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Monthly Archives: March 2015

In The Guardian on 26 March 2015, Trevor Timm published an article titled “It’s OK to leak government secrets – as long as it benefits politicians”. Timm discussed leaks by former general David Petraeus, former general James ‘Hoss’ Cartwright, and several members of Hillary Clinton’s entourage at the Department of State, all of which were leaks made with impunity, in contrast to the many prosecutions of low-level leakers by the Obama administration, such as that of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling and former army officer Chelsea Manning. In The Guardian, Timm says:

When it comes to leaks, the powerful play by different rules than everyone else – despite the fact that they’ve violated the same law they’ve accused so many other leakers of breaking.

This is one way to interpret the tack Carleton University’s provost, Peter Ricketts, took with regards to gender inequity data. Peter Ricketts seems to consider himself a powerful politician at Carleton University. One could claim that Peter Ricketts officially leaked confidential gender inequity data at the open session of university Senate on 27 February 2015, leaked that confidential data again via e-mail that was not marked confidential on 6 March 2015, and then on 17 March 2015 tried to retroactively label that data confidential. See my 27 February and 17 March 2015 Senate blog postings for details. As I suggested on 17 March 2015, the other way to interpret Peter Ricketts’ actions is that the gender inequity data he presented and later e-mailed were never confidential, but only labeled confidential ex post to save him from embarrassment. Either way, Peter Ricketts owes Carleton University and its Senate an apology.

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Undisputed Facts

On 28 August 2014, I posed a question regarding gender equity of academic hires for senate question period (see here for the exact question). This question was not addressed in any form at senate until 27 February 2015. Senate convened just after 2 pm on 27 February 2015 and almost immediately went into closed session, at which point at least a half-dozen people were asked to leave the room. Once closed session finished, those people returned to the senate room for open session. One of the first orders of business at the open session, which the newly readmitted guests heard, was Carleton University’s provost, Peter Ricketts, providing a presentation on gender equity of the university’s academic staff. His presentation included eighteen slides. On 2 March 2015, I posted an in-depth blog posting (here) about the provost’s gender equity presentation. On 6 March 2015, members of senate were sent an electronic copy of the provost’s 18-slide presentation. The entire body of the e-mail promulgating the PDF file with his presentation read, “Dear Senators – attached please find the Provost’s presentation on ‘Academic Staff Hiring at Carleton University Gender Analysis 2009/10 – 2013/14’ from the Senate meeting of February 27, 2015.” That 6 March 2015 e-mail stated nothing about confidentiality of the attached file. Via e-mail, I immediately asked the following question of the senate office, “Are the provost’s slides on academic hiring public information? Given that they were presented at an open session of Senate, I assume they are public and can be shared, but I first really need to check.” Eleven days later, on 17 March 2015, I was informed in writing by the senate office that, “The Provost has confirmed that the presentation, as circulated, is for members of Senate only.” This 17 March 2015 response was the antithesis of confirmation of my 6 March 2015 e-mail query.

Arguments

First, follow this reductio ad absurdum argument. Assume the presentation slides are confidential. If I disseminate those slides, such as by attaching them to this blog posting, then I can be fired. Using identical logic, the provost, Peter Ricketts, should be fired for presenting those slides to an open session of senate. Given that Peter Ricketts still has his job, this implies the slides cannot be confidential. The only way this argument fails is if there is an ongoing effort to fire Peter Ricketts from his position at Carleton University, but that all the administrative steps have not yet been completed. Giving the university’s administration the benefit of the doubt by assuming that most unlikely of administrative scenarios, I will therefore not further disseminate the provost’s gender equity presentation slides at this juncture.

The other reason to believe that Peter Ricketts’ slide presentation to senate on gender inequity was not confidential was that the general public, the people invited back into the room after closed session ended, were allowed to see the presentation. I even used my phone to take photos of several of the slides. If any of the presentation had been confidential, those matters could have and should have dealt with during closed session. The university president and provost can easily take senate back into closed session, but declined to do so. To show slides at an open session and then deem them confidential ex post makes a mockery of open sessions and a mockery of senate. Given that the slides were not distributed electronically for a week, the provost had ample opportunity to clean up any inadvertent confidentiality gaffes. Furthermore, this presentation was six months in preparation, in response to my formal question posed on 28 August 2014, so should have been well honed and vetted.

