OHSU Faculty Share Concerns About Discrimination, Harassment, Distrust Administration, Feel Burned Out
A percentage of the faculty at Oregon Health & Science University feels burned out, doesn’t have confidence in the executive leadership and have experienced discrimination and harassment, according to survey results released this week to The Lund Report. OHSU conducted the anonymous survey last spring.
The numbers speak for themselves. Among 2,026 faculty members, 23.5 percent (477) indicated they had observed harassment and 13.9 percent (281) indicated experiencing harassment, while 19.7 percent (400) said they’d observed discrimination and 14 percent (295) had experienced discrimination. Yet, only 110 people -- 5 percent of the respondents – said they had reported what they’d witnessed to their supervisor.”
These numbers trouble David Robinson, PhD, executive vice provost, who spoke with The Lund Report.
“We do have harassment and discrimination going on, and it’s something we need to deal with; in the future I want those numbers to be zero,” he said. “We have no tolerance for discrimination, and intend to take a deep dive to come up with initiatives to address these problems.”
Some people, he added, may not be familiar with the mechanisms to report harassment. In April 2015, before the survey was conducted, OHSU had hired an ombudsperson.
Aggressive action is being taken to deal with harassment and discrimination that resulted from ethnic, racial and gender incidents, Greg Moawad, OHSU’s vice president for campus safety, told The Lund Report.
Until 2015, OHSU didn’t have an independent Title 9 coordinator on staff, and that person was brought on board in early 2016. “We realized there was an undercurrent of discrimination and harassment and came up with a plan to develop and integrate our resources,” said Moawad, adding that OHSU’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion is also engaged in tackling this problem.
Some of these harassment incidents resulted from interaction between faculty and patients and their visitors, he said. “We want our campus to be welcoming to everyone but need to educate our community about the resources and tools available.”
To meet that need, OHSU intends to roll out new affirmative action training later this year. “We believe that through ongoing education, training and the monitoring and review of all complaints in a timely manner, we’ll be able to prevent and eliminate discrimination and foster an environment that truly ensures equal opportunity and equal access for all OHSU community members,” Moawad added.
Other Troubling Statistics
Discrimination and harassment aren’t the only troubling statistics that were revealed from the survey. A significant number of faculty members have thought about leaving OHSU in the past three years – 1,040 people to be exact – which represents 50 percent of those who completed the survey, and another 1,064 faculty said their life at OHSU has been a significant source of stress during the past year. Many spoke of additional work being doled out without an increase in compensation, saying work-balance issues were acknowledged but not dealt with. Those most affected were parents of young children or family members with disabilities.
“Harassment issues are an absolute real concern,” said Robinson, and could result from patient-family issues or personnel issues. “But we don’t have the level of detail so we don’t know who’s harassing whom or who feels discriminated against. We do need to make sure that everyone is fully aware of the mechanisms to report such incidents.”
OHSU’s executive leadership was also taken to task for being overly concerned about the bottom line, with faculty saying OHSU’s corporate image was being tainted by devoting less attention to patient care, outreach, education and research. They also mentioned that the leadership didn’t always keep them in the loop about key decisions, and said morale was low.
Robinson insisted OHSU’s leaders, such as President Joe Robertson, have been paying close attention to the faculty’s concerns and is working diligently to respond to any problems. It’s not unusual at an academic institution, he said, to have tension between people working on the ground level and the leadership.
In other comments, faculty mentioned their department chairs didn’t treat them in a respectful manner, often using disparaging or demeaning words, said there were incidents of nepotism and favoritism, and a lack of respect, intimidation and fear of retaliation.
The survey results did have their positive side. Most faculty aligned with the values of OHSU, and believe it’s a great place to work, with good health and retirement benefits.
They also expressed pride in their achievements in patient care, education and research and said interactions among faculty were positive and supportive, which led them to remain at OHSU.
The survey, conducted last May, was intended to get honest feedback from faculty members, said Robinson, who was ecstatic about the 75 percent response rate, which represented 2,163 faculty members. The Faculty Senate has also been working with the executive leadership on the survey results, which have been shared with OHSU’s board of directors.
“Usually surveys get 30-40 percent,” he said. “Our respondents represented a good cross spectrum view of the faculty. Certainly people are feeling burned out – the pressures of work – something that academic centers nationally are dealing with. And we’ll be dealing with this issue.”
A subsequent survey is planned for 2018. “We intend to keep the survey as similar as possible so we can trend over time,” Robinson added.
Diane can be reached at [email protected].