- Synopsis: Starting at NIUKeywords: start at niu; nepotism rules; marriage and teaching at NIUTranscript: JOHNSON: My name is Lucy Johnson. I am here with my fellow interviewer Brock McCord and our narrator Sue Doederlein. Today is Saturday, October 5th, 2019. We are here today in the Dekalb Public Library located in downtown Dekalb Illinois, to conduct an oral history interview with Sue Doederlein for the Northern Illinois University's 125th anniversary oral history project. Thank you, Mrs. Doederlein for participating in this project. I'd like to start with a question on how you came to work at NIU.
DOEDERLEIN: Okay. I came to work at NIU for political reasons. The broader one is politics because in 1969, my husband and I were both completing our PhDs at Northwestern. There were nepotism rules at nearly every institution at which we interviewed. Our goal had been, ever since we met, to work at the same institution. We were discovering that that was going to be extremely difficult because we actually had institutions that said, they needed both of us, they would like to hire either of us, but they couldn't hire both of us.
Although they could hire one of us, wink, wink, looking at me, in an instructor capacity, but only one of us could be a tenure track faculty member. Northern was just beginning to experiment with having latitude in their own nepotism rules that would allow them to allow two, horrors, married people. It is definitely true that we considered often getting a divorce for the purposes of getting jobs.
We came to Northern Illinois University for the pragmatic reason that, first of all, we wanted to live very close to Evanston because that's where we've been part of a commune of scholars and actors, and we didn't want to separate ourselves from that. Foolishly thought that we could live in Evanston and teach at Northern. Turned out in those days, you had to live in Dekalb county in order to teach here, so that was a real bummer. Also, the Tollway wasn't here, so to get from Evanston to Dekalb was very difficult.
I came here simply because this was the only place that would offer two tenure track jobs to me and my husband, my late husband, Arthur Doederlein who's in the department is communication which was-- keeps changing its names, I think it was called speech communication learned I was hired in English. It was a completely practical pragmatic reason. I knew only three things about this place. One was it had Lucian Strike, who was a poet of international renown, who I revered. Then, it had a Marxist history department and Republican political science department, which I couldn't understand at all. But at any rate, we came here because it was the only place that wanted both of us.
- Synopsis: Beginning her role as Associate Dean for the College of Liberal Arts and SciencesKeywords: Assistant dean for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Department of Computer Science; Associate DeanTranscript: JOHNSON: What were the different roles that you have played at NIU over the course of your time at the university?
DOEDERLEIN: Well, for the first 15 years, I was first an assistant professor and then an Associate Professor in the Department of English. Then, in 1983, I was hired by the then Dean, to be acting assistant dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for one year only. The person who held the job permanently was going to be the chair of the newly created Department of Computer Science. The department had been in existence for several years. I'm not sure how long but it wasn't working well, because computer science was the hot thing then. They simply weren't adequate resources in the department to teach the number of students who wanted to major in computer science. And so permits for courses in computer science were like gold, and yet they were being given away. Supposedly, this is the rumor anyway, how would I know, but you could get a permit if you were the right person and ask the right way at McCabe’s downtown, the local bar because that was where the then chair seemed to hang out a lot.
The Assistant Dean Rod Angotti was going to take over the administration because he's a consonant administrator of computer science for one year. He tried doing both the Assistant Dean and the Chair job for a year and it had not worked out very well. I was going to be acting assistant dean for one year and then he'd come back and do the job. And somehow it turned out that he couldn't get it done in one year, so my contract was extended for three more years, and somehow that every four years I kept getting renewed, my job title changed from assistant dean to associate dean, always undergraduate studies. But either no one else wanted my job or people liked what I did or some combination of the above or maybe neither none of the above, but for any reason, I kept getting renewed every four years and retired in 2014, after 30 years of being associate dean of undergraduate studies in liberal arts and sciences.
- Synopsis: Political Activism at NIUKeywords: loyalty oath; New University Conference; left-liberalism at NIU; Black Panther Party at NIU; Vietnam War at NIU; Anti-war movement; Assassination of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark; first women's caucus of the New University Conference; CHANCE program; Kent State shootings; Rhoten Smith; Lincoln highway protest; President Nelson; affirmative action officerTranscript: JOHNSON: So you had said that you were involved in activism in Evanston. Did any of that play a part in your life at NIU?
DOEDERLEIN: From day one, it played a part in my life and it never stopped really, Lucy. The first way it played a part was the fact that we had to sign a loyalty oath in order to work at NIU. Loyalty to the United States of America and the state of Illinois. There was no way my husband and I were going to sign loyalty oaths. We made it clear to the person, who gave us this form to sign like any other old form, that was a form we couldn't sign, that we believe that our first amendment rights allowed us to not sign the form. Obviously, if we were the Commie pinkos that they thought we were, and arguably that we may have been-- We will be glad to sign the loyalty oath because those Commie pinkos were not necessarily reliable, but we would not sign the loyalty oath.
Throughout that first year of our hiring, they kept bugging us and to sign the loyalty oath. Then, there was another thing we had to do, which was to have a chest X-ray, which my husband would not do, because he had had cancer when he was 21 years old because of radiation of his tonsils, and he had metastatic carcinoma of his thyroid gland. He was not about to have a gratuitous X-ray. For what reason? Not every-- We weren’t X-raying our students, we weren't X raying every staff member. If in fact, that was going to be a plague, that was going to descend on NIU. We weren't protecting ourselves fully and he would not have a chest X-ray.
I ended up having to chest X-ray but not signing the loyalty oath. Arthur decided what the heck, he'd sign the loyalty oath, he knew he didn't mean it. He was not loyal to any more loyal than anyone else, certainly not to the state of Illinois. If you're loyal to the state of Illinois, 1969, you didn't have the mental capacity to teach anyone anything. And so the politics started then, but they started more because we were founding members of the new university conference NIU chapter. The new university conference was a left-liberal political organization that existed on the East Coast, the West Coast, and at the University of Chicago and in Northwestern in the great vast Midwest. We decided we'd add, because we had been involved in the new university conference at Northwestern that we would add Northern if we could find like-minded people to the chapters that had new university conferences, and we found quite a few fellow travelers and so we founded that chapter here. It was a very loose organization. It was unique in that it had-- Its membership could be, and it was primarily faculty members. But it also welcomed the participation of graduate students and even welcomed, horrors, undergraduates those little rats. We didn't care what reason you were affiliated. You could also be a staff member though we had no staff members who were part of the NUC because they were worried about their jobs and thought that there might be retaliation.
