Almost a year after it began, the Board of Regents has released a brief report on the findings of the investigation sparked by former Vice President for Human Resources Sandy Chung’s July 1 op-ed “Racism, Sexism, Tokenism: My Experiences as a Woman of Color at University of Portland”. The investigation was done by Lathrop GPM, a large, national law firm whose website says it helps clients “seize opportunities, solve problems and dominate market spaces.”
“We learned that members of our community have not always felt valued and heard,” the Board report said. “In general, the Board found that more is needed to advance best practices regarding diversity, equity and inclusion and, in particular, gender equity in leadership positions. We also learned that some people in leadership did not always have an effective reporting process.”
The Board has outlined several “action items” in response to the findings:
Implement a more robust training program for University supervisors, leadership and the Board itself, including:
Increasing and enhancing DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) trainings throughout the University.
Implementing a training program designed to strengthen the Board of Regents’ governance and oversight.
Conducting cultural awareness workshops in connection with the Catholic mission of the University.
Hire an outside consultant to assist with and supplement the University’s DEI efforts.
Coordinate DEI efforts and resources and consider centralizing them within the University.
Develop the University’s compensation structure to formalize systems for setting senior leadership compensation. This structure includes the creation of a Board-level Executive Compensation Committee to oversee consistent decision making around compensation.
Conduct annual comprehensive performance reviews of all members of the President’s Leadership Cabinet.
Appoint a Board liaison for University leadership in order to raise appropriate concerns directly with the Board if necessary.
Review by the Board of the composition and effectiveness of the resource allocation process overseen by the Budget Working Group.
Conduct DEI climate surveys regularly and share the results with the UP community to foster transparency and measure improvement in overall DEI efforts.
The op-ed that triggered the investigation contained several detailed claims. However, the Regents’ report did not directly address any of them. The claims made by Sandy Chung included:
Filling high level leadership positions with white men, without doing open recruitments and searches
Disrespectful and tokenizing treatment of persons and leaders of color
Golden parachutes promised to white male leaders
UP’s inability to retain women and women of color in leadership positions
Statements indicating that leadership does not value transparency with the Board of Regents
UP leadership specifically directed that diversity, inclusion, and equity training not be done during staff professional development day in 2019
The report said that investigators spoke to many individuals amongst faculty, staff, senior leadership and members of the Board, but did not include their names or positions. Additionally, the report does not provide any details about the investigation such as which specific instances or events were being reviewed, or the process by which Lathrop GPM came to their conclusions.
The report does not give any information on when or how the action items will be put into effect, and who specifically will oversee the reforms.
The Beacon asked Vice President for Marketing and Communications Michael Lewellen if the University would release the full investigative report, and he said there would be no further information.
“This is the report,” he said.
Chung, who was notified the day before the findings were made public, supports the planned reforms.
“I do feel like there was integrity to the action steps,” Chung said, cautioning that “this isn’t a one-time solution. This is something that has to be engaged in continuously, assessed continuously, committed to continuously, and not by any one person by the entire community.”
Chung, who left UP in January to become executive director of the ACLU of Oregon, emphasized the importance of systemic change at UP.
“One of the conversations that we really had last year and this year is that a lot of issues of racism and sexism, homophobia... and other types of oppression, they’re systemic,” Chung said. “And when problems are systemic it's not about one person or one policy or one thing. It's about, you know, the whole infrastructure of an organization but also the society in which we're within. So it's both about UP, but it's about UP within the context of also bigger systems of oppression in the United States.”
Austin De Dios is the News and Managing Editor of The Beacon. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.