For the aforementioned reasons, we must assume that Peter Ricketts’ gender inequity slides at the 27 March 2015 meeting, the ones distributed electronically to members of senate a week later, were NOT confidential, but were simply embargoed to save someone from embarrassment. The question remains: Who would be embarrassed by that slide presentation? In my previous blog posting, I asserted that Carleton should incur some institutional embarrassment because of our deplorable track-record of hiring female tenure-track faculty members in science and especially engineering. I also asserted that the presentation would and should be an embarrassment to the provost in that he oversees academic hiring. Even more deplorable, the provost’s dissembling with statistics was something that we would fail our undergraduate students for doing in one of their class presentations. The provost’s presentation, if it were made public, would probably disqualify Peter Ricketts from being a provost at any college or university, including Carleton (imagine if a head-hunter got a hold of those slides). But that is a poor reason to mandate that a document shown by upper administration in open session of university senate be deemed confidential long after the fact, i.e. a poor reason for the provost to close the barn door after he deliberately let the horses out.

Recommendations

While the provost either willfully or negligently failed to answer my 28 August 2014 query for senate question period, at least he presented some gender equity data at the 27 February 2015 open session of senate. That is an important start regarding gender inequity, which is a sufficiently important policy issue that most students, staff, faculty, and alumni should be engaged. Now let’s share that data with the entire Carleton community, i.e. the real community at-large. Then let’s get Carleton University to actually answer the gender inequity questions that I originally posed over a half-year ago. Let’s start an important open policy discussion that revolves around data. Suppressing data, as was just done with the senate gender equity presentation, looks simply like Carleton has something to hide. In the long-run, treating data confidentiality like a yo-yo can only hurt Carleton University’s policies and reputation.

Senate was lively on Friday 27 February 2015, with the focus on gender equity/inequity of academic staff, which I discuss at length below. But first, two other important matters occurred during open session: Carleton’s plans for offering programs in Cornwall and the continuing debacle of how Senate is kept in the dark about major modifications to existing programs.

Carleton in Cornwall

The provost briefly and reluctantly mentioned that Carleton University is exploring two plans for joint programs with St. Lawrence College in Cornwall. I say ‘reluctantly’ because this would not have come up without question period. The first plan is for our environmental science program to work with the River Institute and St. Lawrence College. The provost said that this will not be in association with our Bachelor of Information Technology program, contrary to an official Carleton document that I had recently seen. The second plan is for our school of public affairs to work with St. Lawrence College and the community of Akwesasne. Given how long these discussions have been ongoing regarding Cornwall, it seems surprising that the university has not been forthcoming with Senate and the Board of Governors (see my earlier critique here). Furthermore, if any Carleton employees will eventually be working in Cornwall, I hope that the university’s administration is discussing possible impact with the relevant unions on campus and doing so in a timely and proactive manner.

Major program modifications

For a second consecutive meeting, Senate was asked to vote on an omnibus motion of well over a hundred pages with only a few days to review the documents. Furthermore, the voluminous Senate Academic Planning Committee (SAPC) documents did not contain a table of contents, as had been promised at the previous meeting of Senate. SAPC needs to do better, and Senate needs to hold them accountable. Not only were the major modifications presented without a table of contents or index, but the changes themselves reflect Carleton’s downward spiral of offering more-and-more course-work-only graduate programs, thereby making us less-and-less research-intensive.

Gender bias in academic staff hiring

The provost reported on Carleton University’s supposed improvement in hiring women for academic positions during the past four years (2009/10 thru 2013/14), but his aggregated data included not just tenure/tenure-track positions, but also temporary term positions. This is outrageous and obfuscatory, especially when the original question that motivated this presentation asked for these categories to be separated because of the suspicion that males were getting plum jobs while females were getting rotten fruit (not ‘sour grapes’, if perchance you want a really tortured metaphor). A contract instructor at Senate asked why data were not reported for contract instructors. The provost said that this was because contract instructors were not part of the original question, which is untrue. On 28 August 2014, I submitted the following question, copied here verbatim, for question period at the 26 September 2014 Senate meeting (I agreed to have the answers deferred until today’s Senate meeting):

Has there been gender equity in hiring of teachers at Carleton over the past 25 years? Could you please provide data on numbers of female versus male (1) tenured/tenure-track faculty members, (2) permanent instructors, with confirmation or on track for confirmation, and (3) contract instructors, who are only hired on temporary, short-term contracts; with this data broken down per faculty (FASS, FPA, Science, Engineering, Business)? I am asking about number of individual people teaching, not about number of courses taught nor FTEs. Could you please provide the numbers of female and male employees as of September in the following years: 1989, 1994, 1999, 2004, 2009, and 2014. For each faculty once every five years, I am asking for a table that looks like:

Female Male
Tenured/tenure track
Instructor (confirmation track)
Contract Instructor

I understand that some people will be excluded from these data tables because they declined to specify gender or they self-identified as multiple or other genders. I also understand that the smallest of our faculties, the business school, was created as a separate entity only in 2001. That means I am asking for 27 tables like the one above: four tables each for 1989, 1994, and 1999 and five table each for 2004, 2009, and 2014. There should be sufficiently large numbers in each of these 27 data tables that nobody’s confidentiality is breached.