But the New University Conference existed for several reasons. One was to support the Black Panther Party. We were actively engaged in that and we had Black Panther Party members come to our meetings which were held in our apartment. It was very loosely organized. We wanted to support them in what their primary activity was at that time, which was a school lunch and a School Breakfast Program for children in Chicago who had no other sources of food.
They also had more activist political goals of trying to get equity for African American people in any place in Chicago or Illinois. But the New University Conference was a big part of our lives. It was particularly important because of the fact that we continued the support of the Black Panthers and were the only chapter interestingly enough Northwestern and the University of Chicago, though they were more proximal to the headquarters of Black Panthers party in Chicago. They were less actively involved than we were in getting money, soliciting money to support the lunch and breakfast programs. But also in inviting the Black Panthers to come and educate us about the political polls.
So that kind of activism was a big part of our first semester here, as well as, the kind of activism that happened was the Vietnam War. And when it's also true that in that first semester, which was 1969, on December 1st, 1969, that was the first national draft lottery. Before then, young men were subject to the vagaries of their local draft board or the great good largess of their local draft boards depending upon their parent's money, influence et cetera.
Because there had been so many issues raised about the lottery, about the way in which young men were chosen to participate in the Vietnam War, and it was compulsory then in no way voluntary. It was decided that on December 1st, 1969, they would hold the first full and fair public, televised on TV as though it were a game show, Lottery. Well, you can imagine what it's like to teach in an atmosphere when half of the people in your classes were thinking about what their fate might be on December 1st, if their birth date was going to be drawn, and where they would be on the list, they were going to draw all the dates including February 29th.
So that from then on, all 19-year-olds would know whether or not they would have to immediately go to serve in Vietnam or if they were in the very fortunate, but the top 150 were pretty guaranteed cannon fodder. The people who were in the bottom 150 were pretty sure that they didn't have to go. They could volunteer. But that was not the primary goal of anyone at that time because the death rate was incredible. So we wanted to teach in an environment that was mindful of the fact that on December 1st, the lives of some of our students, would change dramatically. And for the women too, they had brothers, they had lovers, they had people who were important to them who would find out on December 1st, whether or not they were lucky or not lucky in the draft. And so though I taught three courses, first-year composition class, a course in the classics of British and World Literature, and, a course in fiction as a genre. There was simply no way that teaching is a political act. I did not explain: Hi there. I'm Sue Doederlein. I've just done my Ph.D. and I'm opposed to the Vietnam War, it just didn't roll that way.
In fact, I just met recently one of my students came back for the 50th anniversary for a local high school and she wanted to see me now was appalled by how much white hair I had accumulated. She had some herself, but I asked her if she knew what my political affiliation was. She took every class for me that she could. She said she had no idea. I thought I must have been doing something right. Though, I am puzzled as to why she didn't know because I thought that in talking about equity of all peoples, and the extent to which colonization and imperialism and being part of the world order from the Iliad and the Odyssey all the way up to modern literature, maybe someone might have noticed that there was a political context.
On December 1st, there was the lottery. It was tremendous and horrible and a nightmare for our students. But on December 4th, there was the assassination of Chairman Fred Hampton and Mark Clark of the Black Panther Party who were killed in their beds by the Chicago Police force, as well as, a military task force that involved other agencies as well. Because the Black Panthers trusted us they invited faculty members at Northern to come visit the site at which the assassination had occurred. For reasons that make no sense to me whatsoever, they didn't secure crime scenes then so people could come toward. Who knew?
So we rented a bus. People thankfully paid enough I can remember the fear of writing a check along with another man who was part of the New University Conference leadership. We did everything man, woman at that time because we had developed the first Women's Caucus of the New University Conference so we could talk because in the New University Conference, the only voices that were heard with the deep ones. Everything we did including signing checks for a Greyhound bus to take us to the assassination site was done with one man and one woman.
It could not be in any man and woman who were in a pair bond situation. It couldn't have been my husband and me but we weren't so dumb as to rent the whole thing we were just signing off for half of it. But thankfully, enough people wanted to come. It was a nightmare experience. The Panthers took us through, having searched us for weapons and that’s the first time I learned about trajectory of bullets. I knew nothing about guns at that time and was abundantly clear that the trajectory of the bullets all went in. None went out. 4 AM on December 4th, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were assassinated in their beds. Mark Clark’s wife covered their newborn child, so Fred Hampton Jr. is still alive. We were asked one-- A whole bunch of white people come to that neighborhood on the south side on a bus. It gets people's attention. So by the time we finished our tour of the odious nightmare that we saw, there were representatives of the local media, their print and the kind of equipment they could bring to do on-location filming. They wanted one of us to speak and the NUC people wanted me to speak and I said categorically not because I look the least professorial of any of us. Instead, I chose in my stead and he didn't have the right to say no because I explained that to him. Chairman Stanage who was then engineer of the philosophy department, who actually wore a tweed jacket with leather patches on it, had a pipe which he was smoking, had a beard and hair as long as mine is now.
Definitely, he looked professorial and so he spoke for us and spoke of the atrocity, which would later lead to the settlement of $2 million on the family of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, their survivors. So our politics were very active as a part, not directly of our work, except also I taught in the CHANCE Program. I hope you get a chance to interview someone from the CHANCE program because 1969, 70 was the first full class of CHANCE students which meant that the nature of the undergraduate population of Northern Illinois University changed from virtually all-white to all white and 500 CHANCE students, most of whom were African-American students.
