in editorials news stories that appear week by week in the Wellesley College newspaper. Well the coalitions are new groups on the walls of campus so local and their political significance that I'm not sure your listening audience would be particularly you know for example we know that that you have made a strong effort to get minorities on the campus. Yes and and have minority people there now when they speak out and when they make their demands or when they give their views on different subjects. What are they suggesting ought to be
changed or what are they suggesting. Ought to be heard that they say listen to very carefully. Well the one things they're saying is. Spend some time looking at us as. As individuals take us as individuals treat us as individuals within the community. They're also saying remember that we come from a culture that has some very major contributions to make make sure as you put your curriculum together as you staff as you see that those institutions that create the climate on campus make sure that you include in that campus and light to a life. Recognition of the contribution of
the black heritage. If they're saying it many different ways as a wish to see see courses and staff and someone glued it to yes they have something to say there. They are one of those groups that's coming forward and. And wishing to be heard. Before I turn again to Jane. What about groups like gay liberation and they put quotes around it. But there is this force there is the force of women going into political commentary on the campus and later on there are new groups that are popping up all the time simply because women are beginning to express themselves more fully in the university on the college campus. But I'd say that's not just a question of women. It seems all you know that all groups within college campuses are becoming more articulate and the college campuses expecting that these groups will will be heard that
there will be an exchange of ideas that this is part of the accepted mode of. Discourse on campus and all those groups that you mention are not all college campuses and being heard in a part of the exchange. Well this is good news because I went through school in a much more authoritarian period I'm afraid. With this recognition of the importance of giving students the habit and the experience of learning to speak out. Does a college emphasize things like debating clubs or involvement outside groups off the campus community very much so that I know you think yes we do have an or collegiate debate eyes. Certainly our campus is not behind walls but there is a much broader community whether you're speaking of our involvement with Boston
Latin or whiz. Internship was social and legal and business institutions of the Boston area or Los Angeles or Atlanta Washington D.C.. Campuses is very broad in its geographic and institutional reach. One thing I'd like to ask you now not so much about well as a college campus or even women's college campuses but we know that the university in collegiate life in part exists to Freeman and to to enhance the spirit as well as the mind and to have a direct effect upon those countless millions who are not part of our communities who are downtrodden who are farmers peasants laborers workers what have you who are not part of our little community. Speaking as an individual What do you see in the women's movement generally. Mexico City
conference or what not. That is still a battle a battle line battleground area where very little progress has been made where much more progress must be made. That too too broad a question. Speaking as a as a leader of a of a leading college which happens to be predominantly for women what is the thought that you have about the consequences for the mass of women and all people who are watching or adventure for the right to speak the right to to be heard. Well there's so many things that have to be done I I feel as if we're at the beginning of the story not near the end of it. And this is why I hesitate to. Say which front I'd move on first I know where I am and the higher education area and very
much interested in the training of leadership for people that I hope will help create a freer and more humane world. But the needs of an individual to be free of hunger and fear. Are critical in order for an individual to have the freedom of speech I think these things are intertwined. In some ways I guess I'd say one needs a freedom of speech unordered and political activity in order to help create that freedom of from fear and want in that place of it. Do we have an exact and do we have any responsibility to to go out. These are the magnet school just to take one illustration where magnet schools are are tied to different universities. Do we have any commitment in the university
world to go out and seek our clientele who cannot come to us who are going to be a drift apart from our our world of higher education and who yet can be reached by some of our lessons and some of the consequences of our work if we would go out to them. Perhaps I'm loading that question but what do you feel about the consequences. Well this I did go out and put it another way round. I do not believe in a value free education. I think no matter how you set it up the educational system is going to have to have to include a value system. This being the case I think educational institutions have an obligation to look and see what is the nature of the value system that they are passing on to the next generation. I'm extremely pleased that a Wellesley and I think many many institutions have
included and articulated the notion that an individual who has the opportunity to acquire higher education has an obligation to use that education for the service of their fellow kind. I just. The View. The notion of service. The assumption that. One cannot hold this to one's self and then purely for one's own gain. But one must if you have the opportunity to acquire knowledge higher education one must turn make the world richer for for your having been in it and. Having taken this is not Legation of service. Then look to see what it is within your structure that helps train individuals be more
effective in their work that God willing will improve the lives of all of us. That very frequently maybe including within the college experience an opportunity to know more about the world in which they are later going to go in there and so that one can question and be involved. I think it's a very. My own biases This is frequently the most desirable way. Training and individual for this leader role of service dream. I've heard a number of people express the opinion that this idea of social responsibility and the idea of obligation to serve society are was something that was declining somewhat today. I heard a statement by a student activist of the 60s on the radio a few days ago that really frightened me. He said that his group had been very active in the civil
rights movement and draft movement etc. and they had really devoted themselves all through their academic career to these causes. And he really found it hard to empathize with people with students today who didn't seem so involved. But on the other hand he observed that his group were all divorced. They were in need of help with their personal problems their lives seem to be falling apart. And he expressed the opinion that maybe students today would have it right after all that maybe it was better to solve your own problems and not worry so much about society that shakes me up a little bit because I don't see it exactly that way. I think you've raised several issues there. Let me start with you. The differences that I see in generations to me one of the
exciting things about the present generation of students is they're saying we're going to get the training and the means to be a fact if we're going. It's. I've frequently worried that in the late 60s people who were willing to go parade without having really done their homework without really having the skills that can contribute to a basic social change. When you look at the motivating factors for many students as they plan their their curriculum whether it's a combination of joint major of biology and political science because they're interested and they pray in the law work as it relates relates to ecology or they're interested in medicine because of the helping profession or they're interested in it. Chemistry and art for the preservation of the art work. All of these people are saying I'm going to get the tools.