At Senate today, the provost danced around answering these questions, using data from Carleton’s Office of Institutional Research & Planning (OIRP) and data from his own office. Bruce Winer, who heads ORIP, seemed to know and explain this data beautifully, but did not speak unless occasionally specifically asked for details. By contrast, the provost seemed utterly inept. His slides were very poorly labeled and contained tiny typefaces. As mentioned above, he egregiously aggregated data. The provost used an incredible number of bait-and-switch tactics. In successive histograms, he reversed the order of bars representing females and males. He reported the annual number of hires of female academic staff per faculty, but never presented data for number of male hires or total hires, without which members of Senate could not discern whether gender inequities existed. Although the data projector was not displaying colours perfectly, anybody presenting important matters knows not to rely on colour because of the ubiquity of colour-blind people. The provost not only failed to answer my question about gender equity between permanent and term academic positions, but also failed to answer my questions about long-term trends by only covering the past four years. Several colleagues noted that they would have failed any student reporting data and statistics as poorly and seemingly disingenuously as the provost did today.

Carleton and all employers bringing in more than one million dollars per year and/or having over a hundred employees are required to report equity data to the “Federal Contractors Program” (link). Data are broken down into four categories: gender, aboriginal status, disabilities, and other visible minority status. The problem is that the Federal Contractor Program is a black hole, with lots of data going in, but no data being reported out. This is entirely consistent with the Harper government’s disregard for gender equity, let alone disregard for indigenous peoples. This also partly explains the baseline that Carleton equity services compares our hiring data with, which is the Statistics Canada proportions of females who have earned PhDs in each discipline. Ideally, Carleton should be comparing its equity data to that of other Canadian universities, data that is collected but not disseminated by the Federal Contractors Program.

It was obvious from the provost’s slides that Carleton science and engineering – especially engineering – are doing horrendously at hiring female faculty members. In fact, according to the data shown at Senate today, engineering did not hire any female faculty members or female term instructors last year. Yet, the deans of engineering and science inexplicably sat silent at Senate. The new director of equity services was present, but was also silent. My suspicion is that these administrators had been muzzled by the provost. In a perverse way, my hope is that they were muzzled. Otherwise this unified policy front indicates an even more pervasive lack of leadership, i.e. unwillingness of many in upper management to acknowledge or tackle a significant problem.

The alumni representative at Senate asked how many genders Carleton tracks. Initially, the provost said that Carleton only counts one gender (!), but eventually corrected himself. His final answer was two, female and male, which is a reactionary and anachronistic answer, albeit somewhat practical. While gender is not real, gender inequity is real. Pigeon-holing people into a gender binary is an imperfect way to quantify gender inequity, although I have also suggested a more queer-friendly approach (here).

The most important step in problem-solving is first admitting that you have a problem. Yet somehow despite the data shown at Senate, the provost said we are doing great with hiring female academic staff. Therefore let’s get the provost and deans to put money where their mouths are in two ways. First, Carleton should revamp its Enrolment-Linked Budget Allocation (ELBA) scheme, which will be needed anyway because of decreased BA enrolments (for an explanation, see here). I propose that annual faculty budget allocations be partly based on the ratio of the proportion of permanent female faculty members divided by the proportion of female PhDs in that discipline. Instead of student numbers solely driving budgets to each academic dean, hiring decisions should also drive faculty budget allocations. After all, it is the deans who hire tenure-track academic staff and negotiate their salaries. I propose that each faculty budget allocation be proportional to this ratio of observed-to-expected number of female faculty, i.e. something akin to but even simpler than chi-square statistics. If a given academic faculty/dean is hiring a higher proportion of female faculty members than there are females earning PhDs in that discipline, then reward that faculty with more money. If a faculty/dean is hiring a lower proportion of female faculty members than there are females earning PhDs in that discipline, then punish that faculty with less money. Second and even more poignantly, Carleton should make compensation packages for academic deans and the provost dependent on these ratios. That might finally get them motivated to fix a problem that some of these managers have long ignored, if not exacerbated. If management really wants merit pay, why not lead by example?

