Addressing issues of gender equity at the University of Rochester is vital to our success as a community. This report, issued by the Commission on Women and Gender Equity in Academia, digs beneath the surface to uncover issues that are obstacles to achieving excellence.
The scope of this report is exceptionally broad. The Commission investigated policies, procedures, and practices all across the University that contribute to a culture of gender equity or that pose obstacles to this goal. We tried to understand what University-level structures shape the lives of women and gender nonconforming faculty and students in our academic community. We did not limit ourselves to one campus or one school or one gender.
However, it was unfortunately beyond the scope of this Commission to thoroughly study staff. Many of the things we report reflect the experience of staff, but each staff cohort will require their own group to evaluate these issues in their specific context. Our Commission worked in parallel with the Students’ Association Task Force to Review Sexual Misconduct Policies; however, our scope was broader than the issues of misconduct and harassment.
This report does not stand alone. This report exists in a long legacy of discrimination and exclusion in academia and in a long line of diversity reports and climate surveys, some of which have not yet been addressed. We did not expect to solve all of these issues in eight months. And ultimately, this report is diagnostic. It asks questions that we weren’t able to answer. It offers suggestions for further data gathering to guide our next steps. It identifies problems that we can’t solve alone. This is just a start. We will continue to work closely with the new University Diversity and Equity Council, identifying areas for improvement, collaboratively developing solutions, implementing ideas, and constantly monitoring and evaluating the University’s progress.
The environment of higher education is changing. What does an equitable, globally engaged, and forward-thinking university look like? For the last several months, we’ve been researching, listening, and advocating. We saw many examples of success but found many areas for improvement. And the more we learned about the problems we were trying to solve, the more difficult it seemed to solve some of them. We found that many of our areas of investigation overlapped and affected one another. Big picture changes are necessary but difficult to implement across our decentralized University. It is complicated. But achieving an equitable and diverse University is vitally important, and complexity cannot be an excuse. The time to act is now, and there is much to do.
Below is a summary of our key findings and major recommendations to date. Because of the complexity of these issues, we have avoided a list of checkboxes with rigid deadlines. Many of these are thematic and transcend the specific sections in the rest of the report. They should not be considered exhaustive or final but are an accurate guide to our main takeaways and a sufficient sampling of the work there is to do.
We support the adoption of the Vision and Values statement. We must hold each other accountable to these principles and integrate them into all of our processes and structures, including recruitment, orientation, evaluation, and promotion.
Decentralization allows us to act quickly to improve our individual schools and units. To this end, we strongly recommend that the University community create unit-specific committees or task forces to address equity on a smaller scale. However, without a set of collective and enforceable goals and values, we leave ourselves vulnerable to inequity. We recommend hiring an outside agency to advise on our institutional structure if this proves difficult.
This includes but is not limited to those governing sexual harassment and misconduct, intimate relationships, disciplinary actions, the grievance process, and hiring.
Existing policies and procedures should be covered during every orientation for faculty, students, and staff. We recommend newly appointed chairs, deans, and supervisors receive additional training. New just-in-time resources should be created for the community.
More financial and structural resources for diversity and equity initiatives are required to achieve these aims. We support the development of a new University Center for Equity that would serve as a central place of authority on these issues. The University must also raise the bar for family-friendly and work-life balance policies.
There should be clear and fair expectations for career development executed by properly monitored promotion and tenure committees. The University should also expand its successful efforts to partner with other institutions nurturing a diverse pipeline. Faculty and student resources for mentoring should be better developed.
We recommend a comprehensive, in-depth study of compensation across the University, preferably undertaken by an outside firm, in order to determine where inequities exist and commit to addressing them. We must achieve an equitable distribution of resources and benefits as well as a fair distribution of responsibilities. Careful attention must also be paid to inclusive benefit practices.
We have a responsibility not only to prevent and address bad behavior but also to model and recognize good behavior. Part of this involves facilitating community building and networking between communities.
For a spectrum of transgressions, there must be a spectrum of responses. At the heart of these responses should be restorative principles that hold people accountable for their actions while taking the necessary steps to repair the harm. We recommend evaluating, restructuring, and ultimately expanding our intercessor and ombuds programs.
A model of shared governance should be promoted whenever possible, including direct lines of communication with stakeholders. Updates to policies, procedures, and programs should be continuously monitored and evaluated with community input and solicited feedback. We recognize the importance of an intersectional approach to these improvements to protect fairness for all aspects of diversity.
The findings and recommendations detailed above are the result of eight months of extensive hard work. Our Commission consisted of faculty, undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and trainees from numerous disciplines and every school in the University. The representatives were selected by their individual units to participate in the Commission. In order to complete the bulk of our work, four working groups were formed, composed of Commission members and community members, including staff when possible.
The four topics covered by the working groups were sexual harassment and misconduct; faculty and student governance; mentoring and equity in compensation and support; and onboarding, retention, and career advancement. We reviewed the existing University reports, data, and academic literature on these subjects as well as thorough benchmarking, exploration of current policies and practices, and extensive interviews with community members and, in some instances, peer institutions.
Not only have we been reading and researching, but we have also been working with individual stakeholders and other University groups to start enacting change. We eagerly participated in the Faculty Senate’s review of the Intimate Relationships policy and had a Commission member serve on the Senate’s ad hoc committee. We have actively engaged in the conversations and decisions about how to move forward with the recommendations from the Independent Investigation, including releasing a formal response to them. Most recently, two of our members have joined the University Diversity and Equity Council, and others have joined committees to review policy changes and focus groups to consider training options.
This report offers a summary of our findings and initial recommendations, although our work will continue as the University moves forward.
In the wake of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint in fall 2017, there was a call from the Office of the President to form a Commission on Gender, much in the same way the Commission on Race and Diversity was formed. This approach raised considerable concern that such a group, answering directly to the administration, would not be trusted to be independent in its investigations or reporting. Therefore, student and faculty members were selected by individual units and schools according to their own processes. The membership of the Commission is shown in Table A.
In our initial meeting, we held a lengthy discussion about how to manage conflicts of interest within the group, whether around topics or with interview subjects. We based conflict of interest management plan on the plan utilized by the National Institutes of Health. We also created a simple governing document for ourselves that ensured proper expectations for the group and outlined how we would make decisions as a group. Both of these can be found in the Appendix.
The Commission spent its first meeting discussing our purpose and charge. It quickly became clear that finding ways to improve the process of reporting sexual harassment and misconduct was not enough. We wanted to prevent this misconduct and create a culture that actively promotes gender equity. Our self-defined purpose and charge was posted on our website and is shown below.
To lead the University of Rochester community in researching and recommending gender equitable policies and practices that promote a culture of respect, inclusiveness, and equal opportunity for individuals across the gender spectrum.
Specific to the academic settings of the University of Rochester, the Commission’s charge is to:
Assess the status of individuals across the gender spectrum but with particular attention to women and LGBTQIA+ members. Assess how current policies, practices, norms, and campus climate affect their experience in positive and negative ways.
Identify shortfalls and exemplars regarding the University’s performance in establishing and achieving gender equity goals within a structure of power that places some individuals across all gender identities in positions of vulnerability.
Propose strategies to implement best practices that are nondiscriminatory based on gender and will contribute to institutionalizing gender equity throughout the University.
Be accountable to the University of Rochester community (e.g., students, faculty, staff, alumni) for presenting fair and independent findings.
Educate the University of Rochester community to promote the institutionalization of gender equity and improvements in the status of women and LGBTQIA+ individuals at the University.
Remain active as a Commission to monitor implementation of our recommendations.
In order to tackle the breadth of topics defined in our purpose, four working groups were created. Each working group had several Commission members as well as additional faculty, staff, and students who met regularly to research, discuss, and investigate these issues. The working groups’ topics and their membership are shown in Table B.
Each working group used a similar process. We started with a broad review of the literature and sought best practices from the research. Our sources included primary literature and social sciences research as well as perspective pieces from experts in the field and news articles from reputable sources such as the Chronicle of Higher Education. We also reviewed the policies on campus and any prior work done here at Rochester, including previously collected benchmarking data. Using this information, additional targeted benchmarking was undertaken with the help of a paid undergraduate assistant, Joseph Stephens ’18 from the College. We are grateful for the research support from the River Campus Libraries. Using this background research, the Commission conducted more than 90 interviews across campus and with outside institutions to gather qualitative data and better understand the experience of everyone in our community. The Commission met as a full group twice a month to discuss our topics, share findings, generate ideas, and redirect our efforts. We were provided outstanding administrative support by Libby Barth from the Office of the Provost and are grateful for her talents in navigating the University.
Our work was deeply informed and inspired by the more than 300 stories, suggestions, and ideas that we received from across the University. These stories came from students, faculty, alumni, and staff members, in nearly equal numbers. Some of these stories were also from community members who left the University because of hostile working conditions. Their perspectives were particularly useful in our prioritization of problems to investigate, but all of the stories informed our questions, advocacy, and conclusions.
We also worked hard not to reinvent the wheel. We actively sought prior work in these areas and carefully reviewed it. We also sought collaboration with the offices on campus already doing similar work and with the other groups empowered to make change after the EEOC complaint, including the Title IX Office, the Office of Counsel, the Faculty Senate, the Office of Faculty Development and Diversity, the Students’ Association Task Force to Review Sexual Misconduct Policies, and the new University Diversity and Equity Council.