And so I taught in the CHANCE program because my husband and I were brought here to help develop the curriculum, he in speech and I in English. Because though they had the great idea of bringing in 500 minority students from inadequate backgrounds in terms of preparation, so they didn't score in ways that they can be regularly admitted, no one had thought much about what and how you were going to teach people who had not been adequately prepared. And so we helped devise that curriculum. The New University Conference certainly was active in the fall semester, active in support of the Black Panther Party, active in testifying against the assassination that it was, and it was decided by a jury that it was, that was more than a decade later, and it informed our teaching and informed everything else we did.
And the Women's Caucus of the New University Conference became ever more active and ultimately set and put together a list of our own separate political goals. Because we wanted very strange things like equal pay for women. We wanted hiring to include affirmative steps to get women faculty members at NIU. Best example I can give you is my own Department of English where even in 1969 majority of PhDs in English were earned by women. But the English department then hired 20 assistant professors in 1969.
We call ourselves the class of 69. Because the theory was that there was something called Master Pen Phase 2 that said by 1980, we would have 40,000 students at Northern, so we had to gear up. We had a Ph.D. program in English, History, and Chemistry. We wanted PhD’s in more departments and had proposals for them in many of the Liberal Arts and Sciences and doc proposals in the College of Education and in one program the College of Business, so proposals not actual programs. They needed new faculty members and they hired 20 of us. Of the 20, 6 of us were female. I was the only one who was married.
All the other were single because the nightmare of the possibility of someone getting pregnant was simply impossible for anyone to imagine. I was asked the question in my interview if I wanted ever-- When I expected to have children. I think that's the way it was phrased. I'd already mastered. I did a lot of interviews. I mastered the doleful downward look, explaining that, "Well, my husband and I have been married for seven years."
They didn't ask anymore because they didn't want me to be like, maybe cry. I never got that far. But I wonder if I would have. I don't think I would have at any rate. We weren't planning to have children at that time. That was very clear. we're not going to bring life into this sexist, imperialist warmongering world. So that leads us I think, to second semester [laughs].
The reason why I'm concentrating on all of this is that 1969, 1970, the committee has agreed was the most tumultuous year in the history of Northern Illinois University and most universities. But it was particularly problematic here, for because of our involvement was the Black Panther Party but also because of our activism in the anti-war movement. The students became more and more involved, particularly those who knew what their draft number was. The only date I remember from that time as to what dates were drawn from a little bin that they drew as though this were in fact, a perfectly fair and reasonable process.
They didn’t know how you did normalization and how you dealt with data in those days, but the first one they drew was September 14th. I happen to know that because it's the title of a book, a student who was an English major at the time. I did not know her then, Rita Dragonette has written a book about 1969-1970, from her perspective as a student at Northern. Spring semester we knew which of our students-- If they got spring semester the young men who knew that they were between the first date drawn and 150th were allowed to stay for the spring semester, but then they would be called up at the end of the spring semester. So anti-war activities became very active on campuses.
We were involved in that. I think it was May 4th but I'm not sure about that. There was-- there were the killings at Kent State. That really ended it here because somehow our students had no idea that armed people would actually still shoot people who look like them to death, just for being in the wrong place. May 4th was Kent State assassination. I knew the campus of Kent State very well because I was from Ohio originally. My husband and I were both from the same high school in Ohio and we fell in love and got engaged.
I had my high school engagement ring on this finger when I was 15 and he was 16. But we didn't tell anybody because we were very bright. And it would not have sold real well but we did get married at the end of my freshman year and his sophomore year in our undergraduate experience. May 4th was Kent State and we had a number of political actions at our part of the Caucus of the New Uiversity Conference was anti-violence. We were active in political theatre, you could do all kinds of creative things. I actually did back at Northwestern, put a daffodil in a rifle of the Naval ROTC, exercising on Dearing Meadow. Then I didn't know what to do. I'd been put the daffodil in the rifle. You let a chick do that. Sure, no problem. I can put a daffodil on a rifle, but then what do you do other than look at the poor guy [laughs] who's got a daffodil in his rifle, and that's not covered in their manual of exercises. We had a number of peaceful demonstrations, and a week later, there were the murders at Jackson State, a historically black university.
Now our black students knew that you could get killed anywhere, but suddenly our white students that our black students and all of our students who had draft numbers and were male from 1 to 150 knew that they could get killed. The war got home to us. There were the demonstrations that occurred in May of 1970. Northern had the most active demonstrations of any campus in the state of Illinois.
Though we didn't initially know it the time we found out that the national guard had been activated and it was billeted in Sycamore, I don't know if you've ever seen the national guard armory in Sycamore. It's on route 64, just right next to Sam's pizza, which is a really good pizza. That's a national guard armory. They were billeted there in case there was trouble because there had been some trouble that some of our students decided that they would do creative war and anti-war demonstrations by breaking all the windows in the Village Commons Bookstore. The New University Conference people were trying to explain that a political act had to have some connection one could make after you did it so that you could explain why you did it. Breaking the windows of the Village Commons Bookstore was not a political act from our perspective, you could take a couple of sweatshirts.
The spring, I don't know what the date was, but our president Rhoten Smith participated in the anti-war demonstration. It was 4,000, approximately a strong anti-war demonstration. We had been very clear that we did not condone violence, and if in fact, any members of the New University Conference were going to participate in violent acts, they were not doing so on behalf of the New University Conference. They were doing so as individual actors and of course they had the right to do that. The demonstration ended with a speech by Father Groppi, who was a very well known activist then. There were a number of Catholic priests who were very active in the antiwar movement, and Father Groppi came on campus, and after the march that was around campus ended at the free speech area campus looked very different than because there was a huge arboretum, there wasn't the psych computer science building, and there wasn't Montgomery hall, there were trees, a lot of trees.
