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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC professor sues administration for gender discrimination

After 23 years of serving as a UNC faculty member in the geography department, Altha Cravey is suing the University on the basis of gender discrimination. 

According to the lawsuit, Cravey claims she has not achieved the status of full professor because UNC administrators did not appreciate her feminist-focused research. Cravey specifically identified Chancellor Carol Folt, College of Arts and Sciences Dean Kevin Guskiewicz and geography department chairperson Michael Emch in her case.

The title of full professor offers many benefits such as a salary increase and higher esteem as a professional, but the road to get there is challenging.

“It’s very complicated,” said Debashis Aikat, an associate professor in the School of Media and Journalism. “The first level is your colleagues. In academia, you are evaluated by your peers. But, in academia, things are a little more complicated, if you will. In some cases, they will kind of vote by secret ballot, but it goes through many rounds. First you go through your local department then it goes through the college.”

Leslie Parise, professor and chairperson of biochemistry and biophysics in the School of Medicine, also said outside evaluators with no connection to the candidate are required to review the faculty member’s resume so the process has some objective elements. Parise has seen how this application process played out in her own department. 

“Of our primary tenure track faculty, we have 28 right now all together, and of those, seven women — five are full professors and two are assistant professors because they are relatively new and younger hires of the department,” Parise said. “We have research track faculty and seven of 15 are women and 10 out of 27 of our graduate students are women.”     

Cravey has completed the application process twice. After receiving tenure in 2000, Cravey applied to be a full professor five years later and was denied. In 2015, she applied for full professorship again and was faced with the same response. Cravey and UNC Media Relations declined to comment on the case. 

Complaints against gender discrimination at UNC are not new. In 2012, Provost Bruce Carney appointed the Faculty Salary Equity Task Force to determine whether there were discrepancies in salary for faculty members at UNC based on race and sex. The data collected from the 1990 to 2000 Associate Professor Cohorts highlights that 55.8 percent of females were promoted to full professor within 10 years, whereas 64.6 percent of men were promoted. 

Information about faculty salaries was collected by the Task Force in fall 2009 and was also published in the study.

According to the study, compared to male faculty, female faculty members were more likely to hold a fixed term appointment, have the rank of assistant or instructor, not hold a distinguished title, have spent fewer years in their current ranks and be in a lower-paying discipline area.

At the end of this lawsuit, Cravey is hoping to receive retroactive compensation, damages and legal fees.

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