This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Commission issues report on gender equity among UB faculty

Published: May 3, 2012

UB should establish a senior leadership position devoted to equity and diversity, and improve policies and practices regarding the tenure process for faculty, according to recommendations outlined in the recently completed report by the Commission on Academic Excellence and Equity.

The report, “In Pursuit of Academic Excellence: Equity Across Diversity,” found that while UB has a solid foundation of diversity and stated commitments to diversity and equity, its structure, systems and practices of accountability and implementation do not always fully support and effectuate those stated commitments.

The Commission on Academic Excellence and Equity was formed in 2009 by then-provost Satish K. Tripathi and the Faculty Senate in response to concerns that had been raised about whether outcomes in the tenure process differed by gender.

The commission was charged with examining data, policies and practices concerning faculty recruitment and career paths, identifying any barriers that may impede faculty success and making specific recommendations designed to eliminate these barriers.

The commission’s report found that the overwhelming majority of tenure-track faculty are successful in achieving tenure and that there are no intentional practices or policies, or overtly biased decision-making that demonstrate discrimination against women or underrepresented minorities in faculty recruitment, retention, promotion or tenure.

The report does note, however, that there are small variances between the percentage of women faculty members who are successful in being awarded tenure compared to male faculty members, as well as slight variances in retention and in career satisfaction and work/life balance satisfaction for women compared to men in the faculty cohorts studied.

While the commission could not pinpoint the causes for these disparities, it recommended several steps for improved policies and practices to help UB and its faculty flourish. These include:

  • Establishing a senior leadership position focused on diversity that can enhance coordination, strategic planning, transparency and accountability
  • Improving data collection about faculty demographics—particularly for ladder faculty, career paths and retention—to better support academic planning and analysis
  • Improving consistency of practices for mentoring, evaluating and making renewal decisions along the path to tenure, and improving data collection and analysis of reasons why faculty depart before or after tenure
  • Establishing central guidelines for improved faculty work/life balance policies that will be evenly and fairly implemented across all academic units
  • Improving access to information about faculty demographics, diversity at UB and work/life balance policies through easily accessible websites.

Bruce McCombe, interim provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, noted that in terms of the measures looked at by the commission, UB ranked in the middle of the AAU institutions in terms of diversity.

“That was gratifying to see,” he said, “but we don’t want to be average—we would like to be excellent in everything that we do.”

McCombe said that both he and President Tripathi agree that UB should move forward immediately on the commission’s recommendations.

“Implementing these crucial recommendations will have a very long range impact on the diversity of this university,” he said.

To that end, he noted that information about faculty and student demographics and diversity at UB soon will be made available on the university website. He also has asked the Office of Institutional Analysis to work with the Office of Faculty Affairs and Human Resources to identify needed improvements in the way that data regarding faculty career paths is maintained and analyzed.

“I will also form an implementation team comprised of senior leadership and other representation to evaluate the recommendations that involve changes in university practices, policies and personnel, including the recommendation for a senior leadership position focusing on diversity, and to recommend the best avenues to effect these changes,” he said.

McCombe urged all faculty members to read the report and work with him to support and implement its recommendations.

He also commended the members of the commission for their thorough analysis and important recommendations. “I think they were fair in their conclusions and their recommendations,” he said. “I think we need to move forward on it as soon as we possibly can.”

Reader Comments

Jim Holstun says:

It is not true that the report says “UB has a solid foundation of diversity”; it says UB has “a solid foundation FOR THE MANAGEMENT of equity across diversity”—a different matter altogether.

The story says the report notes “small variances” in the percentages of women and men being tenured. But the report notes quite clearly that there are “poor tenure outcomes for 13.3% of all women who sought tenure during the period examined, as compared to only 5.5% of all men who sought tenure during this same time" (2n.10). A variance of 140% is not small.

Please, let’s reread, get our facts straight, and work together to make UB a better place to learn, teach, and work.

Posted by Jim Holstun, Professor of English, 05/04/12