We went back home, and a lot of people went downtown and decided that they would sit on Lincoln highway and they did at that bridge. It doesn't look like a bridge [laughs] because the mighty Kish is not so mighty, but there is a bridge over the mighty Kishwaukee. They sat there, which was taking over at that time, the tollway wasn't there, a major East-West route. They took it over, and president Rhoten Smith came and sat with them till three o'clock in the morning when the head of the national guard, they had left where they were billited and came to do in buses, lot of busing the national guard to DeKalb from Sycamore. There are pictures of it that are just really incredible. They had their billy-clubs they had and they had a lot of animosity because a lot of the members of the national guard were young men too and thought ill of those young men who were saving their lives and not going because the national guard was going to be called up anytime when their time was coming in, and they were part of the draft as well. There was a lot of animosity and there was great fear that people were going to go downtown because downtown was a very active place then. There were stores you could buy things. It was a capitalist wonder. Stores were really nice stores. I got all my clothes there. My husband bought all his clothes there it was a market, commercial market. Rhoten Smith sat, there's a famous picture of Rhoten Smith in a cap and I don't know what was on the cap but sitting with them on Lincoln highway trying to talk with them about what their goals were and empathize with them. They were about a thousand people and at the bridge and obviously going west on Lincoln highway, and you can't get a thousand people on the bridge doesn't look like a bridge cause it's not a bridge. At three o'clock in the morning the head of the national guard explained to president Smith that he had to leave, that if he didn't leave, he would be considered part of the crowd that was now going to be told to disperse. If he failed to disperse, he would be arrested as would anyone else who stayed. Now Arthur and I were home cozy in our beds, not knowing that our phone lines had been cut. This is a world of landlines.
If your phone was cut, you were done, and you didn't have a cell to call anybody. We were sleeping. We did not know what was happening at Lincoln highway, but people had left and taken over, and some people went downtown, some people went back to the residence halls, largest amount of property damage done on an east-state campus was done at Northern. Grant and Stephenson and Lincoln were absolutely trashed. Because the national guard chased the students all the way back to campus, the ones who were going that way, they also chased the ones who went east on Lincoln Highway and started breaking windows in shops with the felicitous names of Honey Girl, I bought clothes at Honey Girl, they were cool clothes but Honey Girl was such a dopey name for a shop. They broke all the windows, terrible damage.
The merchants whom were not complicit in the Vietnam war, except if you weren't so far left, as to believe that anyone who was not actively fighting against it was complicit as in the Vietnam war. At about five in the morning, someone was (iPad notification) pounding on our door at Suburban Apartments, which was a really cool place to live back then. He, Arthur went to the door. I wanted to know what in the world was going on. It was one of the student members of the NUC who they had been trying to call us. It didn't work to explain that hundreds of students had been arrested. The men were all arrested, and I believe-- I can't remember the gender distinction. If my husband were alive, he would know—but the men and women were divided up, and I think the men were taken to the jail in Sycamore and the women were jailed in Dekalb.
I think that's the way it was. There were more men than women, and they had greater facilities in Sycamore, for that that. I think that's the way it played out. We started to bail out people. We took our car, which was a Jaguar XKE, wonderful, beautiful sports car. That was my husband's love that we bought. We would alternate bailing out a man and a woman, a man and a woman, because that was the way we rolled. Until they ran out of money and we did have students begging for money everywhere, they could help so that we could get a lot of people, who had been arrested for-- One of our student members was arrested simply because she had a derogatory term about police suggesting, they should fudge themselves only it didn't say that. I don't know what audiences for this, but you can-- The idea that a female person would have the F word on her shirt that's she was arrested. She was also very much beaten up. I'm making it sound funny because parts of this in retrospect, were just painfully young people trying to demonstrate their hatred of the war by breaking windows in Honey Girl it's just that's the way it was.
Rhoten Smith lost his job as president because of his participation. Now he got a much better job as provost at the University of Pittsburgh that was seemed to be a downward move. It was a way cooler job at the time and I think probably still would be considered that. We were that first year was a year of activism. It was direct involvement in the anti-war movement and Northern faculty members were both very active as speakers against the violence, against the Black Panthers and the violence against our students in the Vietnam War.
The Women's Caucus was a whole other can of worms. I don't know if I've gone too far in this question, and you have more questions you want to ask, but if not, I'll just roll with the new was what we wanted was to have an affirmative action officer. We hoped her role to see that there be more minority faculty and more female faculty and that such people would be paid the same amount.
I had the best example of equity of pay because one of my dearest friends at Northwestern Sean Shesgreen who was also hired in the English department. You can imagine us at a party in Evanston when we discovered that he was going to a school in the corn. I said, "Sean where in the corn." He said, "Just it's west, it's horrible. You can't believe it. There's nothing but corn."He was a native Irishman.
I said, “It's not Northern Illinois University, is it?”, “Yeah.” They had two of us in the 18th century defended our dissertation a day apart under the same person. We thought Sean soon, they must have made a mistake.
Anyway, I was one of the six women hired, again the only married woman because I did not want to have a kid. In fact, when I did get pregnant four years later, when we decided the world had gotten a little bit better, and the war was over, we declared, what we always wanted to say. Say we win and leave. That's the way we're going to handle this war.
We declared ourselves the victors and left to the nightmare of the Vietnam people whose lives were changed permanently, but the New University Conference wanted to have an affirmative action officer. Arthur and I were invited to a party at the second President Richard Nelson's second president for f(iPad notification) Excuse me. I didn't turn off that.
We didn't know why we're invited. You got invited to the president's house free food you go. We were the only faculty members at the party, a bunch of local people who were known for their commitment and people who were philanthropists and gave significant amounts of money. We didn't know what-- We were there to demonstrate facultydom. We were prepared to give speeches if necessary, but we didn't know what we were there for.
The next Monday, I was called to the president's office and I figure, now they know. I don't know what they knew, but now they knew because the Women's Caucus had meetings in Revis Hall. I don't know if either of you have ever seen Revis Hall. Well, you've got to imagine it as 1969, 70 classrooms. No equipment. No-- There were seats. That's what you had. Nice little classroom. It looks like a '50s grade school basically is what Revis Hall looked like then. We met quietly, the Women's Caucus at the university conference. We didn't want to meet in my apartment anymore because there was a man there. He was a very nice man, very nice man. We wanted a women's studies program and an affirmative action officer. I went to the president's office, didn't know what I'd done. What I had done is apparently had an interview, only I didn't know it, at that cocktail party. Where I was offered the job of affirmative action officer.