Although this report is primarily diagnostic, we’ve already been working hard to address some of the issues identified through meetings, discussions, sharing feedback, and direct advocacy. Below are a few key areas where the Commission has already made some progress.
Created space for feedback: One of our main functions over the last several months was to serve as a place for people to go with their ideas, feedback, and concerns. People from all over the University community, including numerous staff members, felt comfortable sharing their stories and feedback with us through email, in-person discussions, and our online feedback form. They expressed a need for this kind of outlet, a place to go when they weren’t sure where to go. We took this seriously and responded to as many of these stories as we could. We have also started a listening tour with various constituencies across the University, including intercessors, ombudspersons, Human Resources, Postdoctoral Association, the College Diversity Roundtable, Eastman students, the Laboratory for Laser Energetics, the Department of Biology, and various groups at the School of Medicine and Dentistry. Additionally, we met with the restorative justice consultants who have been working with Arts, Sciences, & Engineering. This feedback was often anonymously shared in our meetings with the administration in order to illustrate our position.
Shared community feedback: The valuable feedback we received from the community was anonymously and carefully shared with numerous stakeholders on campus as we discussed and presented our findings throughout the process. Formal presentations were made at Faculty Senate meetings and for several other groups on campus, and numerous meetings were held with the Title IX Office and the Office of Counsel. This was an opportunity both to share our findings and the feedback from the community and to ensure that we had an accurate idea of the policy landscape at the University. Finally, we met with DeEtta Jones & Associates, the consulting firm hired by the University to advise on the development of a potential new Office for Equity.
Responded to the Independent Investigation: Although the focus of this Commission was not the specific incident that led to the EEOC complaint last fall, we were ready to comment on the recommendations made by Mary Jo White and her team in their Report on the Independent Investigation. We met with the writers of the report as well as the Board of Trustees Special Committee that oversaw the investigation, and we released a response to the recommendations contained in the Report. Overall, we agreed with the recommendations put forth by the Independent Investigation, but we don’t believe they go far enough to solve the problems on campus. Since that time, we’ve been working actively with the administration on the implementation of the recommendations while also advocating for stronger measures.
Collaborated on the Intimate Relationships Policy: Cochair of the Commission, Amy Lerner, served as a liaison for the Commission on the committee to revise the Intimate Relationships Policy in the Faculty Handbook. This may have been the first time a collaborative committee including both faculty and graduate students had been formed to review and revise a Faculty Handbook policy. We were also pleased to host a feedback form about the proposed policy revisions on our website. The updated policy was approved by the Faculty Senate on April 10, 2018, and is awaiting administrative and Board approval.
Hosted an International Women’s Day Event: The Commission hosted a panel of four local women activists to discuss advocacy and womanhood in a celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8. This occasion is celebrated extensively in many other parts of the world, and it was gratifying to bring some of that spirit to campus.
Participated in the development of the University Vision and Values statement: In addition to providing our own personal feedback on the first draft, we met with representatives from the committee that developed the statement in order to discuss our thoughts and perspectives on the purpose and language. Ultimately, much of our feedback was incorporated into the final statement.
Assisted in the formation of the University Diversity and Equity Council: Cochairs Amy Lerner and Antoinette Esce were part of early meetings that led to the development of the new University Diversity and Equity Council and currently serve on its executive committee.
Sent representatives to the Policy 106 Committee: Policy 106 is the University policy that regulates the handling of complaints concerning harassment and discrimination against protected classes. Commission member Colleen Davis has been actively participating in the efforts to revise Policy 106 as the Commission’s representative. This committee will continue meeting in the coming months as they incorporate the recent suggestions into this important policy.
Hosted a workshop at the Diversity Conference: Most recently, the Commission hosted a workshop during the annual Diversity Conference, where we led a town hall discussion on the Commission’s main findings and specifically on the potential “Center for Equity” that may be developed. The event was well attended and provided extremely useful feedback for the Commission, which was passed on to DeEtta Jones & Associates.
The year 2017 will surely be remembered as a year when the issues of sexual harassment and misconduct became a public conversation nationally, with hundreds of women coming forward with stories from the entertainment industry, government, businesses, and academia. The University of Rochester was certainly not alone when the EEOC complaint was made public in September, and the input we have received suggests that it was not an isolated occurrence here.
TestimonialI and many other women have experienced sexual harassment at this University, only to bring it to our mentors and directors to have it swept under the rug. Additionally, many of us have been given the reason "that's just how he is," or "he doesn't mean anything by it."
Sexual harassment and misconduct are highly prevalent in academia. According to a survey by the Association of American Universities, between 50 and 75 percent of undergraduate female students indicate that they have been victims of sexual harassment, though the rates of reporting are much lower1Cantor, David et al. “Report on the AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct. (2015). Similar numbers are found for graduate students, and the consequences can be severe, including post-traumatic symptoms and feelings of institutional betrayal2Rosenthal, M., Smidt, A. and Freyd, J. “Still Second Class: Sexual Harassment of Graduate Students.” (2016). Psychology of Women Quarterly 40(3), 364-377.. Among faculty, the numbers are also high, and many describe it as a reason for leaving academia3Martinez, L. O’Brien, K. and Hebl, M. “Fleeing the Ivory Tower: Gender Differences in the Turnover Experiences of Women Faculty” (2017). Journal of Women’s Health 26(5), 580 – 586.. Variation in prevalence is due, in part, to variation in academic department and university norms, policies, and practices. Critically, the underrepresentation of women in a specific department was related to increased odds of gender-based harassment occurring within that department4Kabat-Farr, D., & Cortina, L. M. (2014). Sex-based harassment in employment: New insights into gender and context. Law and Human Behavior, 38(1), 58-72.. Studies have also shown that the nature of the harassment is not limited to verbal behavior, with as many as half of the cases involving unwelcome physical contact and many involving serial harassers5Cantalupo, Nancy Chi, and William C. Kidder. "A Systematic Look at a Serial Problem: Sexual Harassment of Students by University Faculty." (2017)..
These rates of harassment and abuse are even higher for the LGBTQIA+ community, nearly 40 percent of whom report being harassed at their institution because of their gender identity. LGBTQIA+ students, as well as faculty and staff, were much more likely than their counterparts to consider leaving their institution due to experiencing or fearing physical and psychological harassment, discrimination, and violence related to their sexual identity.
TestimonialIn my case, a tenured professor repeatedly sexually harassed me for all four years that I was there. This forced me to stop signing up for any of his courses, avoiding meeting with him, and even changing my post-graduation plans because I had to refuse the job offer he had made. I sought advice from my mentor; however, she advised me that if I reported anything, it would end up tarnishing my reputation . . .
In fact, sexual harassment in academia has received extensive attention lately, with a National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine Committee to review the Impacts of Sexual Harassment in Academia, initiatives at the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and many other professional organizations. State and federal policies remain in flux, adding to the confusion and difficulty keeping training and rules current. In spite of the attention, many challenges remain in identifying and implementing appropriate policies, procedures, and cultural changes that may reduce the prevalence and impact of harassment.
Misconduct proved one of the most common themes in the feedback that we received from the community by email or through personal conversations. We heard from numerous individuals about their experiences, ranging from degrading comments heard in campus hallways to unwanted propositions from a professor or fellow student to outright sexual assault or stalking. Their memories were painful and the impact long lasting. We heard from current students, faculty, and staff as well as several alumni and former employees, some of whom left because of the impact of this experience. Some of these individuals tried very hard to work through our system to obtain a fair resolution, while others feared coming forward because of the risks to their academic careers. In numerous cases, their descriptions suggest a misunderstanding of the process that might have been used had they come forward or a failure on the part of their supervisors or others to provide them appropriate guidance toward a satisfactory resolution of the problem. We also heard from those who had been accused of harassment or misconduct, who also shared frustration with the process and urged us to consider their experiences as well.
In addition, we heard from many that the issues of harassment go far beyond those of a sexual nature but also include general bullying, disrespect, and unprofessional conduct. Much of this behavior exists within the inherent power imbalances in many parts of the University, and the stories shared are a good reminder that improving the overall climate and addressing the broader issues of gender inequity are central to effectively addressing harassment and misconduct.
TestimonialI endured six years of bullying at the hands of a former colleague. I asked HR for help, and I did receive some advice, but the problem was mine to address. When I finally talked to my Dean about what I had endured, I was leaving the department, and she really didn’t care. It has taken me nearly a year to feel less angry about what I experienced. I just don’t want to see other women go through what I did.
Our review of the literature, benchmarking, and the situation at the University of Rochester identified many gaps in our handling of these concerns, including clarity of specific policies; training mechanisms; and procedures for investigation, adjudication, and communication. Specifically, we identified the following key areas that warrant further attention:
Clarify and improve policies against discrimination and harassment: Policy 106 is the HR policy that governs handling of complaints of harassment and discrimination against protected classes. It is legalistic in tone and thus very challenging for individuals to interpret without trained advisors. We believe it should be revised to include (1) examples of acts that may constitute harassment, (2) a range of discipline or other remedial actions that may be taken, (3) a bystander clause that encourages other parties to report violations, and (4) a shift toward an adjudication process that involves more than a single decision maker for each case. For example, several institutions (Yale University, Princeton University, Ithaca College, Lawrence University, Cornell University, Swarthmore College) have adopted university-wide committees to review cases. Such panels would require consistent and appropriate training and should be composed of a carefully selected body of students, faculty, and staff to offer independent review. This system offers a broader perspective than can be offered by a single department chair or supervisor. The policy should also convey clear methods to identify and address repeated offenses by an individual. We are pleased that a committee has been formed to work on revisions to this policy and will have a representative from the Commission to continue to monitor its implementation.