The vice chair of our Board of Governors asked the provost whether Carleton has a policy or quota on number or proportion of female academic staff hired. The provost responded that Carleton has absolutely no targets and “no affirmative action program or policy”. The provost also said that Carleton’s one gender equity constraint in hiring academic staff was to abide by the collective agreement (you’ve got to love his default posture of blaming the unions). Note that ironically or egregiously – I cannot discern which – the provost spoke of a single collective agreement, by which I assume he meant with CUASA, even though he aggregated data of permanent and term academic positions in his data presentation, who are represented by separate unions. Michael MacNeil responded that the provost was dead wrong: Carleton has an affirmative action policy covering inequalities in gender, disability, aboriginal status, or other visible minorities, titled “Employment equity in recruitment for academic appointments at Carleton University” (link). Unfortunately, this policy does not have many teeth. This policy acts as a tie-breaker if all else is equal with top-ranked candidates. The policy has the equity service office cajole search committees and insure that search committees have some modicum of diversity. The policy did not stop my department and dean from interviewing only white males applicants – five of five people interviewed – for a recent tenure-track opening in a field in which many females earn PhDs (health science). I therefore asked to have Senate’s equity committee be tasked with exploring a genuine affirmative action program. The provost balked by explaining that no other universities in Canada seem to be doing this. It is sad not even having the courage to refer something to a relevant committee for preliminary discussion.

In my 2 and 5 February 2015 Board of Governors blog postings (here and here), I provided solutions other than ELBA for improving our hiring of female faculty members. Clearly Carleton should have a moral obligation to meet the Lortie Commission’s 40/40 rule, which could be translated into a minimum of 80% of the ratio of the proportion of our female tenure-track hires divided by the proportion of female PhDs in each discipline. Allow me to also amplify one of my suggestions from those previous postings, namely double-member ridings. The problem with the way that Carleton and almost all other universities hire academic staff is that there is only one job opening per search, which guarantees lack of diversity. Consider the analogous case of purchasing computers. If you can only have one computer at a time, then you settle for a boring general-purpose machine. However, if you can have four computers at a time, you will probably purchase a desktop, a laptop, a tablet (e.g. iPad), and a smart phone. That is genuine diversity that arises simply by having one search for several computers. Likewise, when going to the grocery store with only $5, you tend to buy some boring foods for sustenance, such as rice and beans. The same would be true if you gave twenty people each $5 for groceries. But pool those monies and give people $100 for groceries, they tend to purchase a much greater diversity of foods. See Rory Sutherland’s article (here) for many more such examples, including how this approach landed him his current job. Why don’t we do the same for hiring faculty members? Deans can aggregate hires, e.g. they can much more rarely allow a unit to hire, but, when so doing, they could allow hiring of multiple people. This is the double-member riding scenario on steroids. Yes, this is radical, but I am tired of being bored by lack of vision and the monotonous mantra of ‘past practices’.

Discussion of gender equity of academic faculty members at Senate ended with questions about promulgating the data to members of Senate and the public. The provost and assistant vice president finance for ORIP rightfully wanted some of the data aggregated because small sample sizes could breach confidentiality, thereby constituting a FIPPA violation. I am okay with that, but will note that the provost showed these numbers at an open session of Senate. I took some admittedly fuzzy photos of the slides, as could have any member of the public. If it is a FIPPA violation to e-mail an attachment, then it is the same FIPPA violation projecting those slides on the big screen at an open meeting. Bruce Winer said that aggregation would be at the faculty level because many individual units are too small, which seems reasonable. Senate was also promised that in the future these data would break out contract instructors. I also hope that the data are separated between term positions and permanent (possibly preliminary) positions.

My biggest problem with the discussion of gender equity was not the provost’s lying and dissembling with statistics, but rather that the bottom line of Carleton’s upper administration seems to be that we do not have a problem with gender equity. Carleton University’s president, deans, and head of equity services sat silently as the provost rhapsodized over how well we treat women, especially in the past four years. [Update posted 5 March 2015: On 2 March 2015, Kim Matheson, Carleton’s vice president of research published an insightful editorial in her in-house newsletter regarding gender inequality, including at Carleton (link here)]. By contrast, my 2 February 2015 Board of Governors blog posting (here) virtually forms a prima facie case for huge gender bias problems with Carleton’s academic hiring, a situation seemingly compounded by the provost’s slides at Senate today, despite his specious verbal assertions to the contrary. How are we going to fix a problem when we aren’t even willing to admit we have a problem? I am not saying that everybody in Carleton’s upper administration is trying to hide our gender inequities. Carleton University certainly has gender bias regarding academic hiring, for instance in computer science and engineering, but it is impossible to determine the extent of the problem across the rest of the university from the provost’s pathetic presentation at Senate on 27 February 2015. Can Senate eventually get a decent presentation on gender equity in academic hiring that answers the original questions and have this presented by somebody who understands graphs, statistics, and quantitative data?

Closing remarks

The above posting constitutes my interpretation of what transpired at the open session of Carleton University’s Senate. I do not and will not report on what transpires at closed sessions. Furthermore, this blog posting should not substitute for the remarkable official minutes of meetings drafted by the secretary and clerk of Senate. As always, I welcome your feedback.