I will then be able to be more more effective than I was parading. It's the first difference. A second differences. I think I've meant when I spoke in terms of being of service to your fellow kind and making the world a better place for your having been there you can do this in many different forms. That one does have an obligation to reach out to use your training. But it might take a form LET is not the parade but it may take the form of the League of Women Voters and they. The voting in the participation in the school year here and in a number of other things which are very solid community building which are I see the present generation indulging in. Thirdly I see this this group of students and certainly it's true at Wellesley and I from my colleagues out here and other institutions an
increasing interest to students and social service volunteer work in part so that I get to know and understand institutions better and impart so that even during their college career. So there you go. Even during their college career may have a sense of being of social value to their community. Oh I have great faith in this generation. DT I was reading one of your speeches and you commented on the statistics. You said that 25 or 30 years ago there were more women I think with a doctorate than there are now some similar statistic to that and you also said that a huge percentage of women then and now are into fields as I recall it one was the teaching field no other was medical services not not they position themselves. That's that seems to be critical that seems to be the nub of the problem.
Are we getting away from that are we going to have a quantum leap that will show us that we are making progress because it's a red for the last 30 years just on that statistical basis is discouraging. I'm not only talking about that particular item. Actually I think you know I used the 1920s comparison of the 70s and I take as my standard I'd like to go to the same kind of proportional professional training was it 33 percent in 19 20 as against 28 percent or so done your homework better than I have I can't remember that. I think that where you are somewhere in that range. I do began to see women answering feels ledges feel as geology as their dentistry.
There is an increase in the number of women going into medical school. We have had shifts in the last five years. I don't see a torrent. I'm exceedingly discouraged that we have fewer women in academia now than we did last year. I'm very discouraged that the differential between men's and women's wages is getting greater instead of smaller as us total. I do hope I'm sorry. I do hope that. Educational institutions will seriously counsel women to search for new avenues. B because as the field of education becomes less receptive to anyone's employment.
We simply cannot afford to continue let those two fields but I have not seen or seen the millennium. One of the interesting things President nor is that in the in the areas of mass communications I know of Boston University where I were teaching the institute is housed. We have at least 50 percent of the students over fifteen hundred student body in the school of public communication young and middle aged women. The opportunities are there this is a burgeoning field. I wondered have you examined your own premises in terms of a woman's college and met the met the needs as expressed by the new opportunities where you put your foot you put your foot Yes put your you know put your finger on I think the most critical thing for any one. Any individual looking for employment in that is. Turn your
attention to the new fields and women have the greatest opportunity in the areas that are new. You make great strides for example in science in the world. We have indeed. In part because of our grand cooperation with MIT and part because women's colleges are they have historically produced people in the areas that are not traditionally viewed as men only. We have always had a disproportionate number of women in the sciences. We for example have proportionally more women economists than any other institution. Women's colleges have. Not a whole been able to get over much of this stereotyping. You talk about it in terms of field. You know we certainly are counseling to try to get women into new areas. In the minute or two that we have left we talked before the program one of the points that you made was that so often it's difficult to
get to be heard that sometimes at a meeting or in a general conference or an general association of one kind or another. A woman no matter how prominent or distinguished says something and then gets translated by a man and then the the group hears it. Is this a fair assessment of what you said. Are we making. If it is are we making progress against this peculiarity of our present society. Well I think certainly I do think that it is more difficult for a woman to be heard within a group. Particularly if she is and is the only woman within the group than it is for for a man just in terms of social socially accepted pattern. Very frequently an individual is heard according to their social position and then prestige within the group and unfortunately we have not historically had a great many
women whose positions were what were being heard in the group perhaps as we increase the number of women into positions of prominence. The society will begin to hears of women as they become articulate. I want to I want to thank you Barbara Newell president of Wellesley College for demonstrating through your own life what you're talking about that you're staking out an area for yourself and you're trying to do something as an individual. And I also want to thank my co-host Gina Rinehart for joining me today. This is Bernard Ruben saying good night. For WGBH radio in cooperation with the Institute for democratic allocations of the School of Communications at Boston University has presented the First Amendment and a free people and examination of civil liberties in the media. In the
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