Evan Hierholzer, Managing Editor
Following concerns expressed by faculty and staff regarding equality and fairness in compensation and the workplace environment, President Thomas Keefe is forming the Presidential Advisory Commission for Workplace Fairness, Equity and Respect. The commission will specifically investigate concerns regarding the status of women faculty and administration at the University of Dallas.
The commission, which, according to Keefe, will form this week and begin its work before the end of the semester, will address concerns brought up in a vigorous discussion that took place on an email exchange designed for UD faculty called “faclist.”
While the issue of faculty compensation has been raised before, this commission will primarily address questions raised specifically about women faculty, staff and administrators at the university.
“The question that has been raised is: ‘Are women on the faculty more grieved than men?’ And we’ve addressed this issue twice before, and our studies have shown that men and women are both in the same comparable position,” said Keefe. “Both reports have come back that there is not a discrepancy between what men and women get paid,” he continued, referring particularly to compensation equality.
Yet the commission is to address more than equality of compensation. According to Keefe, the commission will focus on the position of women faculty with respect to compensation, leadership and workplace environment.
“The leadership issue has been raised and I am cognizant of it,” said Keefe. “I have actually [said] to people … when they serve on search committees that we need for them to be aware that we would benefit by having strong women in leadership roles at the university,” he said.
It is the concern about a welcoming workplace environment for women, however, that Keefe cited as the reason for the commission’s formation.
“I had been aware of the concerns with respect to salary. I also have been aware of the concerns with respect to [there] not [being] enough women [who] are in leadership positions,” he said.
“The reason I formed the President’s Advisory Commission was because on faclist, one individual raised the issue about whether women found the environment here to be unwelcoming [to] the faculty. That genuinely troubled me,” said Keefe. “I don’t want to be part of an institution where a gender or race, a class of people are marginalized by a more dominant class — I don’t want to be part of that. I’ve spent my whole life trying to work to make sure that everyone, irrespective of their race, color, creed, religion, etc., everyone is treated equally and fairly,” he said.
Cherie Hohertz, secretary of the Faculty Senate and director of the Blakley Library, has been appointed by Keefe as the chair of the the new commission.
“I am in a position where I work with faculty from all of the different schools, so I am in touch with everyone, not just Constantin faculty or School of Ministry faculty. I work with everyone,” commented Hohertz.
Hohertz, like Keefe, emphasized the commission’s primary responsibility to address concerns regarding a welcoming and equal work environment for women.
“I think the main focus of the commission is what can we do to attract more women and keep more women,” said Hohertz. According to Hohertz, the question “How do we attract women and how do we support them once they’re here?” is of key importance.
The committee is still in its early stages, and Hohertz indicated that commission members are in the process of being seated. Because more faculty nominees came forward than can be seated on the committee, a selection process is underway, and the commission’s first meeting is expected to occur sometime this week, according to Hohertz.
Keefe and Hohertz both mentioned that, in addition to university investigation, a third-party consultant will be called in to aid in the work of the commission.
“We will hire a consultant, who is an expert in the field, to work with this commission to provide them with an expertise and assistance in gathering the information and then analyzing the information,” said Keefe.
Hohertz, though she believes there is room for improvement at the university, is hopeful about the work of the commission.
“I do not want to say there are immediate major problems, but I think any time you start an investigation like this we are always going to be able to find things that could be handled better, that the process could be improved,” Hohertz said. “It’s going to be a lot of work, but I think it is going to be a fruitful effort. Nothing but good can come out of it, because we are examining fairness, and I think that is what everybody wants. We want things to be fair and things to work out,” she said.
The commission formed this month will be in consultation with both a third-party and the president, and it will state its findings in a final report to the president.