Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Woman chemistry professor sues University of Arizona

A University of Arizona chemistry professor has filed a class-action lawsuit alleging gender discrimination in pay and promotions at the Tucson campus. 
Dr. Katrina Miranda, a tenured associate professor in the school's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, claims in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on Nov. 29 that there's a pattern of systematic discrimination against female faculty members in UA's College of Science. "Dr. Miranda has suffered substantial pay disparities as compared to her male counterparts, and the university has failed to promote her in an equivalent manner to these male peers," the lawsuit says. 
Miranda has worked at the university since 2002 and received tenure in 2008. The Arizona Board of Regents is named as the defendant in the lawsuit, as the board oversees UA. 
...The lawsuit estimates Miranda was underpaid by $9,000 to $36,000 per year from 2016 to 2018 compared with male professors of "similar or lesser seniority and performance." Miranda was paid about $100,000 for the 2017-18 academic year, while a male chemistry professor made $130,500 despite joining the university and getting tenure the same year as Miranda, the lawsuit claims. Another male chemistry professor with one year of experience more than Miranda made more than $136,000, according to the court filing. 
It will be interesting to see how this proceeds in court. (Isn't professor pay at public universities public? I wonder at what point this lawsuit went from "I think this is unfair" to "I'm gonna call a lawyer.") 

18 comments:

  1. Having attended grad school in New York, I know that all public employees and university profs at public universities can be found on a website called SeeThroughNY; I could have even looked up my grad stipend. Anyway, I would assume this is the same in every state, so she likely has hard evidence from an analogous website for Arizona. But at what point does it take to reach out to a lawyer is an entirely different question. I hope she attempted to discuss this with the chair of the department and other powers at the university first, at least that would be my first step before going directly to a lawyer.

    Either way, please keep track of this as I too am quite interested in how this all settles.

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    1. University of Arizona salaries:
      https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1jFmxbDx6FP5qk5KKbFBJ5RvS0R2_HEoCkaw83P_DUG0/edit#gid=2006091355

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  2. Academics are such hypocrites when it comes to this stuff. In public, they say things like "rah-rah, women in STEM, yay MeToo" but in private, their real views are "I would never hire a woman postdoc because she might get pregnant" and "Professor X is a famous bigshot, so we're going to look the other way when he harasses female grad students."

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  3. It would also be interesting to take gender out of the equation and look at objective metrics that might warrant merit-based pay inequality. It is not uncommon for faculty at the same academic rank to receive different salaries based on multiple factors, such as funding rates, publications, and overall "poachability". Faculty coming in as assistant professors with significant industrial or national lab experience may also be able to negotiate a higher base salary. I'm certainly not suggesting that Professor Miranda has not been wronged, but "fair market value" is difficult to define, especially in a court of law.

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    1. I think it would also be helpful to more plainly look at gender. For example, how does her salary compare to the other female faculty members, and is there an overall discrepancy between female and male salaries?

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    2. Please give the lawyers credit for knowing how to do their jobs. I'm quite sure the case wouldn't have been filed if there weren't ample evidence addressing all those (troll-y?) concerns.

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    3. I took a look at her CV - she looks pretty accomplished to me. She certainly isn't a terminal associate professor.

      The sad state of things is that departments will underpay even exemplary faculty until they are forced to do otherwise (normally in response to an anticipated or attempted poach).

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    4. To anon @ 2:25 PM: I am anon @ 1:07 PM, and would like to clarify that I wasn't implying that the lawyers have not done their homework. I was speaking to the lack of clarity in the news excerpt which highlights her salary discrepancy relative to select male colleagues, rather than highlighting the evidence that is actually appropriate to a class action lawsuit. Although I think it's more credit to lawyers when they can file and win lawsuits in the absence of ample evidence.

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    5. @TIC: I've never quite gotten a handle on how to differentiate between a terminal associate prof and one who is in a holding pattern and waiting. Her pubs looks fine, but has her cash flow held her back? The NIH Report only shows one grant, running 2006-2010, which presumably got her tenure.

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    6. What is her clash flow vs her male collogues?

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    7. I thought she got a CAREER award earlier on as well.

      Up close, you can tell a terminal associate prof pretty easily: they tend to either only in when they teach classes or otherwise absolutely have to be there (most obvious) or focus on minutiae (less obvious). The job simply isn't a top priority and they've lost their drive to do research. There are lots of reasons for why someone might become a terminal associate prof, some of which are absolutely out of a person's control (e.g. a personal or family illness). So please, don't think that I'm judging anyone's character based on my description.

      From afar, I'd base a guess on whether someone's a terminal associate prof more on the publication record. There are lots of folks struggling to get funding who are fighting the good fight. At a typical R1/R2 school: someone who's publishes in a crummy or so-so journal once every couple of years and/or frequently has multi-year gaps between publications is a pretty good candidate. Sooner or later everyone has a productivity gap of some sort due to a valid reason (a batch of students didn't pan out, plain old vagaries with respect to how projects go), but if it's continuous and frequent, that's a bad sign.

      Unless you're that person's colleague, you can't really get a feel for it until maybe five to seven years after promotion to associate prof.

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    8. Thanks, that's a very solid comparison.

      Yes, a pre-tenure CAREER as well.

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  4. Or it could be that the department would like to promote her, but cant there are too many deadwood full professors who do next to nothing, pull 6 figs, and wont retire,a nd there is not enough cash in the department because of this.

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  5. All of these faculty salaries are disturbingly high, in light of the fact that most of the hard work is performed by grad students and post-docs. She does not need a raise, all of the other faculty need to have their salaries cut (yes, I know about tenure, aint going to happen...)

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    1. Pay at community colleges & botton-drawer 4-year colleges is frankly scandalous. Nowadays they hire at NTT lecturer level, pay you 40 - 50 kUSD and give you 5 sections and a year-to-year contract, but back in the 90's they'd hire at tenure-track level. Someone with one Tetrahedron paper out of their PhD now gets north of 100 kUSD and teaches 2 or 3 sections. It's disgraceful.

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  6. There's always lots of discussion on the topic of tenure (ie assistant professor versus associate professor) in forums like this, and among my Facebook friends in academia, but this thread is the first discussion I've seen about associate professor versus full professor. I can also think of plenty of cases where someone denied tenure moved to a tenured position at another department, but I don't hear about someone moving to jump from associate professor to full professor.

    So what does this entail other than a bump in pay?

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  7. @Anon7:54AM: "Clash flow" is a good one, many of us have ancountered that kind of colleague.

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  8. This could be a good case of the "initial salary" hurdle. If the other professor mentioned negotiated a higher initial salary, then every subsequent raise will increase the gap instead of closing it.

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