A task force studying the status of women employes at the University of Virginia has found the school's affirmative action goals "inadequate even when intelligible" and recommends increasing the number of women faculty members to match the percentage of female students at the school.

The preliminary report, released this week, also urges the school to establish a policy that ties budget allocations of individual departments to "their performance in equal treatment of the sexes."

According to the report, 7.4 percent of the university's tenured faculty members in 1985 were women, the lowest rate of the 21 public universities surveyed across the country.

At the same time, the number of women students has risen dramatically, from 13.7 percent of the student body in 1970, the first year the school went coed, to 48 percent last year.

It also found an average salary difference of $5,873 between men and women in comparable jobs, though it acknowledged "that the current situation here . . . is generally far better than it is nationwide."

The task force was set up by University President Robert M. O'Neil, who said yesterday that the hard-hitting report "may create a greater resolve to press ahead" with change.

O'Neil, who was president of the University of Wisconsin's 13-campus system for five years before coming to the University of Virginia in 1985, has long been an advocate of increasing women's participation in academics.

O'Neil predicted yesterday that there would be negative reactions to the report from some of the male faculty members, but defended the scope and severity of the report's criticism, pointing out that men were on the task force.

Task force Chairwoman Prudence M. Thorner, director of the university's medical center's supply department, said the results showed that the university's history as a "white, predominantly southern gentlemen university has strongly influenced" the school's view of women.

"I think it says women's voices have not been heeded here, or wanted, that they have not been valued here," she said.

A final report by the 14-member task force will be submitted in December, at which time a plan to implement the recommendations will be formalized.

The task force recommended several measures that would support the recruitment of women faculty members, including setting aside money for that purpose, helping spouses find employment, and excluding maternity and paternity leave from the maximum seven-year tenure probation period.

The report also says the university "has moved very slowly" to provide child care facilities for employes. Only the medical center has such a facility.

"It's such a difficult issue because none of the deans will apparently place child care at the top of the priority lists for funding," Thorner said.

In changing the university's affirmative action policy, the task force recommended a three-stage approach. The first would use the existing affirmative action guidelines; the second would match the percent of women in the faculty with the percent of women in the student body.

The final phase would match the percent of women faculty members with the percent of women in the U.S. population -- 52 percent. Exceptions would be made for departments where a clear lack of qualified applicants exists.

These changes would be goals, rather than quotas, Thorner said. "We don't want to end up with a quota because the last thing we want are tokens," she said.

The report recommends using financial incentives to encourage departments to meet the goals, an idea O'Neil said worked well in Wisconsin. "I don't think there's any question that's how we made allocations," he said. "Progress toward goals was one of the factors we took into consideration."