Credibility of University of Kansas Gender Equity Report Called Into Question

Sparse research, personal bias may have tainted results

Watson Library at the University of Kansas

Watson Library at the University of Kansas / Wikimedia Commons

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Sparse research, a dearth of qualitative data, and personal bias may have tainted the results of a University of Kansas report on campus gender equity.

At least two members of the 10-person University Senate’s Ad-Hoc Committee on Gender Equity admitted to doing sparse research on the sub-topics they were assigned, despite the committee taking an extra seven months beyond its one-year deadline to release the report, according to the Kansan. It was finally published in September.

Dustin Struble, a prevention educator with the Sexual Assault and Prevention Center, told the Kansan his assessment of KU’s treatment of transgender issues was based on "relatively limited" research.

Teri Michelle Chambers, administrative assistant of the Academic Achievement and Access Center, said she spent "not quite a week all told in the research and the writing" of her section on gender issues facing KU staff.

Chambers told the Kansan she was not "expected to do" any in-depth data research, and her material was heavily based on anecdotal evidence and her own experiences working at KU.

The report was the result of a broad charge given to the committee by the University Senate to "investigate and identify potential issues of inequality of treatment of students, staff, and faculty based on gender."

Among the issues outlined in the report are the higher rates of women resigning from and filing discrimination cases against KU and limited instances of a gender pay gap.

The committee relied heavily on "web searches," such as pulling publicly available data on faculty salaries from the Office of Institutional Research and Planning (OIRP).

The results of a recently released climate survey KU conducted were not available to the committee.

No external body reviewed the report prior to publication, and Donna Ginther, chair of the committee and director of Center for Economic and Business Analysis, told the Kansan she did not double check the work submitted by the committee, made up of four faculty and three staff members, and three students.

Ginther said she "assumed that [members] were very knowledgeable of their specific domain."

In the report, the committee claimed to have "[conducted] substantial policy review" at six separate meetings.

Low on numbers and high on commentary, the report heaped praise on "revolutionized" sexual violence training implemented following the creation of a Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center, and scorn for a "hostile" parental leave policy.

The section on childcare was written by Chambers, and, as per her explanation in the report, she took issue with the KU policy's language stating that family responsibilities would be accommodated "when workloads allow."

She also pointedly criticized one of the campus daycare options, the Hilltop Childcare Center, claiming it did not prioritize KU staff needs.

As the Kansan reported, Chambers' views may have been influenced by her own daughter not being accepted to Hilltop about a decade ago. The student paper also noted that the Hilltop executive director said he was not consulted at any time by Chambers or anyone else on the committee.

University Senate President Suzanne Shontz told the Washington Free Beacon she believed it was a "very thorough report," considering that those involved have to "pick and choose how much time to devote" to such projects.

"Some faculty are on 20 committees a year. The committee had this big task to take on, and it was overworked," said Shontz.

"That doesn’t mean they should be lazy," she added.

The report has been discussed at a University Senate Executive Committee, Shontz said, and there are plans to cover it at a future general meeting.

"There are a lot of conversations about the report happening on the sidelines, and we will be deciding where to go from here and how to follow up," she said.

One of the recommendations being mulled over is the suggestion that KU revise its definitions of sexual violence and harassment, "in order to make KU’s code of conduct enforceable and to prevent legal action against KU."

The University Senate does not have the authority to implement change, but it could apply pressure to the general counsel’s office to take up the matter, Shontz explained.

The committee’s work was never meant to be "comprehensive," according to Shontz. Instead, members selected the topics they thought deserved some attention within the general category of gender equity.

She recognized that the mission may have been "too vague."

"We will ask these questions every few years, and we will reevaluate how we gather this information," said Shontz.

Committee members did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Rachel Frommer

Rachel Frommer   Email | Full Bio | RSS
Rachel Frommer is a staff writer with the Washington Free Beacon reporting on campus issues, including anti-free speech and anti-Israel activity. Prior to the Free Beacon, she was the senior campus correspondent at The Algemeiner. Her work has been picked up by Fox News, Newsweek, and the New York Post. She graduated from Touro College in 2016 with a BA in English literature. Her Twitter handle is @Rachel_Frommer, and her email address is frommer@freebeacon.com.

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