University of Washington Investigation Finds Race Was Illegally Considered in a Faculty Hire

In 1998, voters in Washington State passed I-200 that stated “the state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.” As a result, race-sensitive admissions and hiring decisions at state-operated colleges and universities were prohibited.

Late last academic year, concerns were reported about a faculty hiring process in the University of Washington’s department of psychology. A review was requested by Dianne Harris, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences after she learned of these potential issues. The review was conducted by the university’s Civil Rights Investigation Office, which included examining e-mails and other university records.

The review was completed this fall and indicates that race was inappropriately considered and used in a way that is inconsistent with university policy in the hiring process for an assistant professor position in the department. Race was inappropriately considered in the hiring process even after some faculty received guidance from College of Arts & Sciences and university leadership that such considerations are inappropriate.

As a result of this inquiry, the department of psychology will be barred from conducting searches for tenured and tenure-track faculty positions for a period of at least two years. The department will undergo a comprehensive review and revision of its hiring processes, with oversight from the Dean’s Office. All members of the department will receive training on how to conduct searches consistent with law and policy.

The university stated that “the successful candidate who was hired is unquestionably qualified, and we are proud to have them as a valued faculty member in the department and at the university. They had no knowledge of the concerns raised and have our full support and respect, which we have communicated directly.”

The university also said that it is taking personnel action to address individual actions. These proceedings are confidential.

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