I told President Nelson I would have to think about it, talk about it with my husband, but I very much appreciated the fact that they were going to create such an office. There was no job description. There was no advertisement for the job, there was no search. There was no anything. I went to a cocktail party and apparently didn't drool or something, so I was offered the job.
I consulted with the Women's Caucus and they said I should take it. I said I shouldn't. I ultimately didn't, because I thought it was not done properly. It's always been about a key thing for equity among peoples is to establish procedures that work. I thought we ought to have to search. I thought we ought to to have a job description. I thought we ought to have other things I mentioned.
I went back in two days to the president's office and stunned him by saying that I appreciated the offer. I appreciated, even more, the idea that we're going to have an affirmative action officer. I hoped it would be a search-- that it would be a publicized search-- that I gave him a job description and said, "This is what I think the job would be like, but I really think you should have maybe a committee that would draw up a job description, but this is what I think a person would do in that position.”
Then I said I would not be a candidate because I would not want people to think that I had sort of an inside track for it so but I was so honored, and so we got an affirmative action officer, and she was wonderful. Our first affirmative action officer was Pat [unintelligible 00:47:38] and she was spectacular. She's my friend to this day, a very special woman. From then on, all of our activities continued to be political.
- Synopsis: Maternity LeaveKeywords: maternity leave; pregnancyTranscript: Doederlein: Now I should tell you about my pregnancy only to the extent it was-- When I finally could hide it no longer, I went to the department chair, who was an elderly bachelor and explained that-- I walked in-- It was impossible, I couldn't hide-- It was I'm preg-- Hello, there's something happening here. His first words to me was when I was going to quit. I wish I would have said I thought of it immediately after I left the office.
I should have said long after you're dead or something maybe more moderate than that, and I said I am not going to quit. I have accumulated in my six years here not only thankfully tenure, I had just been granted tenure. He thought, "Oh yeah we’re going to be able to tenure another one." Only 6 of the 20 of us were tenured.
I was the only woman and I could not hold a brief for-- there were some of us from the six who were really great, but there are three or four of us we could have picked anybody from the 20. I don't know why other than supposedly my teaching and I would be grateful for that, because I brought students in.
I explained that I had so many vacation days that I could be gone the entire year of 1974. Unless he understood that we were going to work something out, and we did work something out. I paid someone out of my own salary to teach one of my classes. A dear colleague of mine, taught for free another one of my classes. The third, I thought, because I was the only expert in Restoration in 18 century now that other people were either on sabbatical or visiting professors elsewhere. It was a class I had to teach. I thought I'd do tapes for a while and the tapes from that time I kept for a while, and then I finally lost track of them. They all involve a screeching baby in the background and me tired, and oh God. It just simply didn't work out. The class was not nice. I had someone go and bring my tapes, and it wasn't working. A week after my son was born, I went back and taught that class. It was very problematic because this part is maybe too personal, but it shows how bad things were in there. We would get to an emotional passage, and I'd leak.
It was just plain, awful. We didn't know what we were doing. I was the first pregnant professor in the English department that would-- and I tried. That was how I brought my political life to Northern. My husband and I were very active together before he retired in 2012 and died very soon after-- he had been out for a number of-- he was the one when your father interviewed here. That's a separate story.
- Synopsis: Horsley Commission SubpoenaKeywords: William Horsley; Horsley Commission; Frank Hayman; ACLU; Arthur DoederleinTranscript: JOHNSON: So you had mentioned in your email correspondence that your husband was subpoenaed for something that you had said. Could you elaborate on that?
DOEDERLEIN: After the spring of 1970, there was Senator Horsley, William Horsley of the Republican-led legislature in the state of Illinois, convened a committee to investigate, I'm not kidding, it's in the minutes you can look it up, the role of Mao Tse Tung in the riots on Illinois state campuses, which I thought was really swell. His commission went to several schools. They went to Southern, they went to ISU, and we shouldn't have been third but we were, in the-- came to interview us because if they wanted to go where capitalism cares, they would've come to us first because there was more damage. Again, I'm not proud of it, but what are your priorities people? We made a lot of mess here.
My husband was subpoenaed, and we didn't know why. His dissertation director-- he had not yet finished his dissertation. He kept dragging it out, and his dissertation director happened to be the chair of the Illinois chapter of the ACLU, Frank Hayman, and Frank came in, and he talked about the kinds of questions that they'd ask on other campuses. Like, "Who are your friends? Whom did you start this committee with?"
Questions that clearly violated the First Amendment. Frank said that the ACLU would be privileged to pay for an attorney for my husband, but he'd have to understand that he'd better bring his toothbrush to the hearing because it was highly probable that he would be held in immediate contempt of the Horsley Commission and could be arrested on the spot. Arthur said, "Okay. Yeah.", and he went, and meanwhile, I had subpoena envy because I didn’t know why I didn’t get subpoenaed. Because [laughs] I would've gotten us in way more trouble than he did. There were no women who were subpoenaed. It was-- the fact that I was the worst one didn't matter. Women didn't matter. Our political actions were seen as a subset of whomever we happened to be sleeping with at the time.
When it came time for tenure for me-- I and a number of people on the personnel committee were people who were involved with each other in a personal, human way and-- there was a married couple, and I finally said okay. The married couple couldn't vote for each other's tenure, but the people who were having an affair that everybody knew about, nobody said anything about that, so they could vote. I finally said, "Okay I'm willing to explain everyone in this department that I have, capital relationships with." I was doing a book contract with a radical leader with two colleagues.
Everybody I've slept within the department. They got really interested then. Because if that's the basis of why you're deciding who can vote, that's what we ought to do. I'll do that as long as every one of you will explain whom you've slept with, whom you have capital relationships with, who are your friends. Anyway, back to the hearing. The ACLU lawyer was so cool because on the very morning that, Arthur was to testify, he had filed-- had his colleague file suit in Cook County, Professor Arthur Paul Doederlein against Senator William H. Horsley for potential violations, it was to be an injunction, violation of First Amendment rights, because the questions that had been asked at the other hearings about your associates.