Identify options to manage harassment that doesn’t meet the legal definition: Policy 106 emphasizes the legal definitions for harassment, thus only addressing severe and pervasive offenses. It does not currently offer solutions or procedures to address lesser offenses that are still inconsistent with our University’s values. It remains unclear whether this warrants a new policy, development of restorative justice practices, changes within the existing Policy 106, or integration with a University-wide code of conduct. Regardless, we strongly recommend that there be a clear spectrum of responses proportional to the spectrum of potential violations. These options must consider the experiences of all involved parties, including the claimant, respondent, and any bystanders who may be affected by the situation.
Provide greater access to advisors, ombuds, and intercessors: Because the process of reporting, investigating, and adjudicating claims of harassment is complex and stressful, it is critical that all affected parties be offered access to advisors. These advisors must be appropriately trained to understand the legal and psycho-social implications of harassing behaviors. There is currently considerable confusion about the roles of the intercessors; the availability of advisors; and the confidentiality, purpose, and independence of these positions. We strongly recommend a thorough evaluation and adjustment of these roles with the intention of providing appropriate and effective advice for anyone involved in these processes. Our continued partnership with independent organizations such as RESTORE will also offer the affected parties options to address their concerns as they decide how to proceed with their individual complaints.
Improve intimate relationships management: Intimate relationships that involve power imbalances are at the heart of some, but by no means all, harassment claims. Therefore, it is important that we adopt policies that reduce the harm that may arise from such relationships. The Commission was involved in the Faculty Senate’s recent efforts to revise the Intimate Relationships policy in the Faculty Handbook. This new policy, yet to be approved by the Board of Trustees, prohibits relationships between faculty members and others over whom they exercise academic authority. Although this approach is consistent with newly revised policies at other universities, the overall effort is nowhere near complete. We need to draft and implement consistent policies for student and trainee handbooks at all levels, and we encourage inclusion of this topic in all training for newly appointed instructors and teaching assistants. We must clarify the distinctions between the Intimate Relationships policy in the Faculty Handbook and HR Policy 121, which covers conflicting relationships between employees. We must also recognize that exceptions will be needed for consensual relationships that exist between faculty members, or as one party is promoted (or graduates) to a higher rank within the academic institution. For such exceptions, the Intimate Relationships policy in the Faculty Handbook has required a management plan. It is unclear how many of these have been filed, and no consistent procedures define what must be included. Management plan templates should be made available online so that all affected parties understand what is required. This allows everyone to easily abide by the policy rather than hiding their relationship and risking future problems. Finally, it will be important to develop specific procedures for monitoring adherence to the policies and periodic checks on existing management plans, perhaps consistent with annual conflict of interest reporting.
Offer clarity of disciplinary options, including those for faculty: In cases of harassment or violations of professional and respectful conduct, it will be critical to ensure that we provide clarity on what types of disciplinary actions may be taken. We must find a way to offer greater transparency to all members of the community without violating the privacy of those involved in a complaint. We encourage the consideration of restorative justice options as well as the development of a clear policy for sanctions that may be applied to tenured faculty. Given that there may be variations in the relevant sanctions for various units or types of faculty, some local tailoring of disciplinary options is reasonable, but there must be transparency in what can be done. In addition, it is crucial that the design of these disciplinary actions takes into account the rights of other affected parties, such as students who may be harmed by limitations placed on their faculty mentors.
Address options for grievance procedures: Cases of harassment and misconduct present special situations that may result in grievances about the process or outcome. The current grievance policy for faculty, which has been recently revised by the Faculty Senate, focuses on disputes involving topics like academic freedom, teaching loads, or conflicts of interest. We propose that this policy be reviewed in parallel to the Policy 106 revisions to ensure that it can appropriately manage issues that arise from concerns related to harassment. In addition, Policy 160, which applies to staff, may warrant a similar review to check for fairness and consistency in procedures. It is also important that we continue to monitor and evaluate our current and future policies for effectiveness and areas of improvement. We recommend that all participants in a complaint process be provided with the option of anonymous feedback.
Improve training, instructions, and resources: Recent legal reforms have mandated training related to harassment and sexual misconduct; however, there is widespread dissatisfaction within the community with respect to the online training that has been offered to date. The Commission is working with HR to review alternatives to this training, and we are pleased to see collaboration on the selection and final implementation of a new training process. While a basic level of meaningful training is critical, it will be necessary to allow for customization of the material to keep it relevant to the widely varying workplaces and academic structures across the University. Online training offers convenience with respect to compliance but may not be the most effective method for delivery. We recommend that online training be considered only a bare minimum measure and should be supplemented with periodic opportunities for in-person, active learning methods, complete with opportunities for targeted questions and dialogue, as well as regular evaluations of the training’s reception and effectiveness. Since department chairs and other supervisors play a critical role in reporting and managing claims related to harassment, we must develop targeted training for these individuals.
TestimonialAs students and postdocs, we often feel we have no power in the situation and are uncomfortable speaking up. I think a seminar on how to politely tell your boss to stop making sexist comments would be very useful.
Develop just-in-time resources: We need to develop just-in-time resources for all affected parties—victims of harassment, accused parties, supervisors, and bystanders. These resources may include a mix of flowcharts, additional online training, detailed procedures, and consultants who may be able to answer questions as problems arise. The materials must be in clear, friendly language, free of legalistic jargon, and should be easily accessible from many different possible starting points. New materials on the University’s Culture of Respect web pages are a positive step in this direction. Refinement and appropriate placement of these materials will require review by many different members of the community to ensure the appropriateness of the language, the message, and the ease in finding it.
Reinforce Vision and Values to promote a change in culture: As articulated in the new MELIORA values statement, we must emphasize respect and accountability and find ways to foster our vision for an equitable community. It is our hope that a University-wide affirmation of shared values will help create a culture of respect, will encourage positive behaviors, and will help community members redirect others when they fail to meet these values. It will take a concerted effort to integrate these values into the entire community.
Expand training to foster prevention: Most training related to harassment has focused on reaction rather than prevention. We propose that mandatory training be expanded to include more focus on respectful behavior, overcoming implicit bias, and other aspects of a welcoming climate. This may include ways to reinforce the vision and values of the University.
Aggregate reporting to monitor progress: To demonstrate how seriously the University is taking harassment and misconduct, we believe it will be helpful to provide anonymized aggregate reporting of the handling of all reported claims of harassment and sexual misconduct. While the Clery Act requires reporting of certain aspects of crime and misconduct, some universities have chosen to go much further than this (such as Cornell University, Stanford University, Yale University) to show the nature of the claims as well as the progress in adjudication and response. These reports do not share specific personal details but rather indicate what type of community members were involved (faculty, students, staff) and examples of mandated training or disciplinary actions taken. This transparency offers an opportunity for individuals to see that claims are not ignored and that fair outcomes can result. Since other universities have provided such reports for several years, we recommend reaching out to them to learn from their experiences about the potential consequences and benefits of this approach.
Check in with community members for monitoring and evaluation: For cultural change to take place, and for improvements in our overall process to occur, we must implement a system to monitor our successes and shortcomings. As policy changes are made and new procedures are implemented, it will be important to monitor if they are working and identify needed improvements by following up with all who are involved in the complaint process. The Commission’s work has identified numerous cases where individuals attempted to follow existing procedures but were unsatisfied enough that they left or lost their trust in the University. We must ensure that both the complainant and respondent believe that they have been treated fairly in our procedures. Even if dissatisfaction may be the result of a misunderstanding of process or outcome, we must understand how these impressions impact the overall diversity and climate of our campus. It will also be critical to monitor our success in providing training and changing the overall culture on campus. We recommend that periodic surveys or “check-ins” be considered to gauge the sense of the community members with respect to harassment and their familiarity with procedures.
Because of the complexity and multifaceted support required in the handling and prevention of sexual harassment and misconduct, we recommend the development of a single center that can provide services, resources, and training for all affected parties. Similar centers, often referred to as SHARE centers (Sexual Harassment and Assault Resource and Education) are in place at Yale, Ithaca College, and other institutions. These centers attend to the needs of students, faculty, and staff, so that there is no need for individuals to struggle to identify the right office during a time of great stress. They offer counseling, reporting, access to medical attention, and resources for overall healing and other social needs. The investigation and adjudication of harassment claims may be coordinated by the center, with the management of independent investigators and the inclusion of a university-wide committee for decision making. Such a center may ultimately be a physical entity, perhaps in a neutral location to reduce stigma associated with a visit to the site. However, the approach might also be implemented with satellite offices or in a virtual online presence that is well connected to all divisions across our websites. Due to the critical multifaceted expertise required, this center would also be the optimal unit to develop, implement, and monitor training materials for the University. Such a center would need substantial resources as well as accountability to many different parts of the University, including Human Resources and academic units in each school as well as clinical departments. Therefore, it may be appropriately administered by the possible Center for Equity. Defining the structure of the center and optimizing it for our decentralized University will take careful thought, but we believe it could be a promising solution to provide improved support for all members of our University community.
