Equity Issues Committee
Background and Strategy

Background

The Equity Issues Committee was formed in August 1999 to consider issues that were of concern to women as well as minority faculty and unclassified professionals at Kansas State University. In September 1999, the Kansas Board of Regents requested that each Regents’ institution conduct a gender and minority equity study on faculty salaries using the recently endorsed Wichita State regression model and report preliminary findings to the Council of Presidents by December 1, 1999. The Board of Regents also requested that each Regents’ institution develop a strategy to address equity issues on its own campus and prepare a report on the faculty salary study to be presented at the September 2000 Board of Regents meeting.

The K-State Equity Issues Committee was charged with (1) coordinating the development of the K-State report on the equity study of faculty salaries, and (2) making recommendations to the Provost regarding equity issues other than faculty salaries, methods that might be used to collect appropriate information, and means for addressing equity issues that involve other groups. In response to that charge, the Equity Issues Committee developed a comprehensive strategy that was divided into three phases, with an anticipated timeline of eighteen months to two years for completion of all phases. This strategy was presented to both the Provost and later to the Board of Regents at their October 1999 meeting.

Strategy

Phase I

Phase I of the strategy was to conduct the faculty salary equity study. The Kansas State University Office of Planning and Analysis collected the necessary information for this study and performed the regression analysis. A full report was provided to the Kansas Board of Regents on November 30, 1999.

Phase II

Phase II of the strategy was designed to address inequities that influence promotion, rank, allocation of internal resources, as well as other issues specific to women and minorities.

As part of our Phase II strategy, three subcommittees were formed to study issues specific to particular groups having equity concerns. These groups were identified as (1) faculty women, (2) unclassified professional women, and (3) minority faculty and unclassified professionals. Members of the Equity Issues Committee chaired these subcommittees, and the subcommittees included other members of the Equity Issues Committee as well as individuals from the campus at large. The subcommittees began their work during the Spring 2000 Semester and used various methods for gathering information from their selected populations.

The Faculty Women Subcommittee distributed a survey to 320 women faculty members, including all full-time faculty (tenured, regular, and term appointments) and all part-time faculty (tenured or regular appointments) at the ranks of instructor, assistant professor, associate professor, and full professor. Of the 320 women faculty members surveyed, 50% responded. The survey addressed the following issues: salary and compensation, access to workspace, access to other resources, climate, work loads/expectations, hiring/tenure/promotion, and recognition.

The Unclassified Professional Women Subcommittee conducted a series of focus group meetings among unclassified professional women. The goal was to gather information about equity issues for this group of employees. There are approximately 900 fulltime unclassified professional (non-faculty) state employees who are on regular contracts at Kansas State University. Of this number, approximately half are female. Using a random sampling process, thirty female participants were selected from a list of employees in this category and divided into three separate focus groups.

During the discussions, participants made several positive and encouraging comments that would suggest there are places where gender equity is not a problem on our campus. However, the participants also provided comments that revealed several recurring concerns that need to be addressed. These included the following: inadequate dissemination of information about policies and practices; inconsistent application of policies and practices; variability in opportunities for professional development and advancement; need for mentoring; variability in the titles held by men and women performing similar duties and the resultant effects on salary; the perception that negotiations by men for higher starting salaries and raises are more effective than similar negotiations attempted by women; the perception that male employees are more likely than women to be appointed to fill a position rather than having to apply for a position as part of a search; and the overall climate, including issues related to both the tangible and intangible climate.

The Minority Equity Subcommittee compiled demographic information on the number of unclassified faculty and staff of color. There are currently 231 individuals in this category. The subcommittee developed a listserv by which members of this group could respond to questions from the Minority Equity Subcommittee. Members of this sub-committee also conducted personal interviews with those faculty and staff of color who chose to participate. Supplemental information was used from a 1996 survey of 253 faculty and staff of color (31% response rate) and meetings that were held with the various multicultural faculty organizations.

The 1996 survey and the more recent interviews identified the following issues pertaining to faculty and staff of color: dissatisfaction with salary by staff, more so than faculty, due to the concern that staff of color are underpaid based on their credentials and experience when compared to non-minorities; need to increase the recruitment and retention of faculty, staff and students of color; need for creation of a more welcoming and inclusive atmosphere; wanting to be treated as valued and integral members of the university; the higher service commitment and expectations for this group; insufficient numbers of senior faculty and staff of color to provide adequate support, feedback and mentoring for junior colleagues; and need for more culturally relevant goods and services in the community.

All of the subcommittees analyzed the data they collected, and they used the information they gathered to guide the development of a “toolkit” that includes methodologies/ approaches by which equity issues and bias can be examined by department and unit heads at the unit level. The draft of the toolkit was completed in Summer 2001.

Copies of the surveys, focus group questions and reports of each of the subcommittees are available from the Office of the Provost upon request.

Phase III

Phase III includes the implementation and testing of the methodologies or approaches developed as part of Phase II. The College of Education and the College of Agriculture have agreed to serve as “test beds” for this project. The department heads/chairs in these two colleges are being provided with a copy of the toolkit and are being asked to review it and provide feedback to the committee as to how it might be improved. The committee will use that feedback to make appropriate revisions, and the revised toolkit will be given back to the same department heads in Education and in Agriculture for their use, but each department head will determine how he or she chooses to use it. Distribution of the assessment surveys in the toolkit is not mandatory, but testing as many of the assessment tools as possible will be important to the refinement and improvement of these materials. Any surveys that the department heads wish to test will have the completed surveys returned to the Office of Planning and Analysis, and an aggregate report will be provided to the department heads only. Confidentiality of the individual responses will be maintained. Any data or information obtained from this initial use of the assessment tools should be considered preliminary, since one of the purposes of this initial use is to identify questions or aspects of the toolkit that may need modification and improvement. It will be at the discretion of the department heads to share the aggregate results with their departments, dean, department or college diversity committees or others. The Equity Issues Committee believes it is important that the toolkit be used for improvement purposes, unless the department heads wish to have it also serve an evaluative purpose.

Following this initial implementation of the assessment tools, the department heads will solicit feedback from faculty and unclassified professionals in their units on ways the assessment tools could be improved, and the heads/chairs will again provide feedback to the committee on suggested changes. The committees will make further refinements to the toolkit and forward it to the Provost and Vice Presidents for potential use by all units in the university community. The toolkit will be tested during the Fall 2001 semester, with the goal of providing the final revised form of the toolkit to the Provost and Vice President during Spring 2002.