Recent plan updates may violate code

Dispute has arisen over whether the University is violating federal code by inconsistently updating its annual and federally mandated Affirmative

Action plan.

The University released the 2008 version of its Affirmative Action plan on Oct. 20, later in the year than some faculty think it should have been. The document, signed by University President Dave Frohnmayer, also states, “Effective Date: January 1, 2008.”

“The way it reads, it looks like the plan was prepared and in place Jan. 1,” said Bill Harbaugh, an economics professor who pays close attention to the administrative proceedings of the University.

Penny Daugherty, the director of the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity, said this actually means the data compiled in the plan were effective up to that date.

She acknowledged that the phrase, “effective date” is misleading, and that future plans will use an alternate wording.

“(This) will eliminate what I can only assume is genuine confusion,” Daugherty said. She added that although the University is required to create a new Affirmative Action Plan annually, there is not a specific date it must be completed.

But a former official in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program said that is simply not true.

“The plan is suppose to be updated annually; it is a 12-month plan,” said Harold Busch, the former OFCCP Director of Program Operations. “That means (the contractor) needs to have a new plan in effect at that date. You can choose the date … but you must be consistent.”

Last year, the updated plan was completed in August.

The annual Affirmative Action Plan is a road map the University refers to when making decisions about searching for and hiring unclassified faculty and staff as it analyzes the diversity of the workforce and outlines policy, Daugherty said.

The OFCCP mandates that all “federal contractors … who do over $10,000 in Government business in one year” complete and update an Affirmative Action Plan annually, according to its Web site.

The University falls under this umbrella because it has several contracts that involve federal money, Daugherty said.

Daugherty said that, to her knowledge, there is no provision in the OFCCP regulations that require an affirmative action plan be completed by a specific date.

“The ideal is to get a plan generated as soon as possible after snap shot date,” Daugherty said. “In the ideal, perfect world, annually means (the plan) will be generated and available in the new year. We are absolutely committed to meeting our obligations.”

OFCCP code states: “Contractors and subcontractors must submit the program summary to the OFCCP each year on the anniversary date of the affirmative action program.”

“That is a requirement that has not been enforced for years,” Daugherty said. “You always have some (leeway) into what is actually being enforced and what is shown in the code.”

Some provisions in the code are modified or not enforced at all, and those changes aren’t necessarily reflected in the wording of the code, Daugherty said.

Busch said the annual completion date can be determined by each individual contractor based on what works best for their budgets and hiring practices.

“The first time you are a contractor you have 120 days to develop a plan,” Busch said. “Then from that point on you must update it annually.”

Prior to finalizing the plan, Busch said colleges generally chose a date that will give an accurate portrayal of its workforce.

Daugherty said the University uses Oct. 31 as its “snapshot date” to analyze its workforce because the majority of faculty have returned to the institution from summer and most temporary hires or cut backs due to enrollment size have been addressed by this time.

Daugherty said the affirmative action staff then sifts through and analyzes all workforce and other information, a process that can take months when coupled with the office’s other duties.

The office’s main purpose is to provide support for unclassified searches and hires, Daugherty said. This year there has been a lot of search and hire activity because of the surge in freshman enrollment at the University.

“If I have to choose between (creating the new plan) or making sure we are implementing the current one to the best of our ability, I will have to think long and hard about that,” Daugherty said.

Jennifer Almquist, a program associate at the Affirmative Action Office at Oregon State University, said its office also compiles the information in its Affirmative Action Plan by using a snapshot date, then analyzing the huge amount of workforce information needed, similar to how the University creates its plan.

“We just released ours,” Almquist said.

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