A recurring theme in the stories we heard from the community was a lament for the ripple effects caused by harassment, exclusion, inequity, and other harms. The Commission reflected on these negative community repercussions at length, attempting to find ways in the literature or at other institutions not only to address and prevent the harm but to heal from it. The concept of restorative practice takes this idea to heart; it is an interdisciplinary field of social science that seeks ways to build healthy communities and reduce harmful practices. A subset of this philosophy is restorative justice, which focuses specifically on crimes or misconduct and how to reach a satisfying, rehabilitative, healing reconciliation for the offending party, the victim, and the community at large. This very notion often feels like a stark change from traditional forms of criminal justice that focus solely on punitive measures.
It is important to note that a necessary piece of restorative justice is to actively build trust with the harmed individual or group. For minor transgressions, this process isn’t terribly complicated, but for more serious or complicated cases, this process can take months. However, this act of bringing people to the table has value in itself, as it requires fully listening to both parties, addressing underlying unmet needs, and truly understanding the core of the issue. It is imperative there be explicit and clear statements about what a participant should expect when they engage in restorative justice, such as confidentiality and protection from retaliation.
A few places across the University already attempt to integrate these restorative practices into their procedures. The Center for Student Conflict Management in the College promotes the use of restorative practices for undergraduate student conflicts, including some misconduct cases. Tha Gandhi Institute also offers numerous courses and trainings on restorative practices and nonviolent communication. However, for most University community members, mechanisms of community healing following harm are nonexistent or unclear, at best.
More recently, the College brought a team of restorative practice consultants to campus to lead meetings focused on community healing, talk with stakeholders, and offer advice on how to incorporate these practices into our conduct systems. Specifically, the Commission finds this approach compelling for violations and offenses that do not rise to the legal definition of harassment, as defined in Policy 106. Issues below the legal threshold are too often dismissed, leaving us with missed opportunities to improve our workplaces, communities, and culture. We identify several key areas that warrant attention:
Approach leadership with restorative practices: Restorative practice focuses on human relationships, building social capital, creating healthy communities—all productive and preventive measures for creating a healthy learning and working environment. Strategies consistent with this approach include restorative circles to check in, focusing on the needs of the community in addition to individual needs, and approaching conflicts with the intention of healing instead of just correcting.
Incorporate restorative justice principles into our response to misconduct: Regardless of the ultimate spectrum of consequences developed to respond to the range of misconduct and unprofessional behavior, restorative justice principles should be incorporated into the formal approach. Often, these actions affect more than the two parties involved. They have widespread and sometimes lingering effects on the entire community. Actions that attempt to repair this harm are not mutually exclusive from actions that hold parties accountable and, in fact, are often synergistic. Furthermore, restorative principles can be used to identify and address underlying structural problems in our community that make an individual feel unwelcome.
For the last decade, our overall student body has been about half women, and in 2016 our overall faculty was 34.7 percent women and 79.4 percent white. For both students and faculty, these numbers vary considerably from school to school, with the Hajim School of Engineering & Applied Sciences and Simon Business School being considerably more male, and the Warner School of Education and the School of Nursing being overwhelmingly female. Similar inconsistencies also exist among departments within each academic unit. Thus, studies must consider these variations in order to allow a full picture of the diversity each member of our community might experience.
Creating a diverse community first requires diverse recruiting at all levels of the pipeline, from students and trainees to faculty and administrative hiring. While our hiring policies and procedures appear to be within the standard of best practice, there is no robust mechanism for monitoring, evaluating, and holding departments and committees accountable to these policies. A review of our recruitment practices suggests several key areas that warrant attention.
Address best practices for recruiting a diverse faculty: The University of Rochester explicitly promotes best practices in most areas except in diversifying the criteria for a candidate’s viability beyond traditional measures. The Office of Faculty Development and Diversity promotes many of these practices and tracks several outcomes. However, institutional resources and a formal policy/procedure to evaluate progress is lacking.
Commit resources commensurate with the magnitude of the effort: Compared to peer institutions, the University of Rochester has limited funding and personnel dedicated to diversity initiatives. The University should increase financial and nonfinancial resources for diversity offices, which require considerably more personnel and financial investment to succeed in recruiting a diverse population of students, postdocs, trainees, faculty, and staff. Limited resources are also an issue in our efforts to nurture a diverse pipeline and offer financial aid.
Expand efforts to use best practices for nurturing a diverse pipeline: Some schools within the University have established clear pipeline programs and/or have established connections with other institutions, schools, and programs focused on diversity. This is a clear area where we can build on early successes. The University should also look at the way we recruit individuals who would add to our diversity and conduct a systematic review of reasons why these candidates choose not to attend or accept a position.
Address the representation of gender nonconforming individuals: The University diversity reports tracks gender as a binary in its demographic reports. While these individuals likely make up a small part of our faculty and student body, we cannot welcome and support them if we do not know they are here. We recommend tracking and reporting nonbinary gender identities as part of our yearly diversity reports as well as allowing more flexibility in how individuals can identify themselves. We further suggest considering tracking sexual orientation as well.
Best practices for recruiting women and gender minorities are similar to those suggested for recruiting racially diverse faculty6Hurtado, Sylvia, et al. "Assessing the value of climate assessments: Progress and future directions." Journal of Diversity in Higher Education 1.4 (2008): 204.. Several factors are key: (1) expanding the applicant pool via outreach and fewer time-limited searches, (2) expanding the criteria for acceptance beyond traditional measures in ways that are important to the field, (3) focus more attention to diversity in the job ad and search process, (4) training search committee members on best practices, and (5) cultivating a healthy campus culture.
Expanding the applicant pool will require a commitment to longer hiring timelines as well as more readily available resources for smaller departments whose limited budgets preclude their ability to properly recruit. While there are several University-wide programs that help promote diverse recruiting, they are under-resourced and inconsistently utilized. To promote diversity in the search process, the University could use Faculty Recruitment Action Plans, which are utilized by search committees at other universities (e.g., Tulane). They contain direct questions about the nature of the position, gender and racial composition of the search committee, recruitment action specifics, and recruitment barriers which can be used to better equip or advise the search ahead of time. It is imperative that our recruitment practices are tracked and search committees are held accountable for their strategies.
It is important to note that faculty-level searches are conducted by individual departments and vary significantly depending on the nature of the position and department. University Policy 133 provides guidelines for hiring staff members, but there does not appear to be a formal policy associated with faculty hiring, thus allowing this sort of inconsistency to continue. Such a policy could set minimum standards for timelines, advertising, or interview practices. For instance, in most basic science departments, there will be multiple applicants for one position and a search committee must evaluate them; in contrast, in some clinical positions, there are insufficient applicants to fill the position, and the position is often advertised online until it is filled, without a search committee. Thus, some of the recommendations may not be universally applicable or practical. However, for senior-level positions (e.g., program director, chief, dean, etc.), where the individual choice sets the tone for a great many other decisions, a nationwide search should be done, with consideration to gender diversity.
In general, the student body is more gender diverse than the faculty, but as one looks up the levels of training or across different disciplines, disparities re-emerge. The particular factors that are important in the case of students, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and trainees undoubtedly depend on the individual and their needs, but in the aggregate, policies that make the environment attractive to a diverse population will help with recruiting that population. Best practices suggest that building partnerships with feeder institutions, investigating and addressing the reasons that people do not apply or accept offers, explicitly stating a commitment to diversity, and providing financial aid are all key.
Several schools have developed partnerships with other institutions or programs in order to increase their pool of diverse applicants, including the School of Medicine and Dentistry and the College. This model should be more widely considered and adopted. We also recommend the opportunity for anonymous feedback from students and trainees who decide not to accept our offers of admission in order to understand their reasons for not attending. The Commission supports the recent effort to articulate our community values, and we recommend that our commitment to diversity and equity be explicitly stated when recruiting students. Finally, as with faculty recruiting, success in this area will require more resources for scholarships, programming, and support.
The Commission was limited in its ability to investigate the issues that staff face with recruitment and hiring. However, many of the best practices and recommendations outlined here apply for staff as well. Notably, University Policy 133 will need to be updated to demonstrate a commitment to longer hiring timelines and a more diverse candidate pool. We are encouraged by the addition of Kevin Beckford as the first senior director for staff diversity, equity, and inclusion. His focused attention on initiatives to address equity in recruitment, compensation, and staff development are important and urgently needed.
One of the defining themes of the stories and conversations we heard was a frustration with support and opportunities for career advancement. For example, women reported feeling marginalized in their positions or undervalued for their service contributions. Some felt unsupported by their communities or couldn’t see prospects for their advancement. Equally important to recruiting a diverse faculty, staff, and student body is retention. Since students, faculty, and staff who do not feel properly supported in their career advancement will find another place to learn and grow, these two topics are interrelated.
Best practices suggest that departments seeking to retain and promote a diverse workforce should address issues of personal needs (promoting a culture that allows for work-life balance), organizational culture (helping create a welcoming peer community that upholds the value of diversity and making sure that success does not require accessing informal social networks), and development (the presence of women role models, mentoring, and career development plans as well as pipeline development). Some key areas that warrant attention include:
Presentation of values and philosophy: In many cases, the information on diversity, or a “diversity statement” that is not integrated with mission and vision, is located on a separate diversity page or on a link that leads to HR. It often takes multiple clicks, in a nonintuitive path, to get to the information. In addition, there are so many different statements available that it is hard to form a coherent picture. This has the effect of “siloing” diversity and making it seem like an “add-on” rather than a central value. Efforts should be made to integrate these values at the University and the departmental levels. Intense efforts must be taken to embed the values and philosophy of the school into the organization’s culture and expectations for career advancement. The new Vision and Values statement is a step in the right direction.
