Published: Dec. 3, 2021

Members of the Boulder Faculty Assembly told Provost Russell Moore they were unsatisfied with the amount of information shared with them so far on how the campus will implement the Colorado Equal Pay for Equal Work Act (CEPEWA). 

The law, which took effect Jan. 1, 2021, prohibits gender and gender-plus-protected-class-based pay discrimination, which includes race/ethnicity differences, for substantially similar work in terms of skill, effort and responsibility, regardless of job title. The law allows for pay differences due to job-related experience, education, a documented seniority system or merit system, or a system that measures quantity or quality of production, among other factors.

In an exchange during the BFA’s Thursday afternoon meeting of the general assembly––the last of the fall semester––members that included BFA Chair Tiffany Beechy queried Moore on why leadership had not provided faculty more detailed information on the methodology the campus is using to identify faculty in need of salary adjustment under the act. 

“We didn’t hear a lot of specificity on the results of the audit,” Beechy told Moore. “Could you give us an idea of what kind of disparities have been found? We would appreciate hearing some account of what has been detected.”  

Moore said campus salary reviews for faculty were conducted every two or three years by CU Institutional Research, based on a method crafted in conjunction with the provost’s Academic Affairs Budget Advisory Committee (AABAC), on gender and gender plus (referred to in the CEPEWA as sex and sex plus) protected class status. The reviews had not revealed significant salary disparities at the college and school levels, but the review required by CEPEWA has “caused us to run the analysis deeper into the organization,” with analysis focusing on primary academic units.

The campus set aside $6.2 million in funds to make remedies, Moore said, and the CEPEWA-driven analysis is finding salary disparities both large and small with some faculty. 

Moore said he suspected the disparities among faculty arose in part from a merit pay process that differs from academic unit to academic unit, as opposed to staff merit increases, which he said are “more regularized.”

“Even tiny ones (disparities) have to be closed––we’re subject to a fine (under the law) on a case by case basis,” Moore said. 

Moore explained early in the meeting that former BFA Budget and Planning Committee chair Scott Parker had been involved in the conversations over the last year on “estimating what faculty equity data should look like” and noted that AABAC had been instrumental in developing “some of the predictive analytics that can be used to assess faculty salary equity issues.” 

Later in the meeting, other BFA members came back to the issue of transparency, process and analytics.

BFA Budget and Planning Committee interim chair Bob Ferry noted that interest was gathering among some faculty as to how grievances regarding pay equalization under the act would be handled. 

Moore said “we have existing grievance processes for this” (salary grievance). He said he didn’t think a salary grievance based on CEPEWA, given how closely the campus was adhering to the specific dictates of the legislation, would succeed. 

“I wouldn’t hold out a lot of hope,” Moore said. 

Jennifer Hendricks of Colorado Law said she wanted more transparency on “the mysterious algorithm” and expressed concerns about how merit pay might factor into any analysis of salary equity.

“It seems to me that the theory of the EPA rests to a great extent on theories of discrimination in the market, which includes evaluation procedures . . . if it weighs heavily on evaluations, that’s problematic,” Hendricks said. 

“How can somebody file a grievance if they haven’t been given any info about how their salary has been adjusted?” she said.

Moore said the predictive salary methodology was “created by AABAC” and is not “super secret” and said he thought the university could provide more data on the process to faculty. 

Moore told CU Boulder Today after the meeting that he “appreciates the candid conversation with the BFA” and pledged that in upcoming campus communications on CEPEWA––expected before the close of the fall semester––he would “ensure that we explain our methodology for adjusting pay inequities under CEPEWA carefully.” 

Closing out the meeting, he told the BFA that it was important to have “good discussions before we get to our next merit review cycle, so that we don’t have embedded, unit-based processes that are fueling these (salary) inequities.”

“I’m providing a preview of a conversation this university is going to have among our units and departments,” Moore said. 

In other action at the meeting: 

  • Moore confirmed, based on comments by BFA members Alastair Norcross (philosophy) and Cathy Comstock (Philosophy Arts and Culture Residential Academic Program), that while the university is granting adjunct lecturers a three percent one-time increase to their spring 2022 pay and plans to maintain that three percent increase for future semesters, adjunct lecturers will not receive the one-time, one percent payment that other classifications of faculty are receiving in January. Moore said he hoped to address the lower pay of adjuncts in a more focused effort “over a three to five-year period.” 
  • Vice Provost and Associate Vice Chancellor for Faculty Affairs Michele Moses gave a presentation to the assembly on a new pilot program that allows faculty to more specifically list and codify their service activities related to diversity and equity in their Faculty Report of Professional Activities.
  • The BFA approved by a vote of 39 in favor, three opposed and five abstentions a resolution that encourages academic units to consider Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in merit evaluations. The resolution asks that units determine the standards for crediting faculty DEI work appropriate to their respective disciplines, with no unit able to “disregard or fail to credit such work.” It also requires the BFA Diversity Committee to create a “best practices, resources and considerations” document to guide units in their deliberations over DEI in merit reviews, to be completed by spring 2022.