Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Return to Salary Transparency at Penn State and Transparency Failures at the University of Denver

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2015)

In May of 2015 I raised a concern about the reversal of transparency rules at Penn State University with respect to faculty salary data (The Rise of University Data Mining and Analysis Oligarchies--From Transparency to Confidentiality Regimes in University Operations and the Issue of Salary Information).  Though I remain concerned, as a general matter affecting all universities, about the ways that  both the harvesting of data on salaries (what is going to be gathered up  as data) and its presentation (the extraction of meaning from the data), can be a substantially manipulative affair, best controlled by those with the power to generate and analyze data (see here, here and here), those issues can only be addressed in a transparent environment.   

These concerns appear to have been shared by others in the university, including its administrators.  After much work, personally and deeply appreciated,  by key university administrators, the University Faculty Senate Chair, Mohamad Ansari, was able to make the folloibng announcement:
I am pleased to announce that the "20142015 Report on Faculty Salaries," Appendix O on the March 17, 2015 Senate Agenda, has been returned to the Senate Archives. This report can be viewed on the Senate website [HERE. The link to the salary tables is included in the report, but they can also be accessed through the following link: (HERE).
Please note that the Report in its entirety is public and may be freely referenced.

On behalf of the University Faculty Senate, I wish to express my sincere appreciation to Betty Harper, Interim Director of the Office of Planning and Institutional Assessment, and Karen O'Brien, Associate Director of Budget and Reporting, for their assistance in restoring public access to the report and tables.

This is an important step and Penn State University is to be lauded for its efforts.

The importance of such data cannot be underestimated.  What follows is an example of the consequences that might flow from failures of data transparency and the importance of transparency for accountability.  It also suggests the difficulties that occur where transparency comes late to an institution, even one with good intentions.  The example relates to recent events at the University of Denver which have been publicly reported. Irrespective any ultimate liability to the university, the important insight is that perhaps greater salary transparency might have reduced the likelihood that the dispute at issue would have taken this course.

EEOC Determines University of Denver Underpays Female Law Profs in Violation of Equal Pay Act

Sept. 1. 2015

ABA J., EEOC: Female Law Profs at University of Denver are Underpaid, Violating Equal Pay Act
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has determined that the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law is violating the Equal Pay Act by paying its female professors less than males.

The EEOC threatened suit over the gender pay gap in a letter sent to the university on Friday, report the Denver Post and KUSA. The agency said pay disparities at the law school appear to be a “continuing pattern” dating back to 1973. To comply with federal law, the university has to boost the wages of female law professors and give them back pay, the letter says.

The EEOC acted in response to a complaint filed by University of Denver law professor Lucy Marsh, whose $109,000 annual salary in 2012 made her the school’s lowest paid full professor. Marsh learned about the salary differences in a 2012 memo from the school dean that discussed merit raises and made salary comparisons.

The memo by law dean Martin Katz indicated that female full professors made $16,000 less on average than male full professors. Katz noted the pay disparity but said salary differences may be due to several factors, including differing merit raises and starting pay.

The law school defended its system of evaluation and merit pay for law professors in a statement by Chancellor Rebecca Chopp. The school  cites a consultant’s findings that pay differences are due to a professor’s rank, duties, age and performance scores. The statement said Marsh’s salary was lower because of her “substandard performance in scholarship, teaching and service.”

Marsh counters that she has won several teaching awards and her Tribal Wills Project was recently recognized by the state supreme court.

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