Revise annual evaluation process to incorporate values and philosophy: Currently, the annual review process involves formulaic self-reporting of professional/career-related activities. These reviews should be broadened to include statements about diversity-related efforts (a practice currently in place at other institutions). Furthermore, these annual reviews should include individualized discussions about career enhancement, professional development activities, and aspirations for faculty and staff.
Addressing the work-life question: Properly supporting work-life balance through an intentional institutional culture of intergenerational family-friendly policies is essential for retaining and attracting a diverse community. This topic is addressed in greater detail in the Work-Life Balance section.
Considering peer community: Many of the schools within the University uphold the value of creating a peer community. However, they do not often describe steps or contain programs that would foster this community. As this sense of belonging is key to retention, programs should try to address this explicitly.
Mentoring and professional development: Most programs place heavy responsibility on the student, trainee, or junior faculty member to seek out mentoring and do not incentivize or require this mentoring. Furthermore, a lack of representation of women and others in leadership at the University creates a barrier for equitable mentoring for our minority students, trainees, and junior faculty. We recommend that our mentoring programs be expanded, incentivized, and better funded and that we actively support leadership development programs for our diverse community.
Clear expectations for career advancement: Most degree programs have clear expectations for student advancement; however, expectations for promotion and tenure vary from being absent to being clearly stated with explicit examples. In some cases, departments appear to have unwritten but strict rules about the requirements of tenure or promotion. For faculty without strong mentoring support, these unwritten rules may be unclear or applied inconsistently. Faculty handbooks are devoid of information about how current expectations are in line with best practices for career advancement and retention of a diverse faculty. This ambiguity makes our faculty and trainees vulnerable to unfair treatment. Faculty handbooks require significant overhauling in line with the recommendations of the 2015 Focus Group on Faculty Promotion. We recommend that each school consider implementing all recommendations and focus on how their handbooks align with best practices for career advancement and retention of a diverse faculty.
TestimonialAs a staff member who has credentials and experience in higher education, I have been overlooked for positions here at the Institution because there was a “male that was being groomed” for the position. Staff who had more education and on-the-job experience at UR were overlooked for someone else who was the “selected” person. Sometimes this may be a woman, but often it is a man. A culture that offers opportunities to grow and become leaders is important.
Properly monitor promotion and tenure committees: Similar to best practices for search committees, we suggest central monitoring of the diversity and practices of these departmental-level committees. Where a department is too homogeneous to allow for adequate diversity on a committee, we suggest including additional ad hoc members from adjacent departments to evaluate candidates.
Revise and improve the grievance process: Department chairs, administrators, and Human Resources must provide competent, caring, and confidential handling of grievances by faculty, staff, and students. The messages of “there’s nothing we can do” and “cope or leave” are unacceptable. We received numerous stories from faculty who are no longer here because of similar excuses. Addressing this problem will involve better training of supervisors (including department chairs), an overhaul of the intercessors’ and ombuds’ offices, and increased resources and personnel for Human Resources. We want every member of our community to be able to come forward safely and confidently, knowing that we’ll work with them to improve the workplace environment.
Devote more resources to diversity initiatives: Compared to peer institutions, the University appears to spend considerably less on diversity initiatives, despite our community’s continued demonstrated need for these resources. For example, Yale announced a $50 million plan to diversify its faculty, while Brown University announced a $100 million plan to promote diversity and confront inequity. Faculty and staff diversity officers should not operate on a duties-as-assigned basis, and extra compensation should be provided when extra work is involved, especially if these officers have other full-time responsibilities.
Urgent need for postdoctoral training and professional development: Survey data suggests that postdoctoral fellows and trainees, such as residents, are often lacking in mentorship opportunities, networking opportunities, comprehensive professional development opportunities, and knowledge of basic resources available to postdocs. There is also a general feeling among postdocs that the University generally supports postdoc career aspirations but does not support all aspects of the postdoc work-life balance. The welfare of postdocs is an area for improvement by the University since a lack of training and mentorship can make it difficult for postdocs to advance into tenure-track positions7Davis, G. (2005). Doctors without orders. American Scientist, 93(3), S1-13.8National Academies of Sciences, E., & Medicine. (2018). The Next Generation of Biomedical and Behavioral Sciences Researchers: Breaking Through. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press..
Once people have been recruited, effective orientation to the institution is necessary to promote success. Orientation programs are used to increase knowledge, skills, and abilities for new hires while also serving the dual purpose of socialization to culture, values, goals, norms, and practices. The activities of orientation can be organized into three categories: practical (e.g., health insurance, ID, and child care), cultural (establishing person-organization fit), and social (allowing members of the community to establish social bonds that support the individual).
In general, orientations at the University of Rochester seem to effectively address the practical needs, with compliance and legal information primarily addressed through the general onboarding program. An exception to this is that orientations do not seem to address the practical needs of caregivers (e.g., information about lactation stations, diaper-changing facilities, childcare, and eldercare). To varying degrees, University orientations neglect the all-important social and cultural orientations, notably adequately expressing a commitment to diversity. We reviewed orientation and onboarding documents across the University, which varied immensely in comprehensiveness, effectiveness, and availability between schools and units. While University Policy 130 addresses the general onboarding program that is required for all new and rehired staff, most orienting happens in the individual departments, units, and schools. Key areas for improvement that warrant attention include:
Centralizing onboarding resources: Complementing in-person orientations, the University could benefit from a web-based onboarding resource page that could provide easily accessible cultural, social, and practical orientation information. While not replacing an important in-person orientation, these resources would be available as needed for new members of the community. There should be information about University policies, procedures, and compliance information, as well as links to resources and policies relevant to underrepresented minorities and primary caregivers (e.g., childcare options, on-campus locations for lactation stations and diaper changing stations); on- and off-campus resources; and resources in the greater Rochester community. This resource page should be developed and revised with feedback from the University community and could contain specific resources depending on school or unit and whether the individual is a faculty member, student, trainee, or staff member.
Orientation for new academic and administrative leadership: Academic and administrative leaders serve an important role to the University. While onboarding is especially needed for new, external University hires, it is important to note that practical, cultural, and social onboarding is also necessary for individuals who are internally promoted to new positions, including deans, directors, and chairs. Our findings suggest that internally promoted individuals do not receive adequate onboarding, including practical job training. Rather, they often learn about their position while on the job. Inadequate onboarding can lead to conflict, miscommunications, and uncertainty about job expectations down the line. This lack of support contributes to many of the other issues outlined in this report.
Orientation for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows: At this stage, mentoring and orienting is even more important, as trainees at any level are in the midst of being socialized to their disciplinary work. Studies of minority students—either gender minorities in male-dominated fields or racial/ethnic minorities—consistently show that, at this stage, there are often issues where the values of the new discipline conflict in some way with gendered or cultural personal values9Cech, E., Rubineau, B., Silbey, S., & Seron, C. (2011). Professional role confidence and gendered persistence in engineering. American Sociological Review, 76(5), 641-666.10Seron, C., Sibley, S., Cech, E., Rubineau, B. (2015). Persistence is cultural: Professional Socialization and the Reproduction of Sex Segregation. Work and Occupations, 43(2), 178-214.. Since the necessary training for this group differs depending on discipline and school, it follows that we found the orientation programs across the University to be especially heterogeneous. However, many orientation programs are only a few hours long, which cannot be considered adequate. We recommend that there be a minimum threshold of practical, social, and cultural orientation for this cohort.
One of the most striking things about walking around our campus, if you keep an eye out for it, is the lack of women featured in our art, buildings, and places of honor. Our campus is littered with statues of important men, but the only women are limbless, and occasionally headless, figures at the edge of Dewey Hall. When you enter a conference room or elegant boardroom, the walls are covered with portraits and photographs of all the (often white) men that came before. Once you see it, it’s hard not to notice.
This observation may seem trivial, but it’s indicative of our underlying historical values and a crucial part of this conversation. Practically speaking, we must provide diverse role models for our diverse community. The literature shows that there is a strong role model effect for young women’s success11Beaman, Lori, et al. "Female leadership raises aspirations and educational attainment for girls: A policy experiment in India." science 335.6068 (2012): 582-586.12Minor, J. (2014). Faculty Diversity and the Traditions of Academic Governance. New Directions for Institutional Research, no. 159.. The subconscious message that women and minorities receive is that they don’t belong here. Day after day, this is grating, exhausting, and a constant reminder that twice the amount of work will be required to make it onto the wall. Simply targeting this representation could have powerful effect. There are numerous women and minorities in our University’s and city’s history that achieved amazing things in spite of the barriers they faced. They deserve to be made visible, and they deserve recognition.
Along these same lines, the functional ways that we honor and recognize members of our diverse community need some evaluation. Often women and others are underrepresented in nominations for prizes, awards, fellowships, or other publicity in spite of their equivalent levels of success. As an example of this phenomenon, the Commission reviewed the University’s web page referred to as “Points of Pride.” While there are quite a few women among the noted fellows, scholars, and prizes, one troubling exception was in the list of “Notable alumni.” That list included 20 alumni, of which only two were women—Renée Fleming, a Grammy Award–winning operatic soprano, and Debra Jo Rupp, an actress. Surely our notable alumni are more diverse than that!