He said it would be very important when it was my husband’s turn that, "When you are, interviewing Professor Doederlein that you avoid the questions that might be involved in the very thing that the injunction against you, Senator Horsley would care about." Senator Horsley turns-- turned all manner of shades of pur-- I was in the audience, just terrified. Because what were they going to do to him? First of all, there were problems with swearing him in, because my husband does not swear.
Well, he swore a lot, but not the kind of-- The ACLU guy said that my client is willing to affirm, but not swear because if you don't believe in God, it's standing up to, so help me, God, swear to tell the truth is not an ethical thing to do. The Horsley's Commission attorney was trying to find-- and we're stuck with paper. You couldn't look at your iPad then to find out what's the oath of affirmation.
The very polished ACLU attorney pulled out the oath of affirmation and my husband was affirmed that he would tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. He was asked a number of questions about where he lived. Finally, in glee, Senator Horsley, although his-- the attorney for their community was getting more and more concerned because they had received a call that said that the suit had been filed.
Suddenly, it was Horsley against-- versus Doederlein in Cook County versus Horsley, the Senator and the professor in DeKalb County. Their attorney was getting very squeamish about any questions, but they held up this poster, “Black Panther party meeting, Doederleins,” and our five-digit phone number. You only needed five digits in Sycamore to call anybody in those times. Ours were five, four, three, two, one, which is just so cool. Our phone number, and he was asked, “Professor Doederlein, did you write this poster?”
“Black Panthers, Father Goppi, be there, or be square.” It actually said that or something like that. We were trying to seduce students because we wanted undergraduates as well as graduate students. He was asking if he was responsible for this post. He said categorically, not, because it was mine, and that was the thing. They stopped asking questions after that. They went to no more campuses, and they disbanded with no findings. Because apparently Chairman Mao was not involved. [laughs] I had a red book, but, I did not carry it with me at all times and I didn't consider it a sacred text. I just read Chairman Mao's Little Red Book and it was kind of cool. That was the same that he was subpoenaed for and almost jailed for if he wouldn't answer the question, but he answered it and they didn't believe him, because clearly a woman wouldn't be involved with the Black Panthers because obviously, they didn't know that there were a lot of women who were Black Panthers too.
- Synopsis: Starting the contract major for the Women's and Gender Studies DepartmentKeywords: women's studies; Women's Caucus; Council on Instruction; Wilma Strickland; Omar Ghrayeb; contract major; center for women's studies; center for women's and gender studies; center for study of women, gender, and sexualityTranscript: JOHNSON: Your work with the Women's Caucus, did you have a lot of involvement with that in relation to women's issues later on in the century, after the 70’s?
DOEDERLEIN: Very much so but in different ways. My first involvement was being part of the group that drew up the women's studies curriculum. We fought that-- again, meeting in Reavis Hall-- plotting evil for the Trojans. That was our motto. Because we were in there just causing trouble. Our colleagues would walk by and look in. We kept getting bigger. There were women from anthropology and from history and from political science. Then women from other colleges. We just filled them in and scared them to death. Because there weren't that many women at Northern.
It was like everybody, the two women anthropologists, they were there. There were no women from history. I think that was because they were concerned that we weren't following a strict Marxist line. I don't know if that was true or not, but we had no NUC members from that. We created a women's studies minor. We first thought about a major, but it wasn't that we thought it was overreaching, it's just that we knew that the minor was going to be more difficult.
Also we were concerned in the '70s and early '80s that a major in women's studies might be a turnoff for employers. We thought a major in English, history, philosophy, anthropology, finance, accounting, et cetera, coupled with a women's studies minor might have some appeal. Because suddenly there were regulations, title nine, which is thought to relate to athletics-- It certainly did. It changed the face of sports for forever because of equity in athletics.
It also affected universities in every other way. Suddenly, universities were hiring women. We started with the women's studies minor. I was involved in that. My husband and I were on the college curriculum committee. He was always elected from his division of the humanities. I was always elected for my division of the humanities. We voted to approve it there. I was on a group that was called the council on instruction. That was the final group that had to support it. Thankfully, it was led at the time by an acting woman associate provost named Wilma Strickland. There's a special award made for outstanding woman faculty, given every year called the Wilma Strickland Award.
It was for the toughest old broad you could ever imagine. Wilma Strickland chaired the council on instruction. She knew she could not get a majority of the 15 votes on it. It was not possible. She knew she had four yes’s, only four. Her goal was to get the other people to abstain. They were all men except me and the secretary. Again, at that time we were both pregnant. That's what they all feared. We'll just be popping kids and then never leaving. There might be something, they'd have to do about that, like, I don't know, leave. Maternity leave, paternity leave, people leave. People have kids. It's amazing. I don't know how it happens, but anyway, two of us were pregnant.
Wilma Strickland went around to every single member of the committee. Either persuaded them to abstain or threatened them. She was acting associate provost. It's the vice provost now. It's the position that Omar Ghrayeb has. It's been elevated many times in title. It was second to the provost and the person in charge of it. She literally basically threatened everyone in the college of business because she was chair of one of the departments in the college of business, the management department.
She managed it such that when the women's studies minor came up, it passed by a vote of four to three with-- couldn't figure out, it was a 15 person committee. I can't quite do the math, but all the rest were abstentions. That's how we got the women's studies minor. Then in the '80s, when I went to the college, the role there I played was developing the women's studies major surreptitiously by creating contract majors. We had created the concept of a contract major. A do it yourself major, so that if among our then 17 departments, you couldn't find something that was exactly your jam, you could build your own major, but you had to make one heck of a case for it, because I would, in my role as first acting assistant dean and then assistant dean and then associate dean, I was one who was in charge of taking those contracts to the college curriculum committee, which I chaired. We passed the first women's studies major as a contract in 1984. That was a huge deal. Then for the next maybe 10 years, I'm not sure about this part, but we had multiple contracts.
