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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

UC Davis Letter to UC President Napolitano: Curb Gender Bias by Publishing Policies

by Linda F. Bisson, Former Chair, Davis Division of the Academic Senate, 2006-2008; 2011-2012
Rachael E. Goodhue, Chair Elect, Davis Division of the Academic Senate 2016-2018


Dear President Napolitano:

We want to express grave concern over a pattern of negativism in the press and social media regarding women Chancellors and senior administrative leaders. 


There are strong parallels between the singularly intensive criticism of our Chancellor Linda Katehi and that previously of Chancellors Fox (UCSD) and Denton (UCSC), and of UC Vice President Greenwood. Yet, the activities that are being criticized clearly fall within the standards of UCwide practice.  This pattern is exemplified by a 2006 LA Times article that criticized compensation practices for senior UC executives: those singled out for criticism for “extravagant pay practices, perks and privilege for top executives” are all women. 

The intensity of the criticism at the time ended in tragedy for Chancellor Denton. Chancellor Fox’s term was equally framed as fraught with turmoil, turmoil apparently not experienced by her male colleagues who were facing identical issues due to budget cuts and lack of diversity and inclusion. In an article in the San Diego Union Tribune written on Chancellor Fox’s decision to step down, she is described in terms steeped in implicit gender bias, including the quote ascribed to former President Richard C. Atkinson:  “She handled that as well as she could have handled it” – not as well as anyone could have handled it or as well as it could have been handled.

Women in leadership positions are often the victims of intense implicit bias and, as a consequence, of the phenomenon of “single storyism” - the reduction of their actions to a simple narrative that appeals to the biases of a broad section of society, in this case implicit gender bias and women being incompetent for their position. Whatever they say or do in response is twisted to fit the “single story.”  We think the LA Times article listed above illustrates perfectly the problem of the single story experienced by senior women administrators at UC.  If the LA Times story were rewritten today, Chancellor Katehi’s name is likely the only one that would be added to the list.


All of UC is richer because of the participation of women and underrepresented groups at all levels. We know you and your leadership team share this belief. We are concerned that UCOP does not recognize that senior administrators who are identified with an underrepresented identity vital to our diversity are subject to vilification in the press simply because of that identity.  We are also concerned, as recent press regarding our Chancellor Katehi demonstrates, that Chancellors and other senior administrators are not well-equipped to deal with single storyism, nor is there the recognition that others, such as UCOP, must step in to address the criticism as well.


The absence of factual information on UC policies and practices with respect to external compensation for all senior administrators has led to speculative and negative public debate regarding a single senior woman, when the practice of external involvement is widespread. We would like to request clear articulation from UCOP of both the formal policies and the informal practices as they pertain to executive compensation (e.g., have senior managers been encouraged to participate in activities outside UC). We note that legislators are calling for the same review. UCOP's understanding of the broader issues involved is essential to informing these external discussions. The need for UCOP to take action is urgent.
 

We thank you for considering this request.
 
c:  AndrĂ© Knoesen, Chair, Davis Division of the Academic Senate
     Dan Hare, Chair, Academic Senate
     Linda Katehi, Chancellor, UCD

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Totally bizarre letter.

Just a staff member said...

And an epic case of poor timing to boot, since the good Chancellor, as has just been reported tonight, is going to spend a few months cooling her heels on administrative leave. Unless, of course, she decides to resign to spend more time with her family, who mysteriously received 20% pay increases within the past couple of years.

Anonymous said...

Of course careful review of external compensation for all chancellors and senior admins without regard to gender is appropriate. The only Chancellor to go to jail for financial misbehavior... Robert Huttenback... was male, which Prof. Bisson overlooks.

Michael Meranze said...

@Anonymous

This was in 1986 and was under a charge of embezzlement correct? I'm not sure how that speaks to the general question of Chancellors on Boards in 2016 which the letter raises (my question has nothing to do with whether or not Chancellor Katehi should be removed for her alleged actions).

Anonymous said...

@Michael Meranze... Prof. Bisson reaches back a decade to 2006 to an LA Times Article which extends the time frame well beyond 2016. When Prof. Bisson says `We are concerned that UCOP does not recognize that senior administrators who are identified with an underrepresented identity vital to our diversity are subject to vilification in the press simply because of that identity,' I'd suggest that Huttenback was neither villified for what he did, and neither villified nor excused for his identity. Perhaps the cases she cites are receiving for what they did, not who they are.

The cases of Greenwood and Katehi involve more than just Board involvement, but also undue promotion of relatives.

Chancellors Schraer (Riverside), Uehling (Santa Barbara) Cordova (Riverside), Tomlinson-Keasey (Merced) and Leland (Merced) are all female, and as far as I know received no press villification for financial missteps. This is data that contradicts Prof. Bisson's concern.

Anonymous said...

whoops... meant `I'd suggest that Huttenback was villified for what he did...' (strike neither)

`are receiving scrutiny for what they did, not who they are.'

Michael Meranze said...

@Anonymous

Yes but my point was that 1986 was a completely different situation. As far as I can tell Bisson was pointing to a series of occurrences since 2006. If on the other hand Huttenback was the first of a series of male Chancellors who had been brought low by financial investigations I think your point would be more persuasive. Also, at the time the charge that was swirling around Katehi had to do with her Board memberships and as I understood Bisson's letter they were asking for a wider investigation of the rules and practices of Chancellors serving on Boards. I don't think that one needs to show that all members of a category suffer something to show that there is a greater likelihood of a different standard for that category.

I'm not by any means seeking to suggest that Chancellor Katehi should not be held accountable for these things. I do wonder if the investigation into her actions will serve to distract from what seemed to me to be the more fundamental issue--which has to do with more transparency and tighter rules on Board participation and payment. To me it is the more general culture that we need to criticize and that was part of the letter as I read it.

Michael Meranze said...

@Anonymous

Don't worry it was clear from context. By the way, I probably also should have mentioned that anyone who was discovered embezzling would have been removed (I hope). The question here is whether some people's actions are treated as less problematic than the same actions by other people. That isn't too say that anyone shouldn't be criticized when their actions should be criticized.

Anonymous said...

Gardner and Peltason were criticized for their retirement packages...
http://articles.latimes.com/1992-04-03/news/mn-265_1_retirement-package
http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Peltason-due-118-000-annual-UC-retirement-3159690.php

Chancellors Fox & Greenwood weren't brought low, IMO. Criticized but nothing happened to them, I think, very similar to Gardner & Peltason.

Denton is a tragedy, although distinct from Katehi.

Female UC Chancellors Schraer, Uehling, Cordova, Tomlinson-Keasey, and Leland have not been criticized in a manner consistent with the Prof. Bisson hypothesis, that female chancellors are being unduly singled out for attack.

Michael Meranze said...

I suspect Bisson et Al would disagree with your characterization of what happened to Greenwood and Fox but again I think the issues of Gardner and Peltason's retirements are slightly different. Leaving aside the fact that like Huttenback they are between 20 and 30 years ago they are more akin to the more general concern about the size of direct executive payment and there the situation does seem different--we have people outside criticizing all the salaries and UCOP defending them all. Here the allegation is that Katehi has gotten criticized for behavior that is more widely shared and that it follows other cases where the same argument could be made. Unfortunately she is not the only Chancellor whose membership on boards couldn't be questioned. And unfortunately there isn't enough transparency about that.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that one needs to show that all members of a category suffer something to show that there is a greater likelihood of a different standard for that category.

Dr Purva Pius said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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