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University Senate members address gender-based pay inequity among faculty

Charlotte Little | Contributing Photographer

Suzette Meléndez, an associate dean for equity and inclusion in the College of Law, said the issue of payment inequity needs to be looked at through an intersectional lens.

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Gretchen Ritter, the vice chancellor, provost and chief academic officer at Syracuse University, made a commitment to conduct regular reviews of the university’s pay structure during the University Senate meeting on Wednesday.

The provost specifically addressed gender-based pay inequity and also committed to share the findings of the university’s periodic salary reviews. Ritter did not specify when these reviews will take place or be shared.

The Senate Ad-Hoc on Gender Pay Equity Committee submitted a report last spring and has not had a formal response from SU’s administration, Ritter said.

“I agree that we should have done better,” Ritter said. “And (in) my view, the Provost Office should be responsive to matters that come to us from the Senate.”

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Ritter said that she understood why issues such as this, and others brought up by senators during the meeting, did not receive the proper response.

“Keep in mind that a couple of the key figures from academic affairs were transitioning out of their roles,” Ritter said. “And many of the folks in academic affairs were on the front line, still helping to address the challenges of the pandemic.”

Later in the meeting, University Senators Eileen Schell and Laurel Morton, who co-chair the Women’s Concerns Committee, proposed a motion asking the Agenda Committee to reconstitute the Ad-Hoc Gender Pay Equity Committee with the goal of converting it to a permanent committee. The permanent committee would then oversee gender pay equity and promotion in the future.

After discussion within the senate, the motion passed.

In the beginning of Schell and Morton’s statement, Schell discussed a class action lawsuit against the university regarding discriminatory payment practices toward women. The lawsuit was settled in early October.

The complainants in the lawsuit said that despite salary adjustments in prior years to address pay inequity, actions to ameliorate pay inequity were insufficient as they were prospective in nature and did not address past pay inequities, Schell said.

“We ask for a more proactive, transparent and forward-looking stance to a gender equity and accountability structure, one where … women do not have to file a lawsuit to be paid fairly and where the university admits wrongdoing when wrongdoing has been done,” Morton said.

Following Schell and Morton’s statement, a collection of senators commented on the proposal and payment inequity. Coran Klaver, a senator and English department chair, said payment inequities can arise at SU due to payment data not being available. She said that at public universities, this data is public information.

Ritter responded to Klaver, saying that “high-level” data regarding pay in different departments would be appropriate, but she also said publishing more detailed data of the pay of employees would lead to potential privacy concerns.

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Robert Van Gulick, a professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, also supported the release of data relating to pay. “This data is necessary to be available,” he said.

Suzette Meléndez, an associate dean for equity and inclusion in the College of Law, said the issue of payment inequity needs to be looked at through an intersectional lens. 

“The data shows that women are underpaid as a whole,” she said. “Women of color are underpaid even more so.”

Diane Murphy, the dean of the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics, spoke on the history of payment inequity at SU. 

“Every time we talk about pay equity it comes out of the Women’s Concerns Committee,” she said. “It started there. I led it initially. … We’ve been in pay inequity for over 50 years, no new data. … We’re terrible at (pay equity) at this university.”

Other Business:

Chancellor Kent Syverud announced that the Chief of the Department of Public Safety position currently held by Bobby Maldonado will most likely not be filled by the time he retires on Dec. 31.

Jackie Orr, a senator and associate professor of sociology, pressed Chancellor Kent Syverud to release transcripts of negotiations between #NotAgainSU organizers and SU administrators, saying they were promised the release. 

Syverud said he will commit to find out why the transcript hasn’t been released yet.

Matt Huber, a co-chair of the Academic Affairs Committee and professor of geography and the environment, criticized the university for moving forward with the creation of a faculty portfolio system, which would centralize information about faculty. 

In April, the senate passed a resolution calling for a pause to the system’s implementation, Huber said, due to questions about how the data in the system would be used and issues of shared governance. Since then, the process has been accelerated as the university has chosen a vendor for the system, Huber added. 

“When our work is ignored, it makes many faculty question whether shared governance is real,” Huber said.







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