Louise Lamphere, Faculty

Louise Lamphere, Faculty

In 1975, after being denied tenure at Brown University and unsuccessfully pursuing an appeals process, Louise Lamphere sued the college in a landmark class-action case that charged Brown with sex discrimination. Following settlement, Lamphere would earn tenure at Brown before accepting another tenured position in New Mexico. Today Lamphere is a Distinguished Professor of Anthropology Emerita at the University of New Mexico and Past President of the American Anthropological Association.

An assistant professor of Anthropology and the only woman in her department when she was hired in 1968, Louise Lamphere was denied tenure in 1974. The Anthropology Department claimed that her scholarship was theoretically weak. Lamphere claimed she was the victim of sex discrimination and argued that the small number of women on the Brown faculty was evidence of a larger pattern of discrimination. After unsuccessfully pursuing an internal appeals process, on May 10, 1975 Lamphere filed a lawsuit in United States District Court.

Under the leadership of a new President, Howard Swearer, the University settled the case before trial, entering in September 1977 into an historic consent decree designed "to achieve on behalf of women full representativeness with respect to faculty employment at Brown." Brown agreed to set up an Affirmative Action Monitoring Committee charged with overseeing the processes departments used to hire, promote, and tenure faculty in order to ensure fairness; evaluating searches for inclusivity; and monitoring progress toward full representation of women on the faculty. The Affirmative Action Monitoring Committee was in existence from 1978 to 1992 when by mutual consent the consent decree was vacated.

Conducted in 2014 as part of the Pembroke Center’s Louise Lamphere vs. Brown University exhibit for Brown’s 250th anniversary, this interview with Louise Lamphere discusses her personal and educational background, her interest in Brown, and her memories about being denied tenure. Lamphere details the processes she went through to bring her case to court, negotiating the consent decree, and accepting her tenured position at Brown. Lamphere goes on to explain her motives for donating one million dollars to the anthropology department in 2008, and the long term effects of her case.

Click here for a timeline of the case

Click here to view the online exhibit

Recorded on May 30, 2014

Washington, DC

Interviewed by Amy Goldstein