Mixed Messages on Faculty Hiring

I have spoken publicly several times to the Governing Board about President Blake and issues regarding her behavior in the hiring process. I spoke again at the October 8, 2019 Governing Board meeting, this time about the acting vice-president of Human Resources, Michael Shanahan. What follows is the speech as I gave it to the Board.

Last week I received a letter from Michael Shanahan. In it, he addressed some concerns I have had about Palomar’s hiring procedures.

One concern I have mentioned here previously was Dr. Blake’s public statement at a Faculty Senate meeting. She said she intended to compare the finalists in the hiring process to the diversity in the applicant pool and, if she didn’t see the same level of diversity, she would “ask the committee some hard questions.”

Mr. Shanahan said that Dr. Blake was correct, that comparisons should be drawn between applicant pool demographics and interview pool demographics to find possible adverse impact. He noted that the California Community College Chancellor’s Office and Title 5 require this longitudinal analysis.

Mr. Shanahan is the acting vice-president of HR, so I took his comment very seriously and considered it deeply.

All my compliance officer and hiring committee member training, provided by Palomar College’s HR department, says that committees are not allowed to consider any aspects of a candidate covered by protected classes: age, race, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, etc. They are only allowed to consider a candidate’s knowledge, skill, and experience. They are trained to ignore any comments made by a candidate regarding the protected areas.

Mr. Shanahan is correct in stating that longitudinal analyses should be performed, but I find his statement to be incompatible with my training. I then realized that what is at question here is when this analysis should be done.

Should the analysis be made during deliberations, in particular during the final deliberations when only a few candidates out of a possibly large pool are being considered?

If so, shouldn’t the committees’ training include this, so they are aware in advance they need to do it?

If so, shouldn’t the committees be doing the same thing in all stages of the hiring process? For example, when they are screening applications to choose the first round interviewees, or when they are in first round deliberations to choose the candidates who proceed to the second round?

If so, shouldn’t HR provide that information to the committees, so they can accurately consider the age, race, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, etc. of the candidates? After all, it would be a disservice to the candidates for the committees to base their judgements on their perceptions of those categories.

Or would doing so be a violation of the hiring laws of the State of California?

Mr. Shanahan also addressed Dr. Blake’s public statement that she would be asking departments about their gender ratio during deliberations. He said that “departmental demographics are a valid part of the hiring conversation” and noted that considering it is also a requirement of the State Chancellor’s Office.

This also confuses me, as it appears to go against everything HR trained me to do.

For example, hypothetically, if a president’s goal in hiring for a particular position is to hire a female into a male-dominated discipline, then shouldn’t the position description state this, so potential applicants who are male know not to apply?

If that goal is not in the position description, then should it be a goal of the hiring committee just because the president wants to see a woman hired?

And again, if this is a valid part of the hiring committee conversation, why hasn’t the training provided by HR addressed this, and why aren’t the committees considering this in every hiring stage?

Mr. Shanahan offers his statements in defense of Dr. Blake’s public comments, but it appears to me that his application of the Chancellor’s Office requirements is in direct conflict with what HR has taught me about California’s hiring laws.

I look forward to my next training with HR, because I fully expect my questions to be answered and my confusion cleared up.

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