In 2010, the provost’s office completed a four-year study to investigate the possibility of significant salary inequalities between research officers—who are typically academic scholars—of different genders and ethnic backgrounds and reported an average discrepancy of $4,626 between male and female research officers. Last week Spectator reported that the University would be conducting a second study on the same topic.
While we understand that the administration may need further information to move forward soundly, it must prioritize this matter and progress towards its resolution. The decision to conduct a second study delays any action to further investigate reported salary inequalities that the 2010 study reported.
The University’s rationale for conducting a second survey of research officer salaries is that the data is now apparently “outdated,” but the reason the first study took four years to complete—especially if the provost’s office expects the second survey to be completed by the end of the school year—is puzzling.
It is possible that former provost Claude Steele’s resignation delayed the implementation of policy following the 2010 study. But again, the administration articulates no concrete reasons for the length of time or the expected quickening of the second study’s timeline. If the University hopes to get to the bottom of potential salary inequity and muster support in the University Senate and student body to address those potential problems, then it needs to do a better job communicating about the progress of its work than it has in the past.
In addition to greater transparency, the provost’s office needs to re-prioritize this study in a way that reflects its importance to members of this community. Research officers are an important part of the faculty at Columbia, and they deserve to know that they are being paid commensurate with their position and merit. If there is evidence to suggest salary inequality, then the University should do everything in its power to address that possibility. Two studies with minimal communication and no timeline for resolution of persisting inequities fall far short of that requirement.
Correction: An earlier version of this editorial attributed the two studies on salary inequalities to the University Senate’s Research Officers Committee. Spectator regrets this error.
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