Each contract differed from the other. It was very important to me because the contracts were supposed to be individual. Each woman who had such a contract, there weren't any men, but each woman who had such a contract would have her own spin on why she wanted a particular nexus of courses in history, or anthropology, or English. An English one I remember, a beautiful one in children's literature. There was an anthropology related one about the culture of women. Women's culture, only women American culture, which was a very brand new idea then. I was the one who had to pass on the women's studies contract major proposals, and then take them to get some passed by the college curriculum committee, which I may have learned something from Wilma Strickland about how you do that. We got them done. There was never a contract that was turned down in women's studies, or in anything else. I didn't bother the curriculum committee with contract majors that weren't-- we had a contract major in Japanese studies.
We had fascinating contracts but we had the most contracts that were women’s studies related. Finally, we got the women’s studies major. Then we left the program. Then I had the pleasure of helping write the first-- I wanted it to be called queer studies but the person wasn't ready for that yet, so we had our first gay studies contract. Now we have taken the center for women's studies and combined it. I still talk as though I’m there, I’m not, even though it's been a while.
Sometimes it was hard. I didn't want to retire but the pension me retire. After 45 years they didn't want to kick me out. I just gotten renewed but I had to leave because of pension. I was responsible for being part of the group that created the center for women's studies. Then part of the process that led to the center for gender and women's studies, which I think is its proper title now. I was always involved, but once I went to the dark side of it administration-- this had to be a faculty-led program, if it wasn't led by faculty members, first of all, they wouldn't see students who they might have in a women's studies course and you'd say, "Okay, but here's this other women’s studies course you could take. Here's another one." but I tried to stay out of it but there to support when the administrative things happened, such as moving from a minor to a major and broadening it to an entire center, and an entire way of life. It's a good thing. They've done very good things.
Of course, the woman who was the affirmative action officer, would now be amazed at the elaborate creation of things we have now for diversity, and equity, and inclusion, but we had to start somewhere, and we started with a properly chosen affirmative action officer.
- Synopsis: Favorite Memories of NIUKeywords: favorite memory; favorite memories; instructor of the year; excellence in undergraduate teaching; Peter Strauss; women's studies minorTranscript: JOHNSON: You seem like you've led a very fulfilled life at NIU. Could you tell me your favorite memory from your time at the university?
DOEDERLEIN: Wow… Lucy, I don’t-- Yes. I think it would have to be-- Can I have more than one?
JOHNSON: Of course, yeah!
DOEDERLEIN: Okay. If I can have more than one, then it would be seeing the machinations that went into the wonderful creation of the women's studies minor which was so heretical and wonderful at the time. All the offspring of that woman's studies minor, but to see Wilma Strickland work, I've never seen anyone so fine. Being there pregnant and able to vote in the affirmative so that it was four-three, and all those abstentions. Boy, did I know Robert's rules. That would be one and its offspring from there.
The second would very much be receiving the Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award in 1984. That was just the hugest deal because it's an award that's primarily chosen by undergraduate students, but it's got a whole bunch of criteria, so it's not really a popularity award because it's got a whole bunch of things you have to meet about. Grading standards and stuff and I don't remember all the things it was about, but in 1984, I received that, so that's my second favorite. My third favorite is that 10 years later, my husband received the same award and it happened, total accident--
There's a plaque in the Student Center, which is the only place where my husband’s and my name are engraved on a wall together. It just happened because I was '84, and he was '94. There's three each year, and how it worked out alphabetically, but on this great big plaque, there's my name, and then there's his name. We're buried together, sort of. Actually, he's in the urn in my house, but I want my kids to pop me in there with him, but in terms of memorial of any kind, it's the Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.
He had received-- he'd actually been on the faculty of Northwestern for briefly and he had received the Instructor of the Year Award from Peter Strauss. He's an actor. I don't know if you guys know him. He's a minor actor in Rich Man, Poor Man and a whole bunch of films, he’s incredibly old now. He was the one who signed the award, and that's cool that Peter Strauss's signature, but someone asked Arthur why it took him so long since he got an award at Northwestern for teaching. He immediately said, "You know, Northern students, they're a tougher crowd." Those are my three for sure. The women's studies and Excellence in Teaching for me and Excellence in Teaching with a great person I came here with.
- Synopsis: Involvement in the CHANCE programKeywords: CHANCE Program; enrollment numbersTranscript: JOHNSON: That’s so nice. What could you tell someone like yourself, either a faculty or a staff that was coming to NIU for the first time in 2019?
DOEDERLEIN: Actually, I've discovered it's a very different place from even when I retired. I don't think I'd be the best person to advise someone who was coming in 2019, because the place changes so rapidly, and the place is dealing with something that is a source of great heartache for me. There were more students here in 1969 than there are in 2019. Someone like me, first, I would say, don't do what I did. Do not get involved in politics. Unless it's something that you have to do. For me, it was a have to do, but in general, it's not a good thing to do.
Because what's most important is that you get your scholarly record in order. I-- absolutely no one knew this about me because I was in the dark side so long, that I actually was a scholar in Restoration in 18th century British literature and in literature in translation, but nobody would ever think of Sue as anything other than rabble rouser, troublemaker, and also someone who was potentially helpful at getting some things done for undergraduates because they are the people who matter here.
Graduate students are fine. Some of my best friends are graduate students. I hate that line, but I would tell her to for sure, pay attention to undergraduates. They are the reason we are here. If graduate students need faculty members, need faculty members in a very serious way, they shouldn't be graduate students. They're not here for the right reasons. You are developing as a graduate student ever more independence of judgment, of research, skills, et cetera, so you'll need some guidance, but my undergraduate students needed me. I mean, they really needed me.
They needed me to learn how to write a sentence, in the Chance Program. I was very proud of the fact that I had-- Chance students in those good old days only passed their first course if they were evaluated by not their instructor of record, because we were prejudiced. We wanted all of our students to pass, so I had the only class, all my students passed it. Because they were evaluated, their essays were evaluated by other people who gave them a C or better. That was so cool because that didn't happen a lot.
