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Panel to Ensure Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility For All UAF Workers, Students

YouTube screenshot/UAF file photo

A new group has begun work at the University of Alaska Fairbanks to help ensure all people who work or study at the UAF are treated equally. The Chancellor’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility Task Force will study the institutional barriers that hold back women and other under-represented groups from advancing up the ranks of faculty or administration, and to proposed solutions to those problems.

UAF associate sociology professor Sine Anahita says the task force that she co-chairs initially was intended to look into complaints about the disparity in salaries paid to women and their male counterparts at the university, especially those in leadership positions.

“There was a group of women faculty and researchers up on West Ridge,” she said, “and they experienced sex discrimination, in terms of pay, in terms of prestige, in terms of the way they were treated by deans and directors and by colleagues.”

Anahita says the women put together a study that showed 25 of the 28 top wage-earners at UAF are men; and that they are paid a total of $4.5 million. That’s about nine times more than the women earn – which is a total of about a half-million dollars. Anahita says the six women began circulating a petition that eventually was signed by more than 200 people asking the chancellor to look into the situation and to request that deans to undergo more sex-discrimination training, in hopes that would lead to better pay for women.

“So it was presented to the chancellor, it was presented to the faculty senate, and people just got interested in the issue,” she said.

Anahita says Chancellor Dan White was so supportive of the proposal that he called for formation of a task force to examine the issue. And she says over the holidays, she took to heart some advice from a former student who’d earned a PhD and is now teaching elsewhere – and who is deaf. Anahita says the former student suggested the task force should also address fair treatment of disabled people, to ensure among other things that they can access public facilities.

She said that’s how the panel became the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility Task Force.

“It’s expanded to be more broad” in its mission, she added.

'We have to demonstrate to the community -- the surrounding community and the campus community -- that we care about gender equity, inclusion, Title IX and issues that impact women ... "
-- Keith Champagne, UAF Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs

Anahita says the chancellor last month appointed her and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Keith Champagne as task force co-chairs.

“We have to demonstrate to the community – the surrounding community and the campus community – that we care about gender equity, inclusion, Title IX and issues that  impact women as students, and women as employees of the university,” he said.

Champagne says he and Anahita hope the task force will be able to plug what they call “leaks in the pipeline” of talented women and members of other under-represented groups who leave the university because they aren’t paid fairly.

“What we want to do is look at what we can do, once was gather all the information, to work with the Board of Regents and the university to make systemic and institutionalized change,” he said.

Anahita says the problem is not just a problem at UAF. She says it’s common throughout American society.

“So it’s not that UAF is unique in having fewer women administrators than male administrators, for instance, or even fewer people of color up at the top of the ranks. It’s a structural issue,” she said. “Because sexism and racism, heterosexism and able-ism is built into our social structure.”

Anahita and Champagne both say they’ll work with other campus offices and organizations such as the Title IX office and the Faculty Senate Committee on the Status of Women. They say their first assignment will be to review a salary survey the university commissioned in the wake of the six women’s petition  and propose how it might pay all its women workers more equitably.

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.