Jennifer Freyd, professor of psychology at the University of Oregon, has spent years studying the concept of institutional betrayal, including when institutions don’t help right the wrongs committed within them.
Now Freyd is battling her own institution in court. She alleges that Oregon failed to properly respond to what her own department chair called a “glaring” pay gap between Freyd and the men she works with — $18,000 less than that of her male peer closest in rank.
The case was just dismissed by a federal judge who said that the pay difference was more about the kind of work the men in her department do and the retention raises they’d secured over the years. But research suggests that even these explanations are rooted in issues of gender. Freyd has already filed a notice of intent to appeal.
… Both reviews traced the disparity back to retention raises given to professors who pursued outside offers. The self-study noted that this was concerning, as “it is not obvious that the frequency of retention negotiations is a strong indicator of overall productivity.” Rather, it said, “there is strong evidence of a gender bias in both the availability of outside offers and the ability to respond aggressively to such offers.” The outside review said it’s “widely recognized that there is a difference between the genders in terms of seeking outside offers, and if this holds at Oregon, then the bias does have a gender basis.”
Cahill attributed the trend to retention raises. And the earlier departmental studies noted that this factor is in itself gendered. Gomez said so, too. Is it?
… More recently, last year, the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education, based at Harvard University, published some findings of its first national Faculty Retention and Exit Survey.
Insights into the negotiation process suggest “some troubling gender bias,” the collaborative’s staff wrote at the time. “For example, among those who didn’t ask for a counteroffer, men are more likely than women to receive one, anyway; among those who do ask for a counteroffer, women are more likely to be denied.”
… Despite that evidence, Michael McShane, the federal judge in Oregon who decided Freyd’s case, found her claims uncompelling and sided with the university against her. McShane said that unlike elementary school teachers, all professors do not in fact perform the same work, and that their pay rightfully reflects that. Put another way, equal pay for equal work only means someone when the work is mostly the same for everyone.
… All that aside, however, McShane said that offering retention raises to faculty who are being recruited by other universities is “justified by business necessity.” …
The docket is here. Among the more funny/sad parts of Judge McShane’s decision was his adoption of UO’s hired lawyer Paula Barran’s argument that Freyd should be paid less because she merely did survey research, while the men in her department used sophisticated brain-imaging equipment, and studied “bodily fluids”:
In his research, Professor Allen uses brain imaging and scanning technology, which requires specialized expertise and the supervision of technological staff. Allen Decl. ¶ 9. By contrast, Professor Freyd conducts her research through administering surveys, Freyd Decl. ¶ 16, which does not require advanced technology.
Barran also got a few laughs in court when she described one of Freyd’s notably milquetoast comparator colleagues as a “diversity warrior” – a phrase that suits him not at all, and her perfectly.
UO and President Schill are now going after Freyd for court costs – but nevertheless she is persisting.