Tend to your teaching, and tend to your undergraduates because they really matter. I also would advise them to live in DeKalb County. We had to, but one of the things that I think the university has lost is the sense of community that happens when everybody lives and works here. Now, we moved to Sycamore because it's prettier. No, because actually, we didn't want our kids at that time, because our kids started school at a time when the DeKalb County, must live here, rule was just fading out.
We didn't want people-- With a name like Doederlein, it's just not Johnson. It's just there's no neutrality. Somebody hates your mother or your father or both, because my husband was Undergraduate Studies Director in the Department of Communication for thirty years. We were both administrators. I would say live in DeKalb County. They're wonderful places to live. You can connect with students after hours. They can come to your house. It's amazing. My students always laugh when they came to my house because all of my diplomas are over my stove. Because my-- first of all because my stove is my proudest possession. I was, before I was handicapped, a really good cook, but I’ve got eight burners and two ovens, so it's a great stove. But it's a statement that I have chosen to be here. Definitely live in DeKalb County so that you can make connections with students, get your research in order, and then get involved with students and with the political life of the university. There’s so many student groups that need you. You don't have to be a crazy leftist. That probably wouldn't be a good idea. There aren't many of us around, but find out which students are interested in the same things you are, and encourage them to do undergraduate research projects. To find out that we have a Regional History Center.
To, in English, discover the exciting writing opportunities we have. One of the most spectacular poets in the world on our faculty, but people don't know it. I would advise her to do that, and then of course to find the Center for Gender and Women’s Studies, where you will find-- even if your research, and your scholarship and your teaching is not in that area-- although, if it isn't why isn't it, why don’t you involve issues of gender? I don't know of something that couldn't involve issues of gender, but probably somebody will find something [iPad notification], but anyway I would encourage her to be involved with that center.
That involvement presupposes also [iPad notification] being here, because it's easier. If you live away, which most of our faculty now do, and I get it. If you go to Geneva, and you go to St. Charles, if you live in Chicago. You do the same cornfield number that Sean and I did. It was compulsory, but I think it's a very good way to get connected.
- Synopsis: Life after working at NIUKeywords: Lifelong Learning Institute; crime; shootingTranscript: JOHNSON: What else do you think deserves attention during the 125th anniversary here at NIU?
DOEDERLEIN: Attention to reshaping the university in the image that it seems to have become accidentally, but I think it should become intentionally, and that is, as-- it's funny because that's what I wanted to do in 1969. A university that embraces diversity, that loves the fact that we are beginning to reflect the area in which we live. We are beginning to look like Northern Illinois. Northern Illinois is a mix of races, a mix of cultures, a mix of people. That's what the university needs to not tiptoe around and get rid of the idea we are some crime capital of the world. I don't know where they got that. I actually have walked frightened females to the husky buses.
Me as your protector? If you think I'm your protector, sweetheart. Well, sure. I terrify almost anyone I see, but to embrace the university we are, but build. I'm not sure what the university's intentions are because I have been away too long, but embrace this wonderfully diverse institution we've become. Pay attention to equity. Pay attention to the issues that matter in the 21st century. Get with the program that is the only thing that will get us to be successful. People say the demographics are the cause for our being smaller. That's not true. ISU is growing. I want this university to embrace who we are and not pretend that a one-time nightmare of a shooting on our campus--
That person who was the dean's award recipient in sociology, whose hand I shook twice. You look as frightening as he did. No one could have imagined that such a thing could have happened. The people in sociology who knew him and loved him, did not think-- we are not the crime capital of the world [chuckles]. We are the safest campus you could come to. I bet your associate dean would walk you to the husky buses if you were scared, and he is tall. He doesn't have a walker so it wouldn't be pitiful. You could just talk and it would seem normal as opposed to who is the white-haired woman with the walker walking with the undergraduate student? How weird is that?
That's what I would suggest the university embrace because otherwise, I worry it won't be. You can't keep losing students and pretend that we intended to do that. Sure, that'll sell for a while, but sorry, I'm being way too much me.
JOHNSON: No, it's all right.
DOEDERLEIN: I'm being more too much me. As you can tell I am not a person who is reticent about expressing her opinions and they are not exactly orthodox. Orthodoxy is dull. Go to career services, that's where my daughter works. If you haven't been to career services, it's really cool and they’ll help you. They’ll even help you after you graduate.
JOHNSON: So since you are retired, are you still active with the politics or women's issues at NIU?
DOEDERLEIN: In every way they want me to be, but only as much as I can be because partially it’s-- since I surrendered my driver's license, because I had already stopped driving, I don't think someone who can't control their right food ought to be behind the wheel.
It could get cute, but it also could kill. I am as active as I can be. I was on a committee for the 125th anniversary and I do anything people ask me to do. I'm going to be teaching in the spring a course in the Lifelong Learning Institute which is something I helped create. The idea of going to a class with a bunch of old people was shocking to me. I discovered they are all younger than I am, and that was even more shocking, but I'm taking a course in the Lifelong Learning Institute so I could learn what that's like, so that I can teach one in the spring. It's going to be on the 50th anniversary. It's NIU, 1969, '70, NIU 2019, 2020. What the hell happened? No, how interesting it is that life has changed so I'm as active as I can be given my physical limitations.
JOHNSON: Those are all the questions I have for you. Thank you.
DOEDERLEIN: Thank you for asking me. May I suggest, there is a person, I don't think you have anyone from Chance.
JOHNSON: We might have one person that was interviewed over the summer.
DOEDERLEIN: I always read the names that are on an email. JoAnn was actually a part of the student advisory committee, so I know her, but I always look to see who else is involved and you've got some great people, but I didn’t see anyone from Chance. As long as you have Leroy Michel, would be the person I would suggest, or Lisa King, or someone who’s been involved in it a lot. Chance is the heart of the university from my perspective, and it should always-- I thought it would be gone, but you’ve got good people and the 125th is a very special occasion. I'm glad we are celebrating it. No one wants to call it the quasquicentennial. I just wish they would, but some important person decided that 125 would sell better. I think that's-- but anyway. Okay.
- Program Coming Soon!