The Commission has identified several others who have since been added to the web page. These amazing women include Mary Calderone, a physician, public health advocate for sexual education, and former medical director of Planned Parenthood; Deborah Flemister Mullen, the first African-American woman to hold the position of chief academic officer at any of the ten seminaries of the Presbyterian Church; and Renée Richards, an ophthalmologist, tennis player, and early activist for transgender rights. We hope to feature these and other underappreciated alumni in the coming months and encourage you to bring more to our attention in order to reflect the true diversity of our outstanding alumni.
Nationwide statistics suggest that women are systematically underrepresented in academic leadership positions. While the University has numerous outstanding women in leadership, their overall representation in each of our academic units is quite inconsistent. The feedback we received suggested great frustration from faculty and staff members in their opportunities to rise to positions of leadership. We are in the process of a careful review of the diversity across campus and at each level of leadership. Challenges in achieving diversity within academia have been argued to be strongly related to issues of academic governance, thus creating a sort of “glass ceiling” for faculty to rise to leadership. There must be a deliberate effort to provide leadership training to junior faculty and promote them to leadership positions, especially in areas where they are the dominant pool of eligible faculty. Financial support is needed to provide junior faculty in all schools with opportunities for external leadership development (e.g., Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine, a yearlong, part-time fellowship for women faculty in schools of medicine, dentistry, public health, and pharmacy) and interdisciplinary programs (such as Developing From Within: Exploring and Enhancing Career Choices for Mid-Career Women, cosponsored by the Susan B. Anthony Center and the URMC Office for Inclusion and Culture Development). Additionally, women who currently possess leadership positions should be able to access financial support for leadership training and professional development opportunities.
TestimonialIn both my position as a resident/fellow and faculty, I have experienced a good career and good relationships with others (especially patients) at URMC, but NOT experienced the special handling and advancement, which have been available to male peers. At this time, later in my career, I am both grateful for my training and community AND resentful that the University has not recognized me as a leader. Women faculty are often only seen as unofficial leaders and listeners.
In an outstanding presentation by Nancy Hopkins from MIT in 2011, we can see that meaningful changes in the representation of women can often be directly attributed to changes in policies or laws or specific actions taken by the administration to remove obstacles. It is absolutely possible to create change, but it takes deliberate action and commitment by leadership.
The University recently launched a concerted effort to develop a revised vision statement and set of shared values. The Commission has been supportive of this idea and active participants in the development process. Much like the ICARE values at the Medical Center and the Communal Principles at the College, these University-wide values give us all a language and framework to hold each other accountable for creating the kind of community we want to live in. We hope that the expanded values statement, MELIORA, is not only a statement of our shared values as individuals, but a catalyst for each unit to improve the structures and incentives that help us live up to those values. The values statement is pending formal approval from the Board of Trustees in May 2018.
Mentorship is crucial for a successful career in academia and should be a part of the professional life of every student, trainee, and faculty member. Research endeavors and academic career advancement hinge on the relationship between individuals and their more experienced colleagues. The literature on this topic strongly indicates that effective mentoring has an undeniably positive effect on students and faculty, but that accessing effective mentoring is a particular challenge for women and for students and faculty from underrepresented minorities.
TestimonialIn my school, we have no formal mentors, and it falls to the new faculty member to try to cultivate relationships and learn about who she can or should follow as a model/mentor on her own. That puts a strain on both the senior and the newer faculty members in this scenario.
A review of existing mentoring programs at the University showed that the formalized programs are predominantly designed to advance faculty, with minimal focus on staff and students. There are several University-wide mentoring programs for faculty, including URMentors, Ever Better Mentoring, and Developing from Within. The Medical Center also has several mentoring and collaborating programs for faculty. Many schools also include mentoring in at least one award profile. For the rest of the University, and for most of its students, mentoring opportunities are informal and not incentivized. Because of this sparse and decentralized programming, we recommend conducting a more thorough review of existing programs to identify gaps and share best practices. However, we have identified several key areas that warrant attention:
Foster a culture of mentoring: There should be University-wide expectations for mentoring, and they should be addressed during onboarding, advising, and career planning. Specifically, we recommend that junior faculty have a defined mentorship plan upon entering the University community, which will allow individuals and schools to tailor their plan and skills for their needs. We also recommend that staff receive more robust mentoring training as well as being mentored themselves, since they interact with students across all schools, do not feel adequately trained or incentivized to mentor, and require similar support in their own careers. Students and mentees should also receive mentorship skills training, building a culture of mentoring from the ground up and empowering them to lead their peers.
Incentivize mentoring: While the incentive does not necessarily have to be monetary, institutional encouragement of mentoring is essential. For example, there should be broader mentoring awards for faculty, staff, and students that are properly advertised and respected. We also suggest sending committed faculty to national mentoring meetings.
Ensure diverse mentoring: Individuals require a diverse mentoring team to assist them with various areas of their career, including scholarship, service, teaching, and leadership. It is also imperative that mentors have diverse experiences. Women and underrepresented minorities are at a disadvantage when it comes to being mentored, since they do not see themselves represented in all University positions and units. Mentoring committees for these groups must be diversified and not primarily composed of senior white males just because that is the primary population within a given department; we must look beyond the traditional mechanism of choosing senior faculty or an individual’s direct supervisor in the corresponding departments.
Gender equity in compensation is an essential factor in creating a campus culture of respect, inclusion, and equity. We explored how faculty salaries (at time of hire and annual raises) and graduate student stipends are determined in the University. Given the persistent inequities in salaries for men and women across virtually all professions and trades in the United States, it is imperative that the University clearly understand the current situation in our institution in order to identify and then undertake measures to address any existing gender inequities. Ultimately, we focused primarily on faculty compensation, since graduate students and postdoctoral fellows are paid consistently within their specific program in their department.
Although women now, and for the past two decades, make up the majority of college graduates, the gender pay gap in the professoriate continues to persist 13DiPrete, Thomas A., and Claudia Buchmann. 2013.The Rise of Women: The Growing Gender Gap in Education and What It Means for American Schools. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.. Further, the literature suggests that women scholars are more likely to pursue applied, interdisciplinary, or community-based scholarship; may publish fewer papers compared to male peers; and in STEM disciplines, may opt out of prestigious tenure-track research positions in favor of instructional roles. In departments where women are underrepresented, they may face disproportionally high advising loads (formal and informal) and service loads and may receive more invitations to conduct outreach 14Guarino, Cassandra M. and Borden, Victor M. H. 2017. "Faculty Service Loads and Gender: Are Women Taking Care of the Academic Family?" Research in Higher Education, 58: 672-694.. While these are all necessary and worthwhile activities, they receive little or no recognition with respect to compensation via the standard academic performance metrics: publication, grants awarded, honors received, and research impact, upon which faculty are reviewed, given raises, and promoted.
Although the University has several policies in place that should guarantee nondiscrimination based on any protected class, including gender, there are no dedicated policies or information on gender and pay equity. Several peer institutions provide greater transparency about salary equity and ranges. The University also lacks a set structure for compensation across all units, and salaries are heavily subject to an individual unit’s budgetary constraints. In addition, in AS&E, for example, merit raises based primarily on outside offers are the rule in an environment of low-raise pools over an extended period of time. K. O’Meara (2015) and K. O’Meara et al (2016) find that equitable reward structures are one factor contributing to greater institutional commitment, and, further, that basing raises on outside offers works against a belief that a culture of fairness exists in giving rewards for professional achievement 15O'Meara, K., Bennett, J. C., & Neihaus, E. (2016). Left unsaid: The role of work expectations and psychological contracts in faculty careers and departure. The Review of Higher Education, 39(2), 269-297.16O’Meara, K., Fink, J., & White-Lewis, D. K. (2017). Who’s Looking? Examining the Role of Gender and Rank in Faculty Outside Offers. NASPA Journal About Women in Higher Education, 10(1), 64-79.. Female faculty members earn less than males with comparable experience, and the gender pay gap increases over time such that women earn less relative to men the longer they are on a campus.
Careful and objective analysis of institutional data is required to determine whether (and where) gendered differences in the salaries, rates of tenure, and/or promotion from assistant to associate professor and associate to full, occur and to determine the reasons behind any wage gap based on gender at our University. To date, and to our knowledge, three salary surveys have been conducted at the University, the latest of which, the so-called “Strawderman Report,” shows a 4–5 percent differential for AS&E 17Strawderman, RL. 2017. “Report to the AS&E Deans on Salary Equity: 2016-2017 data”, deemed statistically nonsignificant. However, we know that nationally a gap as large as 20 percent in some cases between male and female academics has been reported, and Professor Strawderman himself identified limitations in the data used for his study and he recommended that close monitoring of salary data be carried out on a regular basis. The 2017–2018 AAUP Faculty Compensation Survey showed salary inequity at the University of Rochester for all positions except “instructors.” As our administration has noted, these reports are limited by the available benchmark data and may reflect averaging over very different disciplines. Salary equity studies must be carefully designed to choose the appropriate disciplinary group, to consider outliers, and to choose appropriate predictor variables 18L. Billard (2017) Study of Salary Differentials by Gender and Discipline, Statistics and Public Policy, 4:1, 1-14.. In spite of this complexity, the impression of pay inequity reported was consistent with feedback we received from faculty and staff members from across the University.
