Faculty union says UVM discriminated against women

Discrimination occurs everyday, all over the world, but some say it’s happening right here at UVM.United Academics, the faculty union at UVM, filed a grievance against the University in October for gender discrimination against assistant clinical nursing professors.The grievance was filed after a male was hired at a higher starting salary than five other females hired for the same position.  “A male was brought in to fill a position where there were five females who had similar qualifications and in many cases had much more experience,” David Shiman, president of United Academics, said. “He ended up with a higher salary — higher than people who have had 12 years experience here.”The assistant clinical professors who were hired within the last year or two were told when they were hired that salary was non-negotiable, yet the male worker came in and had the option to negotiate a salary, Shiman said. “So we filed a grievance,” he said. The grievance first went to the provost office, but after they rejected it the grievance then went to the Vermont Labor Relations Board, Shiman said.”We’re suggesting that the female faculty have an adjusted salary,” he said. “This is a realistic goal.”The University has been less than understanding. United Academics has offered a settlement two or three times, but the University has rejected them, Shiman said.”We again came back after we found out it was going to the labor board and said ‘Why don’t we sit down and talk? Why not see if we can work something out?’ They have shown no interest in that,” he said.Assistant Provost Rachel Johnson said she has a reason for why the University refuses to settle. “We’ve carefully reviewed it, and it’s the University’s position that the salary discrepancy is due to market-related factors and not gender discrimination,” Johnson said.On the surface, the salary discrepancies may appear to be gender-related, but you have to look deeper than the surface, she said. “It’s not unusual for a new hire to result in salary compression for colleagues who’ve held similar positions for a number of years,” she said. “Depending on the market and the competitiveness, it’s not uncommon for someone new to come in higher.”The University had tried to fill the vacant position twice before but had failed, which created the market pressures that lead to a higher salary, Johnson said.”It wouldn’t have mattered if that person hired was a man or a woman, we would have had to bring them in at the salary that we brought them in at,” she said.That being said, the University agrees that it is an issue that needs to be researched and taken seriously.”The University cares very deeply about gender equity, and we take concerns about possible gender discrimination very seriously,” Johnson said.Shiman agrees that the grievance should not be taken lightly. “[Gender discrimination] is an important issue,” he said. “There hasn’t been a case like this since we’ve had the union.”Although it hasn’t been reported, that doesn’t guarantee that discrimination hasn’t occurred before at the University.”We have no evidence of prior [discrimination], but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist,” Shiman said.Freshman Shayna D’Arezzo said she agrees.”There’s sexism everywhere,” D’Arezzo said. “I don’t think it’s out in the open. It’s more under wraps, but it’s everywhere, all the time.”The male colleague hired should have the same salary as his female coworkers, no matter the market pressures of the time, she said.”I think it’s just an excuse they made up to compensate for the fact that he’s receiving a much higher pay than the women,” D’Arezzo said. “I think it should be fair and equal — just because he’s a man doesn’t mean he should have higher pay.”The grievance has now reached the Vermont Labor Relations Board, where they have had one hearing and are scheduled for up to three more that are to occur in May, both parties confirmed.”Win or lose, the goal is to ensure that consciousness is raised and that administrators look at this very carefully before they make personnel decisions,” Shiman said.