Saturday, November 25

UC to form workgroup on faculty discrimination policies


The University of California will take a harder look at its faculty discrimination policies after UCLA’s policies were found to be insufficient.

UC President Janet Napolitano called for the formation of a University workgroup last month to scrutinize discrimination policies on all UC campuses. The move came the week after an investigative report by former California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno found that UCLA does not adequately punish instances of racial discrimination among faculty.

The group is expected to include about eight faculty and will be comprised of no more than three administrators and three UC faculty members from the Academic Senate, which represents UC faculty, said Steve Montiel, a UC spokesman.

The rest of the workgroup’s membership has not been set yet, but the group will be chaired by UC Academic Senate Chair William Jacob and UC Provost Aimée Dorr, Montiel said.

At an October meeting with the UC Academic Council – a committee within the Academic Senate – Napolitano asked for a workgroup to conduct a review of current procedures in the UC for handling complaints of bias or discriminatory behavior involving faculty, Montiel said.

The workgroup will examine the procedures’ timeliness, clarity, transparency and appropriateness, as well as what consequences are mandated for faculty found to be engaging in discriminatory behavior, Montiel said.

The group will examine which recommendations from Moreno’s report should be implemented across the UC system, as well as develop a long-term strategy to address the root causes of discrimination among faculty and increase diversity.

Napolitano told the Academic Council that the workgroup must complete its report by the end of the calendar year.

Napolitano also asked all chancellors of the 10 UC campuses to reexamine their own campuses’ discrimination policies, Montiel said.

Several issues in existing discrimination policies make it less likely for faculty discrimination claims to make it through the entire process, Academic Senate members said.

For instance, discrimination policies are not uniform across the UC system and vary by each campus. Depending on the campus, faculty members will call different people to initiate the claim process. Campuses like UC Irvine have more centralized procedures for dealing with faculty discrimination, while UCLA’s procedures are spread across a variety of campus offices, said Emily Roxworthy, a theatre and dance professor at UC San Diego and chair of the University Committee onAffirmative Action and Diversity.

All campuses do, however, have a committee on privilege and tenure, which conducts formal hearings and mandates disciplinary action for faculty found to have engaged in discriminatory behavior, Roxworthy said.

At campuses with decentralized procedures, faculty are less likely to know where to turn when they have a discrimination claim, and the processes lack transparency and can be confusing to understand, Roxworthy said.

“(Discrimination policies) should always have been consistent across the whole system. It should be the same everywhere … and based on best practices,” Roxworthy said.

However, UC recommendations on changing or mandating certain discrimination policies might be difficult to implement on all the UC campuses, since there tends to be resistance from UC campuses to orders from UC administration officials, Roxworthy added.

Also, the process of coming forward with discrimination claims for a formal hearing in front of one’s peers is often intimidating for faculty, Roxworthy said. The workgroup could possibly remedy this issue and make the claim process easier for faculty to complete, she said.

Finding evidence of discrimination in academic departments is also inherently difficult because there are often too few faculty members in a department to generate accurate statistical evidence, said Jeffry Lansman, cellular and molecular pharmacology associate professor at UC San Francisco and chair of the UC Academic Senate Committee on Privilege and Tenure.

Lansman said his committee is currently looking at better ways of finding evidence of discrimination and bias and making the claim process more transparent and accessible to faculty.

“This (UCLA report) is a crisis … but that’s an opportunity for us to not just react to the report but to take a look at what’s happening on the campuses and do a lot better,” Roxworthy said.

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