The Volokh Conspiracy

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Race Discrimination

"U of Washington Faculty Search Weighed Race Inappropriately"


Friday's Inside Higher Ed (Ryan Quinn) article [UPDATE: link fixed] reported on this:

The hiring process for a University of Washington psychology professor position titled "Diversity in Development" initially ranked a white person No. 1 out of 84 applicants, the university says in a report released this week.

But psychology department faculty members then pressured one another until the third-ranked finalist, who was Black, was given this tenure-track assistant professor job, above the white and Asian finalists, the document states. It adds that it's unclear how candidates' racial identities were assigned. The assistant professor accepted the job in April of this year.

The investigation, which the university posted online Tuesday, concludes that "race was used as a substantial factor in the selection of the final candidate and the hiring process," violating a university executive order that bans considering race in hiring. Though the report itself doesn't conclude state law was violated, university spokesman Victor Balta noted in an email to Inside Higher Ed Thursday that Washington citizens, in 1998, passed a referendum banning affirmative action in public colleges and universities.

The university announced on its website that the psychology department is now "barred from conducting searches for tenured and tenure-track faculty positions" for at least two years, "subject to review by the Provost's Office." It also said the department will "undergo a comprehensive review and revision of its hiring processes," and all department members "will receive training on how to conduct searches consistent with law and policy."

"The University is taking personnel action to address individual actions," the institution stated. "These proceedings are confidential." …

For more, read the whole report; here's just one item, which the Inside Higher Ed story also discusses:

Each candidate's itinerary originally scheduled them to meet with the same groups, including a 30-minute joint meeting with the Faculty of Color and Women Faculty groups. The candidate itinerary describes the purpose of this meeting as "an opportunity for you to meet with faculty of color and women faculty in our department to discuss the department and university climate and anything else you may be interested in discussing."

After itineraries were sent, [redacted], a member of the Faculty of Color group, emailed [redacted] asking:

As a person who has been on both sides of the table for these meetings, I have really appreciated them. Buuut, when the candidate is White, it is just awkward. The last meeting was uncomfortable. and I would go as far as burdensome for me. Can we change the policy to not do these going forward with White faculty?