One day last fall, University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB)
Professor Yolanda Broyles-Gonzalez woke up and decided she was not
going to take it anymore.
She had long known that women professors with equal experience at
the university were not being paid the same as their male colleagues.
So, after many sleepless nights, she decided to challenge that practice.
“I was paid less at every step of the way,” said Broyles-Gonzales of her twelve years at UCSB.
Now eight months later, Broyles-Gonzalez, who is of Chicana-Yaqui
heritage, has altered history. UCSB, several studies concluded, paid
male full professors an average of $12,900 more than it paid female
full professors. As a result of those studies, Broyles-Gonzalez is the
first woman in the UC system to emerge victorious in a gender pay
“It took a woman of color to challenge the inequities,” said
Broyles-Gonzalez, who credits WAGE (We Advocate Gender Equity) as the
principal organization which supported her throughout her struggle. “I
hope my case serves as a prelude to other discrimination cases.”
Both she and the university agreed to settle the lawsuit out of
court, with precedent-setting terms calling for a permanent court
injunction mandating that the university cease its gender and race
discrimination against Broyles-Gonzalez. It also calls on the
university not to retaliate against her because of her political views.
A press statement released by UCSB, on behalf of Chancellor Henry
T. Yang said, “I’m glad that we have reached a resolution to this
According to the statement, the agreement spells out three points:
* The University agreed to pay Broyles-Gonzalez $40,000 plus legal fees.
* Broyles-Gonzalez will ask the court to dismiss all charges
against UC and others, and not file a lawsuit against any of the
defendants using the same claims.
* The agreement expressly states it is “not an admission of any wrongdoing or liability” by UCSB.
Broyles-Gonzalez criticized the university for not mentioning the
permanent injunction, which was also part of the settlement. She called
that, “lies by omission. They’re very embarrassed by the permanent
injunction and wanted to keep it out of the public’s eye.”
The permanent, injunction means that not only will
Broyles-Gonzalez’s status within UCSB be monitored and protected, but
that it will serve as a benchmark for other women throughout the UC
system, says Broyles-Gonzalez.
“The permanent injunction is an important and enduring marker in
the struggle for women’s rights,” she says. “It opens up a space of
protection for other women.”
Although the final agreement has not been signed, it also calls for
paying Broyles-Gonzalez for damages and attorney fees, which are
expected to exceed $100,000. Her attorney, Moises Vazquez, is the same
lawyer who successfully represented Professor Rudy Acuna in an age
discrimination lawsuit against the university. But Broyles-Gonzalez
said her lawsuit was not about money.
“I value my freedom of speech, the dream of equality, and my
dignity as a native woman of color more than I value institutional
rewards accorded to those who are silent and condone the institutional
status quo,” she said.
Most importantly for her, Broyles-Gonzalez is not subject to a gag
order which is standard practice in settlements made with the
University of California.
“In Native American tradition, to be silenced is to be dead. Your word is your gold,” she said.
The whole purpose of filing the lawsuit, she said, was to speak out
about the injustices. When she spoke about her case around the country,
she titled her presentations: “Healing the Earth: The End of
Discrimination Against Women.”
In 1985, Broyles-Gonzalez became the first woman of color to
receive tenure at UCSB. In 1991, she was given the rank of full
professor. She was also the first Native American woman to chair an
academic department in the UC system.
UCSB and Broyles-Gonzalez have had a long history of conflict
related to the department of Chicana/Chicano Studies. At most other
campuses nationally, Chicano/a studies are either research centers or
programs. At UCSB, it is a department. Broyles-Gonzalez was the first
Chicana to head the department (1990-1994), but was not reappointed.
According to Broyles-Gonzalez, the university retaliated against
her for supporting Acuna’s age-discrimination suit. UCSB has not
appointed a department chair for two years and derailed a proposal to
establish the nation’s first Ph.D. in Chicana/o studies.
She also said that UCSB has not abided by the terms of a 1994
student hunger strike. The hunger strikers called for the hiring of
seven full professors by 1997. Today, Chicano studies has
In 1996, Broyles-Gonzalez was awarded the Lifetime Distinguished
Scholar Award from the National Association for Chicana and Chicano
Studies. She is the recent author of El Teatro Campesino: Theater in
the Chicano Movement.
“One lawsuit cannot change a university system. But a lawsuit is a
powerful reminder that this university is not above the law of the land
which guarantees equal protection, civil rights and due process,” she
said. “If this permanent injunction signals a change [at] UC, then that
is to be applauded.”
COPYRIGHT 1997 Cox, Matthews & Associates
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com