Gender discrimination a hiring concern for state schools
December 13, 2007 6:39 PM
A report released Tuesday by the State Auditor analyzing the hiring practices of the California State University System found an overall inconsistency in the consideration of diversity when hiring, raising concerns about discrimination issues in the system.
The CSU is “inconsistent in considering diversity” when hiring professors, management personnel, presidents, and system executives, according to the report by state auditor Elaine Howle.
Among the CSU, the largest higher education system in the nation, there is no uniform hiring practice. Each campus has differing levels of detail when estimating the percentage of qualified women and minorities available for employment, a method that impedes the university’s ability to effectively compare data among the campuses, the report said.
Also, the report found hiring practices vary not just from campus to campus, but also among departments. Some take in to account the gender and ethnic composition of search committees for professors, while such practices are prohibited at other departments and campuses.
The audit was requested by the Joint Legislative Committee, which includes Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles and Assemblyman Anthony Portantino,D-La Canada Flintridge, chairman of the Assembly for Higher Education.
“The report shows us that although we are making progress, we could be doing better,” said Eduardo Martinez, spokesperson for Portantino. “More concrete guidelines should be in place to ensure that there is consistency on the ground level, campus by campus.”
The California Faculty Association, which represents 23,000 faculty members at the CSU, was not surprised by the lack of strict guidelines in place.
“Today’s report confirms CFA’s ongoing concerns that hiring practices in the CSU are not only inconsistent, but in some cases non-existent,” said CFA president Lillian Taiz. “CFA is troubled by the lack of consistent guidance system-wide to help hiring/search committees promote diversity.”
While the hiring process for presidents requires input from many stakeholders, the hiring of system executives is largely at the discretion of the chancellor in consultation with the board of trustees, the report said.
The request followed several high-profile gender discrimination lawsuits against the 23-campus university system. As of June 30, the university spent $2.3 million on settlements resulting from employment discrimination lawsuits filed during the five-year period reviewed, and $5.3 million for outside counsel in defending itself against such lawsuits.
Campuses have hiring policies that vary in terms of the amount of guidance they provide search committees for Management Personnel Plan employees, and one campus has developed no policies for these positions that relate to nonacademic areas, the report said.
The audit concluded that the CSU should issue system-wide guidance on the hiring of faculty, as well as to ensure that women and minorities are better represented on search committees. It also recommended that the CSU develop hiring policies to ensure consistency between campuses. The audit did not make recommendations examining discrimination lawsuits.
In response to the audit, CSU Chancellor Charles Reed wrote the university is prepared to review its hiring practices and discrimination litigation. The system maintains that many of the audit findings highlighted the challenge between existing federal requirements for diversity and complying with Proposition 209 approved by California voters in 1996, which prohibits against discrimination or preferential treatment by the state and other public entities.
In a statement from Reed, he maintained that although uniform, system-wide policies are not in place, the “overall workforce of the CSU is diverse, and women and minorities are hired in greater numbers than their proportion of the available labor pool.”
According to CSU spokesperson Paul Browning, the workforce of about 46,000 employees is 53 percent women and one-third are ethnic minorities, and the university’s hiring rates of such are higher than the national average.
“We reflect the population of California,” said Browning. “Of course, there is always room for improvement, and we agree with the auditor’s recommendations in concept.”
“We have a system-wide emphasis on inclusion rather than a specific policy,” said Browning, and went on to say the CSU prefers not to target specific underrepresented groups.
The audit is the second part of the Bureau of State Audits reports, which also includes an examination of employee compensation that was released Nov. 6. The committee will present a plan for implementation at the Board’s meeting in January.
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