UW News

October 31, 2023

University takes action after faculty hiring process inappropriately used race as a factor

UW News

Late last academic year, concerns were reported about a faculty hiring process in the University of Washington’s Department of Psychology. A review was requested by Dianne Harris, Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, after she learned of these potential issues. The review was conducted by the UW’s Civil Rights Investigation Office, which included examining e-mails and other University records.

The review was completed in September and indicates that race was inappropriately considered and used in a way that is inconsistent with University policy in the hiring process for an assistant professor position in the department. Race was inappropriately considered in the hiring process even after some faculty received guidance from College of Arts & Sciences and University leadership that such considerations are inappropriate.

The successful candidate is unquestionably qualified, and we are proud to have them as a valued faculty member in the department and at the University. They had no knowledge of the concerns raised and have our full support and respect, which we have communicated directly. Dean Harris and members of College of Arts & Sciences leadership have apologized to the affected candidates.

The UW is committed to diversity — and committed to equal opportunity in hiring — while upholding University policy and state and federal law. Our students and our state benefit from a faculty whose knowledge and understanding represent the diversity of Washington state. Research shows that implicit bias in hiring is real, and the University has long advocated for and applied best practices that help address bias within the boundaries of federal law (Title VII), state law (the Washington State Law Against Discrimination, including I-200) and University policy (Executive Order 31).

The University has initiated actions to ensure consistent compliance with University policies, including the following:

  1. The Department of Psychology will be barred from conducting searches for tenured and tenure-track faculty positions for a period of at least two years, subject to review by the Provost’s Office.
  2. The document created by members in the Department – referred to as a “case study” – was determined in the review to contain hiring guidance inconsistent with University policy, and will no longer be used in hiring processes.
  3. The Department of Psychology will undergo a comprehensive review and revision of its hiring processes, with oversight from the Dean’s Office.
  4. All members of the Department of Psychology will receive training on how to conduct searches consistent with law and policy and its hiring processes will be restructured.
  5. The University is taking personnel action to address individual actions. These proceedings are confidential.
  6. Earlier this month, the University initiated an update to its institutional hiring policies and guidance to specifically address areas where efforts to address bias may lead to violations of laws or policy.

The report, with individuals’ names and identifying information redacted to protect their privacy, can be found here.

Contact Victor Balta at balta@uw.edu