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Nevertheless she persisted – Freyd to appeal gender discrimination case

Gina Scaplone had the story last week in the Emerald.  Colleen Flaherty at InsideHigherEd has more here. Some snippets:

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.


  1. Deplorable Duck 05/28/2019

    Given that the suit was so weak that it fell by summary judgement, compensation to UO for legal fees seems appropriate (as opposed to raising tuition to do so, for example).

  2. Observer 05/28/2019

    Rather than “so weak,” what many of us would call this situation is “miscarriage of justice.”

  3. Deplorable Duck 05/29/2019

    McShane is an Obama appointee, and presumably (virtually?) all of the people setting her salary are also Democrats. The idea that they all colluded to give her a bad shake, with no one leaking anything untoward to the press, seems like a stretch.

    • just different 05/29/2019

      Unfortunately, voting Democratic does not mean that you care about diversity or equity in any meaningful sense, at least when compared with your own career advancement and the ability to make decisions without accountability. Just look at the hostility of these “Democrats” towards UA and the GTFF, to give a well-documented example.

    • New Year Cat 05/29/2019

      Sexism and gender discrimination can be found in both ( I should say “all”) political parties.

  4. thedude 05/30/2019

    Pay differences based on willingness to get an outside raise? Me that seems ok. We all knew that was the game when we joined the academy and when we came to Oregon.

    Pay differences based on survey vs brain scanners? Missed that in the recruitment brochure….

  5. Deplorable Duck 06/08/2019

    Here’s a Forbes piece on this lawsuit. It provides details I hadn’t previously seen, and broadly supports the judge’s ruling.

    Nonetheless, Professor Freyd claims she is the victim of gender discrimination and cites as evidence that four of her male psychology colleagues are paid more than she is. The reason that her claim has been dismissed by the court is that all of these men have quite different responsibilities than she does. One of them “also served as the Director of Clinical Training within the Psychology Department.” Another “founded the Center for Translational Neuroscience, of which he is the current co-director.” That professor’s “salary is offset by Harvard University because he performs work for Harvard, a role for which he reports to that university directly.” Another is the chair of the department. The fourth male professor “was externally appointed to the Center on Diversity and Community as an interim director, a university-wide role.”

  6. Anonymous 06/08/2019

    The judge’s ruling and the University’s arguments are ridiculous. You can cherry pick accomplishments. Aside from retention offers, salaries at the University are primarily based on rank, seniority and merit. Based on these considerations, Prof. Freyd’s salary is way below what it should be. The primary reason it is lower is due to retention (not merit) related raises for which there is very good evidence for gender bias.
    The University’s response to this pay/gender equity issue is short sighted and indicates it truly does not support gender equity.

    • Dog 06/08/2019

      Freyd was likely one of the chosen 12
      so that will help a little bit

      although I don’t know what “way below what it should be?”


      is this 50K or 10K

      it matters to be quantitative in this regard

    • just different 06/08/2019

      Exactly. It’s just a slightly more sophisticated rehash of all the usual excuses for the gender pay gap. In time the people who made this argument will all be seen for the embarrassment that they are.

      • Deplorable Duck 06/10/2019

        The idea of a gender pay gap ultimately fails the test of common sense. If there was a significant gap in real pay for what employers really get from the employee, there are plenty of companies and organizations that would exploit the hell out of that gap, Moneyball-style. That’s how market forces work.

        Now, we could say that it’s unjust and/or bad for society that women are paid less because they’re more likely to take time off due to pregnancy. Personally, even though it smacks of Cosmic Justice (per Sowell), I’m sympathetic to this argument. But the proper correction here isn’t to pretend like pregnancy doesn’t have significant costs for employers, or is that their resulting rational behavior is perpetuated by meanies. That’s unworkable.

        Better to simply provide government compensation directly, or better yet, make taxation more aggressively progressive, which ameliorates a lot of similar issues.

        • uomatters Post author | 06/10/2019

          Your argument comes from the theory of perfect competition. However UO is a local monopsonist when it comes to faculty hiring and wages. Very different theoretical implications.

          • Deplorable Duck 06/10/2019

            Okay. But no individual should underestimate the power, nor the satisfaction, that comes from taking one’s ball and going elsewhere (middle fingers held high if you like). I’ve had but one or two such opportunities in my life, and they were glorious.

            If the subject in question really has a case, I strongly encourage her to a caudal inspection of the UO administration with a splintered pike. That would send a message not soon forgot.

            Now soon we shall see what claims might prove out.

            But at the same time, other hidden factors may prove decisive. Nothing is ever clear.

            • uomatters Post author | 06/10/2019

              I’m no econo-ethno-musicologist, but the seminal work on this subject by Johnny Paycheck (1977) recognized that the costs of job search and relocation were a substantial cause of market friction, reducing employee’s willingness to tell their employers to “take this job and shove it“, with obvious implications for the Pareto optimality of employment decisions in imperfect markets.

              In a prescient foreshadowing of the latest empirical work by COACHE at Harvard documenting that the effects of university practices to base salary on retention offers hurt women the most, Paycheck further argued that these costs were less significant to men, particularly those who “lost all the reasons they been working for”. The implications for dual career academic families and relative wages of men and women follow directly.

              Prof Freyd is carrying the torch into a caudal inspection of these employment practices. She deserves everyone’s respect and support for it. Here’s hoping the appeals court judges listen to country music, or at least understand economics.

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