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Office of Affirmative Action and Diversity records

Identifier: A068

Scope and Content Note

The collection documents NU's efforts to comply with federal laws and guidelines designed to encourage educational and employment equity. It includes newsletters, brochures, reports and other publications of NU's Affirmative Action Office (AAO) as well as Affirmative Action Plans produced by the AAO during the 1970s and 1980s. However, there are no Affirmative Action Plans for the years 1975-1984, and there is little correspondence of the AAO or other office-related files during this period to indicate the political climate in which policies were developed. Also, it should be noted that information regarding the attitudes about and eventually the establishment of the Office may be found in the records of the Office of the President (Knowles and Ryder).


  • 1973-1995
  • Majority of material found within 1975-1986


Conditions Governing Access:

Records are closed for 25 years from the date of their creation, unless researchers have written permission from the creating office.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use:

Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the University Archivist.

Historical Note

The landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act was the first of several major pieces of legislation to ban discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The Act's most important affirmative action provision was Title VII, which was amended by the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, and its scope was further expanded through bureaucratic rules formulated by various federal departments and agencies. In 1972 for the first time, educational institutions were prohibited from discriminating against women and minorities. The federal government developed guidelines for educational institutions to prove their adherence to provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and required universities and colleges to create and submit for approval every year an official Affirmative Action Plan that would describe how the institution was actually hiring more minority staff and admitting more students of color and to explain its policies for identifying and addressing discrimination complaints.

Antoinette Frederick writes that Northeastern University (NU) President Asa Knowles was a reluctant leader in the Boston academic community to implement the affirmative action mandates of new federal laws and rules relating to civil rights; however, in 1968 he responded favorably to a list of thirteen demands made by African-American students who sought to increase African-American student enrollment, financial aid for African-American students, the number and scope of African-American -related courses and cultural activities; and establish a committee of faculty, administrators and students to ensure implementation of the demands (Frederick, Northeastern University: Coming of Age, p. 184-185). NU President Kenneth Ryder believed strongly in the institution's responsibility to the community, and his administration demonstrated his commitment to improving the racial climate by seeking to increase the number of minorities and other proactive measures such as scholarship programs and educational links (Frederick, p. 186-198). John Curry, who served as NU's first acting affirmative action officer from 1972 until 1975, when the University hired its first permanent director, drew up its first affirmative action plan. Deemed the "founder of diversity" at NU, he was NU's President from 1989 to 1996.

Ann Duncan-Glasgow, who held a Ph.D. in educational administration, and had worked at Wheelock College and Howard University, served as the first director/dean of NU's AAO from 1975 to 1977. President Ryder showed his commitment to hiring minorities at the administrative level when he hired Ellen S. Jackson in 1978 as the next director/dean. She had received an honorary doctorate from NU in 1976 for her achievements as director of the Institute on Schools and Education at Freedom House, which became the center of information on student busing in Boston (refer to the Freedom House collection, M16, Series III D, Box 42 and 43).

Since its establishment in 1975, the AAO has been responsible for policy development, implementation, and enforcement. Specifically, AAO staff have ensured that supervisory personnel adhere to NU's affirmative action policies and have investigated charges of discrimination brought by NU employees. While its mission to promote NU's commitment to equal opportunity, affirmative action, and diversity by complying with laws has remained the same, the number and scope of the AAO's social justice-oriented programs has grown. Since 1997, the AAO has hosted the President's Annual Diversity Recognition Awards, which "honors units/groups, individual faculty or staff, and individual students for extraordinary accomplishments in achieving the university's goal of fostering a multicultural community that values and celebrates diversity." The AAO has also sponsored various social events to encourage tolerance on the campus, including an annual minority mixer named in honor of former Dean/Director Ellen Jackson. Since 2000, the AAO's Diversity Grant Program, which gives grants up to $1,000, has funded innovative educational projects and activities such as film series, workshops, and cultural partnerships that encourage collaboration between different campus communities and constituencies, promote mutual respect, and enhance understanding of diversity and social justice.

NU's annual Affirmative Action Plans discuss the courses of action for achieving equal employment opportunity. Each academic or administrative department within NU is required to develop, implement, and maintain an Affirmative Action Plan, based on guidelines created by the AAO Each department's plan is then integrated into a university-wide plan. A summary of the 1976 guidelines for department heads explained, "One important part of the Affirmative Action Plan is the identification of problem areas. The primary tool for identification of problem areas are the work force analysis and the utilization analysis. These statistics should reveal areas where minorities or women are concentrated or are not working, as well as disparities in compensation and awarding of promotion or tenure." Besides the work force analysis and the utilization analysis, each plan is comprised of three other components: a chart showing the department's organizational structure; a list of position descriptions (including qualifications); and a report examining current salaries and a statement on steps the department was taking to correct any salary inequities. After NU's first Affirmative Action Plan failed to win immediate federal approval, subsequent plans grew markedly in scope to include not only more analyses of statistical data but also a more extensive explanation of such specific topics as grievance procedures relative to different categories of staff. Indeed, the policies and procedures section of the plan was typically less than one third the size of the total document. Every year the updated plan is disseminated to all department heads within the University.

The meaning of affirmative action has shifted subtly over time from a goal of eliminating the present effects of past discrimination to taking positive action to increase the likelihood of true equality for individuals of differing categories, including race, gender, and disability. The concept applies not just to blacks and women but also to other racial and ethnic groups such as Hispanic, Asian, and Native American. As NU became increasingly diverse and more groups pressed for equity, the AAO's scope expanded from a primary concern with racial and gender issues to address limits on the rights and advancement of gays and people with disabilities.


