In a recent revelation, the University of Washington’s psychology department has come under scrutiny for its discriminatory practices against white and Asian candidates. The university’s acknowledgment of these systemic racist practices has shed light on an issue that has long plagued academic institutions.
Dianne Harris, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, initiated the investigation into the university’s hiring processes after an internal whistleblower raised concerns. The review sought to determine whether race played a role in the department’s decision-making for a tenure-track assistant professorship.
The investigation results, outlined in a censored document from the UW Civil Rights Investigation Office, revealed how the department’s Diversity Advisory Committee impacted the hiring procedure. This committee exerted pressure on the hiring panel to change candidate rankings based on racial factors, which contravened the university’s policy against discrimination.
Initially, the hiring committee had followed the university’s guidelines, narrowing down a pool of 84 applicants to five candidates. These candidates were then further evaluated, and the top three were ranked based on their merits. However, the Diversity Advisory Committee challenged the committee’s decision, which argued for prioritizing a candidate from a preferred racial background.
The committee member’s concerns about the ranking of candidates raised questions about unconscious biases and the optics of selecting a less junior white candidate over a black candidate. The committee’s decision to revise the order in favor of a less viable candidate was driven by concerns about potential backlash, accusations of not prioritizing diversity, and personal stress among committee members.
The report also revealed attempts by department members to conceal discriminatory practices from public scrutiny. This report included the recommendation to delete statements highlighting the differential treatment of black applicants during the evaluation process.
In response to the investigation’s findings, the University of Washington admitted that race had been inappropriately considered in the hiring process despite prior guidance from university leadership. The university expressed remorse to the affected candidates and announced measures to address these issues.
The psychology department has been suspended from conducting searches for tenured and tenure-track faculty positions for two years due to practices that violated non-discrimination standards. Moreover, all members of the department will undergo training to ensure adherence to non-discrimination laws and university policies in hiring practices.
While the report serves as evidence of the university’s discriminatory actions, it raises broader concerns about the prevalence of such practices within academia. John Sailer, a senior fellow at the National Association of Scholars, emphasizes that this case is not an isolated incident. Discrimination in the name of “equity” is unfortunately all too common, even when it blatantly violates the law.