(Molly Bruns, Headline USA) An internal report from the University of Washington revealed that a “Diversity Advisory Committee” had inappropriately pressured university faculty to consider race when hiring for at least one position, according to a complaint that triggered the investigation, and the problem may have been far more widespread.
An audit performed by the UW Civil Rights Investigation Office determined—based on emails, recordings of meetings and an interview with a candidate applying for a job in the school’s psychology department—that the school may have run afoul of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in hiring on the basis of race and other protected classes.
CRIO’s investigation into the complaint turned up a handbook that suggested such hiring practices may, in fact, have been systematic over the past several years, according to the National Association of Scholars.
The complaint alleged that the Diversity Advisory Committee for the school’s Department of Psychology reportedly pressured one hiring committee to reconsider candidates for a position based on their race.
The position in question was a tenure-track professorship teaching developmental psychology starting in 2023.
Despite the university’s Executive Order 31, which expressly forbade discrimination based on race and sex (in keeping with federal civil rights laws), the Diversity Advisory Committee refused to accept the top candidate for the position based on the person’s skin color.
“I was unsettled about the offer-order outcome for the following reasons: First, with three above threshold candidates (Black, Asian, White), it just seemed optically-speaking to look bad that offer #1 goes to the White candidate whom [sic] is the most junior and whose research content is less directly and explicitly connected to matters of race/ethnicity, compared to [name redacted] and [name redacted],” one member of the DAC said in an email.
“This made me think/suspect that some degree of undetected/unacknowledged bias had slipped in to result in this outcome.… Fourth, apart from [name redacted], the area visibly seems like it could use more diversity in faculty constitution,” the email continued.
The DAC rejected the initially preferred candidate in lieu of a more diverse individual, and the hiring committee agreed to do so for a myriad of reasons, none of which were related to the candidate or the position, including:
- avoiding awkwardness at an upcoming faculty meeting
- dodging bad press for “not prioritizing DEI”
- circumventing tense office politics with other staff members
- keeping clear of personal stress
The DAC, moreover, avoided hiring any white applicants from 2020-2021, instead hiring five candidates of color for tenure-track positions, and even wrote a handbook about their tactics, titled “Promising Practices.”
Several other taxpayer-funded organizations prioritize DEI policies, trainings and programming as well, including the National Archives and Records Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Reserve.