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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Did UAB Fudge Its Numbers on Salary Study for Women?

A recent national survey showed that the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) pays female professors higher than the national average and higher than the University of Alabama and Auburn University.

But an ongoing lawsuit in Birmingham federal court alleges that UAB has a history of attempting to misrepresent its statistics on gender-related salary studies.

The lawsuit, filed by longtime UAB faculty member Rosalia Scripa, states that university officials once instructed her to alter the methods for collecting salary information in order to show the data in a more favorable light.

In the recent national survey, conducted by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), UAB pays female full-time, full professors 92 percent as much as men. The figure is 90 percent at the University of Alabama and Auburn University, and the national average is 89 percent.

Scripa's lawsuit, however, indicates that UAB's figures might not be reliable. As recently as 2006, Scripa alleges, UAB officials tried to alter the results of a salary study to make it appear that female faculty members were being paid better than they actually were, compared to their male counterparts.

In late 2005, Scripa became the principal investigator on UAB's National Science Foundation ADVANCE (Advancement of Women in Math and Sciences) grant.

After working on the grant for several months, Scripa saw that female faculty members in UAB's School of Social and Behavioral Sciences and the School of Business were not being paid in the same manner as their male counterparts.

Scripa brought the discrepancies to the attention of Provost Eli Capilouto and Director of Human Resources Cheryl E.H. Locke. According to the lawsuit, Capilouto and Locke "decided that it would be in UAB's best interest not to provide the data as it existed in the Human Resources file."

Scripa was told to go back and look at salaries using "matched pairs" to see if they would show the salary data in a more favorable light.

The lawsuit states:

A "matched pair" would have been a male and female faculty member, in the same school, in the same department; with an analysis of the same factors, such as time since their Ph.D. was earned, time since they were tenured, and etc.

In most cases, no matched pairs could be found in order to compare salaries.

Even when a matched pair could be found, the number of faculty was so tiny, no statistically significant conclusions could be drawn.

Scripa alleges that UAB retaliated against her for raising concerns about discrimination against female faculty members. After pointing out gender-based pay discrepancies to Capilouto and Locke, Scripa says, she was demoted and saw her salary reduced.

Locke since has left UAB for a position at Wake Forest University.

Is it possible that UAB still is trying to fudge its numbers on gender-based salary studies? The Scripa lawsuit indicates the answer is yes:

Since this time, the Commission on the Status of Women at UAB has asked for faculty salaries to check for inequities, but upon information and belief, the aforementioned salary data has not been provided to the Commission.

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