TestimonialAs I approach retirement as a full professor with more than three decades on the faculty, I discovered that I earn only 80 percent of the median salary in my cohort. I know that I am “average” at the very least, among my colleagues, but my compensation has fallen far behind.
In light of the complexity of this issue and its importance, we implore the University administration to conduct a salary equity study for all at the University, either using a diverse committee or, preferably, using an outside firm that has expertise in this arena. The study process should be open and involve faculty in a meaningful way. It should also be repeated on some regular basis in order to track progress and ensure equity. We then recommend hosting a series of campus forums to discuss the process, development of the analytical models used, results of the analysis, and suggested next steps. This report should be taken seriously, and any actionable structural factors that are identified should immediately be addressed. There are several other key areas that warrant attention:
Transparency: The University should adopt more standardized and open methods of determining initial salaries, increases, and special awards and use this transparency around pay as a tactic for pay equity. We also recommend instituting greater transparency about supplemental forms of compensation and attention to equal access to these opportunities. The recent procedures developed at the Medical Center in the Department of Neurology provide one example of a system to evaluate faculty performance in a systematic fashion and provide greater transparency around compensation.
Monitoring and evaluation: Negotiations should be monitored for potential gender differences and/or bias, as there is significant evidence showing that both women and minority candidates often receive less in their negotiations for similar positions 19Porter, Stephen R. & Toutkoushian, Robert K. & Moore, John V., III. "Pay Inequities for Recently Hired Faculty, 1988-2004." The Review of Higher Education, vol. 31 no. 4, 2008, pp. 465-487.20Valian, V. “Beyond gender schemas: improving the advancement of women in academia.” NWSA Journal, vol. 16, no. 1, 2004, p. 207.. In addition, each faculty member’s salary should be evaluated for equity relative to career merit at several points throughout their career using a fair and meaningful measure of productivity specific for their department.
Equitable distribution of responsibilities: There must be greater attention paid to the fair distribution of opportunities, responsibilities, and service. A systematic study of faculty service loads in each unit is needed in order to measure how our University compares with the results of the Guarino and Borden (2017) study. In addition, a recognition that academic service work is essential for the success of the institution on many levels should lead to an enhanced valuing of academic labor such as mentoring, advising, and all manner of committee work. This requires a commitment to eliminating implicit bias against women (and caregivers more generally). An important component of this issue relates to societal perceptions that the ideal worker is one with no commitments outside of work, which disadvantage those with outside responsibilities who are often women and minority employees 21Bailyn, L. “Academic careers and gender equity: Lessons learned from MIT>” Gender, Work & Organization, vol. 10, no.2, Mar 2003, pp. 137 – 153..
TestimonialIn my school, as with most places in the academy, women do a great deal more of the service work and can be relied on to engage in the behind-the-scenes work it takes to keep programs and the school running. Thankfully, within my smaller department, the distribution is more equitable across men and women, but it is a perpetual problem that women are the ones who are turned to for committee work and such. That’s a terrible burden, and our scholarly productivity can suffer.
Equitable distribution of resources and benefits: Salary is not the only means by which the University recognizes and compensates the labor carried out by faculty members. The allocation of space and administrative support, and granting of sabbatical leaves should be reviewed in order to ensure equity. Additionally, faculty who are compensated on a nine-month basis should have access to stipends for summer research and course development through an application process. A survey to determine how many summer weeks nine-month faculty typically spend on University work would reveal how much free labor they donate annually. Finally, a major area of concern is the combination of salary and other benefits for part-time faculty, a concern that is especially pronounced in the Medical Center. The Tuition Benefit for faculty dependents is one significant benefit that should be prorated in some way, as it is currently not available to part-time faculty members.
Careful attention to inclusive benefit practices: We received one compelling story from a transgender community member detailing how difficult it was to access benefits because of a rigid gender checkbox system that ignored their gender identity and required it to match their birth sex. While some of these practices might be the result of compliance to legal requirements, every possible effort should be made to create equal access to employee benefits and respectful interactions with all members of the community.
The traditional language of “family-friendly policies” usually refers to an organization’s policies toward maternity leave. For our globally engaged University in a modern world, this concept must be broader. We use the terms work-life balance and family-friendly policies to describe how the University treats the “whole” student, faculty, and staff, inside and out of work. For some people in our community, that does mean parental leave for new dependents. For others, it means appropriate accommodations for time to care for their elderly family members. For everyone, it means the necessary support for being a successful member of our University community and a healthy, happy citizen of the world.
There are very few University-wide policies or practices related to work-life balance or family-friendly policies. Current federal and New York State laws guarantee some minimum amount of paid family leave time, and Policy 327 defines household members and immediate families. A healthy and welcoming institutional culture should strive to make a positive aspirational statement about quality of life, along with policies that support that commitment. Yet, in many places on campus, the question of work-life balance is largely treated as a practical question or only addressed as a reaction to a problem.
TestimonialIn our current social environment, I understand why additional support for family-friendly policies are directed toward women, but I have concerns that this also reinforces the stereotype that women are the primary parent. I have heard people within our institution complain that women faculty don’t work as hard because of family responsibilities and that they would prefer not to hire women of child-bearing age. We need to ensure that men are supported in the parental role in order to change this stereotype.
Several departments have tried to implement family-friendly policies or resources, such as Arts, Sciences & Engineering, which introduced a new policy recommending that meetings only occur between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., or the Warner School of Education, which held a seminar to share resource needs for supporting aging family members. There are also several other programs, including Well-U, designed to support employees, families, and the health of our community. Overall, the efforts in these areas have been limited.
In a review of 13 peer institutions, 70 percent had on-campus childcare for any student, faculty, or staff member, and half of these programs are nonprofit. A majority of these institutions also provide a variety of resources for elder care. There is an opportunity for the University of Rochester to be a leader in this area. To that end, there are several key areas that warrant attention:
Specific improvements for individual units: One of the reasons that there are so few University-wide policies related to this topic is that the needs of our community are all so different. Therefore, we recommend that each unit convene a diverse group of representatives to identify unit-specific needs in this area and develop creative solutions to meet them. We encourage the community to share their successes with the Commission, so we can foster interdepartmental collaboration and sharing of best practices.
Raise the bar for family leave: We should hold ourselves to a higher standard than the law requires and encourage healthy families by ensuring an eight-week paid family leave for both parents regardless of sex/gender when a new dependent(s) arrives in their home by birth or adoption.
Improve family care benefits: We suggest that the University establish robust on-site, nonprofit childcare, available for all (staff, students, faculty) at a tiered cost, based on income. This program must offer emergency accommodations for childcare. The University should also consider providing a discount and expedited access to UR Medicine Home Care services for all employees.
Evaluate infrastructure needs: We suggest conducting a campus-wide audit of bathrooms in order to assess the need for gender-neutral and family restrooms. There should also be easily accessible, high-quality, and semiprivate lactation rooms available. Lastly, the University should improve parking accommodations for expectant mothers or families with multiple young children. We also encourage the University to make accommodation for breastfeeding parents by providing sufficient paid lactation breaks and spaces conducive to lactation.
Through our work these last several months, several questions emerged that were foundational to the other areas we investigated. Do members of the community know what the rules are or how decisions are made? Are all voices heard in the development of policies and procedures? Do we have the policies and procedures in place that allow us to hold each other accountable in a climate of respect?
For undergraduate and graduate students, the policies and codes of conduct generally appear to be clearly articulated and accessible to all. For faculty and other trainees, the availability and clarity were less consistent. Our search for a comprehensive list of University policies proved quite difficult. While most faculty members seem to be aware of the Faculty Handbook or the rules and regulations of their own units, there was considerable confusion about the distinction, application, and precedence of these policies and the numbered HR policies.
In practice, we often rely on the limited number of HR business partners and staff to guide us on these policies. However, these business partners seem more aware of procedures for staff than faculty, which leaves a dangerous void of guidance. There also seems to be considerable inconsistency in how units handle review and revisions of handbooks, policies, and procedures. These policies may cover topics such as promotion, tenure, teaching evaluations, assignments, and availability of resources. In some units, handbooks are very detailed and clear, while others seem to rely on many unwritten rules, allowing for an appearance of favoritism for certain members of the community. For example, even though the Faculty Handbook requires that each department maintain governing documents, most appear to simply have either written or unwritten rules on critical issues such as tenure and promotion. Adherence to these written policies also appears to be inconsistent, without guidance, support, or accountability from senior administration.
When these inconsistent and unclear policies are revised, it’s often done by very small committees and without full participation or awareness of the members of the community. It seems that nonadministrative faculty and students play a very limited role and those from underrepresented groups are even more removed from the process. A “Policy on Policies” was drafted several years ago to clarify some of the procedures surrounding policy updates, though it is difficult to find and does not appear to be broadly applied to all policies. We have been encouraged by the recent approach taken by the Faculty Senate to offer an open review and discussion of changes to the Intimate Relationships policy in the Faculty Handbook, with an opportunity for comments from all members of the community. Even when opportunities for open review are offered, our decentralized University has so many different modes of communication (email, web pages, intranet sites, etc.) that identifying the optimal method to reach members of the community can be difficult.
