Report 2007-102.2 Summary - December 2007

California State University:

It Is Inconsistent in Considering Diversity When Hiring Professors, Management Personnel, Presidents, and System Executives

HIGHLIGHTS

Our review of California State University's (university) hiring processes and employment discrimination lawsuits revealed the following:

  • The university has issued little systemwide guidance to the campuses regarding the hiring process.
  • Campuses are inconsistent in their consideration of gender and ethnicity when hiring assistant, associate, and full professors.
  • Campuses use differing levels of detail when estimating the percentage of qualified women and minorities available for employment, decreasing the university's ability to effectively compare data among campuses.
  • Campuses have hiring policies that vary in terms of the amount of guidance they provide search committees for Management Personnel Plan employees, and one campus has developed no policies for these positions that relate to nonacademic areas.
  • While the hiring process for presidents requires input from many stakeholders, the hiring of system executives is largely at the discretion of the chancellor in consultation with the board of trustees.
  • As of June 30, 2007, the university spent $2.3 million on settlements resulting from employment discrimination lawsuits filed during the five-year period we reviewed, and $5.3 million for outside counsel in defending itself against such lawsuits.

RESULTS IN BRIEF

The chancellor's office and the board of trustees (board) of California State University (university) have delegated the hiring authority of faculty to the campuses but have issued little systemwide guidance regarding the hiring process. Not surprisingly, the five campuses we reviewed use different methods to consider gender and ethnicity in the hiring of assistant, associate, and full professors (professors).

Individual departments at the campuses are primarily responsible for the search and selection of professors. Although they typically follow a similar hiring process, they are inconsistent in their consideration of gender and ethnicity. For example, departments at some campuses consider the gender and ethnic composition of search committees, while other campuses forbid it. As a result, women and minorities were not always represented on search committees used when hiring professors. In contrast, the University of California (UC) has developed guidelines stating that a special effort should be made to ensure that minorities and women have equal opportunity to serve on search committees.

To analyze their employment processes in accordance with federal regulations, campuses distribute surveys to all job applicants to determine their gender and ethnicity. The UC guidelines state that women and minority applicants should be present in the applicant pool in proportion to their estimated availability in the respective labor pool. If they are not, UC campuses should review recruitment and outreach efforts and can consider reopening the search with expanded inclusive recruitment efforts. However, the chancellor's office has not issued guidance in this area. Not performing such comparisons increases the risk that departments are unaware of the effectiveness of their recruitment efforts.

Federal regulations require employers to consider both internal and external factors when estimating the percentage of qualified women and minorities available for employment in each position. Because of the lack of a uniform method of estimating availability, campuses have some latitude in deciding upon the factors they will consider. We also noted differing levels of detail in campus availability analyses in their affirmative action plans. For instance, three of the five campuses we reviewed presented an aggregate analysis for professors campuswide rather than comparing the gender and ethnicity of their current professors in each department to those available in the labor pool. The differing levels of detail decrease the university's ability to effectively compare data among campuses.

The university has also delegated authority to the campuses to develop policies for hiring Management Personnel Plan employees (management personnel).1 Thus, it is not surprising that campuses we reviewed have hiring policies that vary in terms of the amount of guidance they provide search committees. In fact, one of these campuses has developed no hiring policies for management personnel whose positions relate to nonacademic areas. We noted similar inconsistencies in campuses' policies about the consideration of gender and ethnicity during the hiring process for management personnel.

The hiring of campus presidents and system executives is the responsibility of the board, in partnership with the chancellor's office. While the hiring process for presidents requires input from many stakeholders systemwide and at the campus level, the hiring of system executives is largely at the discretion of the chancellor in consultation with the board. Moreover, the university's hiring policies for presidents and system executives do not require consideration of gender and ethnicity during the search process. In reviewing documentation of the hiring process for 11 presidents and one system executive hired during fiscal years 2002-03 through 2006-07 by way of a search, we noted that the university could enhance the effectiveness of its current recruitment efforts by having a more broad-based and consistent advertising requirement.

Federal and state law prohibit the university from discriminating against any of its employees, and the university has established several policies relating to employee protection; some of these govern the filing of employment discrimination complaints. Complaints that result in lawsuits are handled by the university's office of general counsel. During fiscal years 2002-03 through 2006-07, 92 employment discrimination lawsuits were filed against the university; 28 of these were still in process as of June 30, 2007. Of the remaining 64 lawsuits, 40 resulted in settlements that cost the university $2.3 million.

As of June 30, 2007, the university spent $5.3 million for outside counsel in defending employment discrimination lawsuits filed during the five-year period we reviewed. The office of general counsel assigned its own litigators to defend the university against 17 employment discrimination lawsuits. Defense for the remaining 75 was contracted to outside counsel, including the Office of the Attorney General and private firms. Although the majority of plaintiffs allege multiple types of discrimination in their lawsuits, race and gender discrimination were alleged in 63 (68 percent) of the 92 lawsuits filed in the five-year period, of which 30 (48 percent) resulted in settlements as of June 30, 2007. These 30 settlements cost the university $1.6 million.

RECOMMENDATIONS

To ensure the university employs hiring practices that are consistent with laws and regulations and among campuses, it should issue systemwide guidance on the hiring process for professors. This guidance should include the use of affirmative action plans to familiarize search committees with estimated availability for women and minorities, the development of alternatives for including women and minorities on search committees, and a requirement to compare the proportion of women and minorities in the total applicant pool to the proportion in the labor pool to help assess the success of their outreach efforts.

The university should devise and implement a uniform method for calculating availability data to better enable it to identify and compare availability and goals systemwide and among campuses. Further, it should direct campuses to compare and report the gender and ethnicity of their current workforce to the labor pool by individual department to ensure that goals are meaningful and useful to those involved in the hiring process.

Additionally, the university should issue systemwide guidance on the hiring process for management personnel, and in developing this guidance it should direct campuses to develop hiring policies for management personnel that address the key steps in the hiring process. To ensure that it is conducting inclusive and consistent advertising to obtain as diverse an applicant pool as possible, the university should require broad-based advertising, including publications primarily with women or minority audiences, for all presidential and system executive positions. The university should also establish more complete policies to guide the recruitment process for system executives to ensure that the process is fair, equitable, and consistent among searches.

AGENCY COMMENTS

The university generally agrees with our recommendations and states that the recommendations will assist it in improving policies and procedures related to hiring. The university reports that it will explore the appropriate manner to address the issues that we raised and will be acting on some recommendations immediately and on the others as soon as feasible.


1 We focused our review on the highest level of management personnel—administrator IV.


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