Federal Report Uncovers Lack of Faculty Diversity and Delay in Federal Discrimination Complaint Processing

A recent report from the United States Government Accountability Office has documented a large underrepresentation of Black faculty members in higher education. The same report also revealed a frequent delay by the Department of Education when referring discrimination complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The report found that despite recent increases in higher education faculty diversity, Black professors remain underrepresented when compared to students and industry professionals within their same field. For example, in the fields of law, science, and engineering, Black people represent over 9 percent of professional workers, but only 7 percent of university faculty. A similar disparity was seen when comparing diversity in faculty versus students. In fiscal year 2021, 8 percent of college and university faculty were Black, compared to 12 percent of students.

Higher education faculty can file complaints of employment discrimination with the EEOC and the Department of Education, which is required to refer almost all of its complaints to the EEOC. Although 90 percent of the Department of Education’s referrals to the EEOC must be sent within 30 days, the report revealed the average referral time in 2022 was 71 days. Additionally, the report found the EEOC does not currently have a method to confirm that the Department of Education’s referrals have been received.

The authors of the report recommend actions that both the Department of Education and the EEOC can take to improve the discrimination complaint referral process. This includes better tracking of referral timing from the Department of Education as well as a new protocol that the EEOC can use to ensure all referrals have been received.

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