Women play important roles on many University governing bodies, including councils, the Faculty Senate, the Students’ Association, and other administrative committees. However, the actual authority of some of these governance bodies is limited, appearing to serve as venues for reporting decisions rather than actually involving them in the critical decisions of the academic unit. This is particularly worrisome, given the fact that the Faculty Handbook indicates that it is not intended to supersede these local rules of the schools or colleges. The Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges has articulated some best practices related to shared governance, particularly with respect to faculty. Their propositions emphasize open communication, considering views of constituents, alignment of priorities, and periodic assessment of the state of governance.
In light of all of this, there are several key areas that warrant attention:
Clarify and evaluate key policies: We recommend clarifying and evaluating all policies, rules, and regulations that govern the academic experiences of faculty and students, including HR policies or any that might influence an individual’s career path. We have identified a full set of these policies that regulate faculty in particular and highlight several that warrant a more extensive review of how they may influence the career paths of women, gender minorities, and the LGBTQIA+ community. Several of the policies are already under review by the administration.
Improve training for chairs and supervisors: To provide greater awareness of policies and procedures, it is important that orientation practices point to all of the relevant documents, the community is promptly notified of changes, and that those documents are organized in one easily accessible place. In addition, since department chairs and other leaders take on important responsibility for enforcing policies, we recommend comprehensive training with respect to the relevant HR policies and unit handbooks, rules, or regulations as leaders take on new roles. Too often, department chairs or other leaders seem unaware of the procedures until a problem arises.
Regularly and systematically evaluate important policies: In addition to the policy changes that have been prompted by publicly raised concerns, we suggest that more frequent and regular evaluations are made to review each policy and ensure that it continues to meet the needs of all involved, especially those from underrepresented groups. A process for regular review of existing policies should be developed to ensure that they continue to be consistent with our vision and values. The addition of Joan Saab in the newly created position of vice provost of academic affairs will provide greater attention to the development and monitoring of policies related to academic personnel and academic affairs. We are encouraged that she has taken on the challenge of developing training for department chairs and other unit directors as they assume new leadership positions.
Involve the community in policy evaluations and changes: We recommend greater consistency in the procedures used to review, revise, and disseminate changes to any policies or rules. In every case, the voice of all of those affected should be heard before implementation. An open approach to policy revisions offers greater community awareness, more appreciation of the policy’s complexity, and opportunities for those who may be underrepresented in governing bodies to voice their concerns. We are pleased that upcoming revisions to HR Policy 106 governing Harassment and Discrimination has adopted a model similar to the revisions to the Intimate Relationships policy with a committee including faculty, staff, and students to review possible changes.
Promote a model of shared governance: Shared governance should be the goal for every academic unit, not just the Faculty Senate, especially since local rules often take precedence. Clarity of decision-making authority and sharing of information is critical.
Ensure proper representation of our governing bodies: All of our governing bodies should be representative of the diverse community they strive to serve. While diversifying these governing bodies is important, it is equally critical to consider the extra service load involved and ensure that appropriate recognition and compensation is provided to allow their participation. It is also worthwhile to leverage our existing social infrastructure and identify clear channels of communication with diversity-related affinity groups across the University.
Like many universities, our institution places a high value on academic freedom. However, the University of Rochester is uniquely decentralized in its structure, functions, and funding, with most schools and units operating virtually independently of each other. Since achieving diversity in academia is strongly related to governing structures, it is especially important to investigate this situation 22Minor, J. (2014). Faculty Diversity and the Traditions of Academic Governance. New Directions for Institutional Research, no. 159..
While academic freedom provides considerable autonomy in the pursuit of scholarly work and the development of unit-specific procedures that best suit those departments, it also leaves important decisions about diversity and equity to individual supervisors, deans, and chairs. While we have developed many centralized approaches to foster diversity, these efforts may not be applied as consistently at the local level. This is in part due to this organizational model focused on academic freedom and also as a result of certain important decisions (like tenure or promotion) being given exclusively to the most senior faculty members of academic units (where diversity may be the most limited). Goals for diversity may be pronounced by the administration or centralized governing bodies but may not be achieved.
We again recognize one of the benefits of decentralization is the allowance for variations in policy and procedures that suit each department. However, these variations can restrict the ability of the administration to effectively promote University-wide goals for diversity and equity. We must consider both this overarching structure and the individual participants in it if we are to effectively address these problems. A few key areas warrant particular attention:
Balance decentralized functions and a centralized vision: To reduce the glass ceiling effect, we need to find a balance between academic freedom, shared governance, and a centralized vision for the achievement of diversity throughout the University. While it is completely reasonable that specific rules or procedures will vary among units, the central administration should push for greater consistency in the processes, practices, and procedures as well as maintaining some minimum level of accountability for University-wide vision and goals. An emphasis must be placed on making sure that the voices of all members of the community are considered, and all share a common goal for achieving a diverse and welcoming climate.
Improve communication with the Board of Trustees: One critical opportunity for truly open communication within a model of shared governance would be the addition of faculty, staff, and students to the Board of Trustees. We believe that this warrants serious consideration. We applaud the efforts to involve faculty on various committees working with the Board of Trustees and would recommend a thorough review of approaches used at our peer institutions, up to and including voting rights for faculty, students, and staff members.
We heard from many in the community, especially students, staff, and untenured faculty, about a frustration building from the sense that tenured faculty are beyond punishment. While that may not be technically true, the possible sanctions that may be taken for faculty are not clearly articulated, with the exception of revocation of tenure or in cases of misconduct in scholarship and research. In contrast, a specific policy exists for disciplinary actions for members of the staff. In addition, we have articulated codes of conduct for business ethics and patient care, and students in the College have a very clearly written code of conduct.
Recently, several other universities have developed university-wide codes of conduct. Others include clearly identified procedures for investigations of faculty misconduct and administration of discipline (for example, Yale University, University of Kentucky, UCSF). Development of such a code or policy is sure to be challenging and will require input from many members of the community. It is likely that we may need multiple policies to ensure relevance in the different academic units. However, we recommend that a centralized committee develop general guidelines and then monitor the development of appropriate procedures for all types of faculty in each academic unit. Before adoption, any procedures or codes should be open for review by all potentially affected parties, such as students and faculty. While the development of the University-wide vision and values statement (https://www.rochester.edu/president/vision-and-values/) is a step in the right direction, we need clarification for how members of the University might be held accountable to these values, including faculty.
This past year has energized our campus community and drawn substantial attention to issues of equity and diversity. Much of the urgent work in this area rightfully did not wait eight months for our report. Many things are currently in progress, including revisions to Policy 106, discussions about a new Office for Equity, and numerous efforts to more clearly explain our existing policies for the campus community, including a student task force in the College that is expected to release a report on their findings soon.
However, the issues being most readily addressed are those that were included in the Report of the Independent Investigation. We appreciate the commitment to making the deadlines outlined in that document and hope the administration applies the same eagerness and vigor to the recommendations made in this report. We have purposefully chosen not to include deadlines in this report, not because we believe the issues are less urgent than those in the Report of the Independent Investigation, but because we believe that priorities and timelines should be created collaboratively with all stakeholders. We look forward to working with the administration and, more importantly, with the University community, to ensure these recommendations are taken seriously and addressed in a timely fashion.
To that end, our feedback form will not be closing. Hearing from the community was one of the most rewarding parts of our work this year. We hope you continue to share your thoughts, stories, and ideas with us so that we can incorporate them into our advocacy efforts with the administration and on the various committees we have joined.
This report is not the end of our work. In some ways, it is only the beginning. We share our findings and recommendations with the intention of staying engaged in the process and continuing to advocate for these issues. Many of our recommendations ask for further study or more investigation, and we will be active participants in that process moving forward, both as Commission members and as members of the new groups and committees most likely to carry out our recommendations. These conversations are complex and intersectional, but we will be part of them.
As we stated above, our feedback form will remain open, and you can continue counting on the Commission to be an outlet for your concerns, connecting your experience to those in power. You can expect to be heard, and, if you wish, you can expect your story to be shared and considered in the appropriate ways. With your help, we can hold our leadership accountable to these recommendations.
Over the last eight months, our work has been serious and, at times, troubling. The challenges of striving for gender equity and diversity in academia are great, but the University of Rochester is not unique in this effort. We have certainly identified problem areas and several missed opportunities. Too many have had their academic experiences limited. This is unfortunately the case all over the country. However, we are inspired by the many individuals here at the University who are committed to making changes and improving our campus. For a university whose motto is Meliora, we must push for an academic environment that is ever better, and the time is now.
This working group is organized into subgroups in order to address the following topics:
This working group will review (1) policies and resources, (2) implementation, and (3) best practices related to recruitment, onboarding, retention, and career advancement for faculty, trainees, and graduate students. We will develop recommendations based on identified needs and best practices.
This working group will review all policies related to Sexual Harassment and Misconduct, as well as procedures followed, and training offered. We will review recent statistics on claims at the University of Rochester and benchmark these against other institutions. In addition, we will review similar procedures and reporting structures at other schools and identify best practices or recommended changes to our policies and procedures.
This working group will review the gender equity in faculty and student governance, including (1) diversity of leadership at multiple levels, (2) procedures for appointments, review and reappointments of leaders across the academic environment, (3) procedures for changes in governance structures and involvement or representation of faculty, students and trainees in these procedures.