NU accepted women students.
Fewer than 6 women faculty, none tenured at NU.
Letter from NU President Knowles to VP prohibiting use of race, creed or color as a factor in considering faculty appointees and giving full consideration to the appointment of women faculty.
7% of total basic NU enrollment was women.
Ford Foundation (because of its interest in cooperative education) gave funds to NU, to enable Latin American students to attend.
Equal Pay Act required every employer to pay comparable salaries for comparable work.
Civil Rights Act started to change entrenched attitudes. Title VII prohibited discrimination by private employers with 25 or more workers on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It further mandated that preferential treatment was not to be granted to any racial or other group.
Ford Foundation gave $150,000 for a scholarship program for African Americans.
Executive Order 11246 bans discrimination and requires federal contractors and subcontractors to take affirmative action to ensure that all individuals have an equal opportunity for employment.
2.7% of student body was African-American.
13 tenured women faculty at NU.
NU created Afro-American Institute.
10.6% of student body was African-American.
Amendments to Civil Rights Act mandated change, esp. Title IX of the Education Amendments, which prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally assisted education programs or activities including employment, admissions, housing, and athletics. Title VII of 1964 Civil Rights Act amended so that educational institutions receiving federal funding must ensure nondiscrimination and work to promote equality in the workplace.
Dean Curry began working on an affirmative action plan for NU. It was submitted in May 1974 but failed to win immediate approval from the U.S. Dept. of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW).
John A. Curry and Phyllis Schaen served as acting affirmative action officers at NU.
Rehabilitation Act prohibited job discrimination on the basis of physical or mental handicap.
1974 Dec
U.S. Dept. of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) released guidelines for implementing affirmative action programs at universities and colleges; required universities to submit an Affirmative Action Plan, to be approved by HEW.
Ann Duncan-Glasgow appointed first director of the NU Affirmative Action Program. She resigned in 1977.
35% of total basic NU enrollment was women and 46 of 357 tenured faculty were women.
Ellen S. Jackson appointed dean/director of the NU Affirmative Action Program.
Regents of the University of California v. Bakke: U.S. Supreme Court (5-4 decision) declared quotas for admission of disadvantaged minorities invalid, but also ruled that race could be considered a factor in university admissions.
NU developed a sexual harassment policy.
NU created a women's studies program.
Sexual Preference Coalition convened; NU Anti-Discrimination Policy expanded to include sexual preference as a category.
12% of NU student body was minority (including Latinos).
Americans with Disabilities Act.
NU Commission on Diversity, Tolerance, and Community: President Curry worked to implement its recommendations quickly.
17.4% of NU student body was minority.


2 cubic feet (2 containers)




Northeastern University's (NU) Affirmative Action Office (AAO) was created in 1975 in response to several federal laws and regulations designed to encourage employment and educational equity at institutions throughout American society. President Asa Knowles was head of a group of Boston-area university presidents who tried to adhere to these new rules. During his tenure, NU established the Afro-American Institute and sought to enroll and retain African American students as well as hire and promote African American faculty and staff. The efforts of John Curry, NU's first acting affirmative action officer and later president, to end discrimination were especially aggressive from his work on NU's first affirmative action plan. In 1975 NU appointed its first director/dean of the AAO, Ann Duncan-Glasgow. After her departure in 1977, President Ryder hired Ellen S. Jackson in 1978. As NU became increasingly diverse and more groups pressed for equity, the AAO's scope expanded from a primary concern with racial and gender issues to address limits on the rights and advancement of gays and people with disabilities.


This collection documents NU's efforts to comply with federal laws and regulations designed to end discrimination in employment settings. Although the records cover the period from the mid 1970s until the mid 1990s, there are gaps.

System of Arrangement:

Arranged alphabetically.

Physical Location



  • Bowen, William G. and Derek Bok. The Shape of the River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998.
  • Crosby, Faye J. and Cheryl VanDeVeers, eds. Sex, Race, and Merit: Debating Affirmative Action in Education and Employment. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000.
  • Feinberg, Walter. On Higher Ground: Education and the Case for Affirmative Action. New York: Teachers College Press, 1998.
  • Feldscher, Karen. Northeastern University, 1989-1996: The Curry Years: Smaller but Better. 2000. Available at NU Law Library Stacks: LD 4011.N22.F45 2000.
  • Frederick, Antoinette. Northeastern University: An Emerging Giant, 1959-1975. Boston: Northeastern University Custom Book Program, 1982.Available at NU Snell Library: CALL NUMBER: LD4011.N22.F7x
  • Frederick, Antoinette. Northeastern University: Coming of Age, The Ryder Years, 1975-1989. 1995. Available at NU Snell Library: CALL NUMBER: LD4011.N22.F732 1995
  • Rai, Kul B. and John W. Critzer. Affirmative Action and the University: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in Higher Education Employment. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000.
  • Wolf-Devine, Celia. Diversity and Community in the Academy: Affirmative Action in Faculty Appointments. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1997.
  • Also, there is a bibliography on the topic of affirmative action created in 1976 within the collection itself (Box 2, Folder entitled Reports: Bibliography, etc.).
Finding aid for the Office of Affirmative Action and Diversity Records
Finding aid prepared by Paige Roberts
September 2003
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections Repository

Snell Library
360 Huntington Avenue
Boston MA 02115 US