Director of Affirmative Action
Faculty Associate, Institute for Social Research
Associate vice president in the Office of the Vice President for Government Relations
Lecturer, Law School
Adjunct Professor, Program on Higher, Adult and Continuing Education
Virginia B. Nordby, who has held a number of posts in the University over the past 19 years, has announced that she will retire at the end of June 1993.
She currently is the University’s chief freedom of information officer and has been an associate vice president for student affairs since January 1991. In addition, she chairs the Residency Appeals Committee.
Nordby, who holds a B.A. and J.D. from Stanford University, joined the U-M as a lecturer in the Law School, where she developed and taught a course on women and the law. In addition to her other posts, she currently is an adjunct professor with the Program on Higher, Adult and Continuing Education, teaching a graduate-level course on law and higher education.
She was a faculty associate of the Institute for Social Research in 1978–79, during which she studied the effect of the then-new Michigan Criminal Sexual Conduct Act on the criminal justice system.
In 1980 she was appointed director of affirmative action, with responsibility for institutional compliance with all affirmative action/non-discrimination laws, regulations and policies affecting students, faculty, staff, sub-contractors and radio and television stations. During that time she drafted the first faculty and staff harassment policy and developed the “Tell Someone” program to combat harassment on campus.
In addition to these responsibilities, she also served as policy adviser to the president in 1975–88.
Nordby was named an associate vice president in the Office of the Vice President for Government Relations in 1988. In that post, she was responsible for developing revisions of Regents’ Bylaws and various codes and policies, and advised administrators and faculty on student rights and applicable laws. She also at that time was named chief freedom of information officer.
She has chaired several University committees, including the Task Force on AIDS, the Task Force to Revise the Faculty Grievance Procedures and the Council of Big Ten Presidents’ Committee to Evaluate the Integration of Women’s Athletics into the Big Ten Conference.
In 1973–74, Nordby was a consultant to the Michigan Women’s Task Force on Rape and was the principal drafter of the Michigan Criminal Sexual Conduct Act. In 1991 she was named to the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame for her work in this area and for her work in identifying gender-based differences in state statutes.
In 1975 she received the Washtenaw County International Women’s Year Award for her work in helping reform the state’s rape law. The following year she received the U-M International Women’s Year Committee award for “outstanding personal and professional contributions to the goals of equality, development and peace.”
Last January, Nordby received the Sarah Goddard Power Award for work on behalf of women at the University. Other honors include the Harriet Myer Memorial Service Award of the Michigan Association of Women Deans, Administrators and Counselors, and the U-M-Dearborn Susan B. Anthony Award.
Her professional affiliations include membership in the State Bar of California, the National Association of College and University Attorneys, the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators and the Association of Student Judicial Advisors.
The University Record, September 21, 1992
Virginia Nordby was the principal drafter of the Michigan Criminal Sexual Conduct Act, Public Act 266, in 1974. However, her influence transcends Michigan state lines. Public Act 266 revolutionized perceptions and interpretations of rape and has since served as a model for nearly thirty other states. The Act now defines rape as a four-degree crime of assault with its varying degrees based on the presence of force and aggravating circumstances as opposed to the previous definitions of rape as the “carnal knowledge” of a woman not a man’s wife by force and without her consent under the common law. The language used in Public Act 266 acknowledges the existence of marital rape as well as male rape victims. The law also includes a rape “shield” provision which bars evidence about unrelated and irrelevant aspects of the victim’s sexual history. This helps to ensure that the assailant’s actions are on trial and not the victim’s past. Though contested, the law has remained intact and has given many victims greater peace of mind in taking a case to court.
Virginia Nordby’s impact on women in Michigan extends beyond the context of the 1974 Criminal Sexual Conduct Act. She molded the sensitivities and understandings of future generations at the University of Michigan with a pioneering class called Women and the Law. The goals of the course were “to understand the great number and variety of ways in which the law establishes or reinforces sex role stereotypes,” as well as, “to develop a thorough understanding of the legal tools and theories available for challenging stereotypes.” During her time at the University of Michigan and as a consultant for the Michigan Women’s Task Force on Rape, Nordby has worked tirelessly to end discrimination against not only women, but against people of all colors, genders, sexual orientations, and social classes.