Statement from the UTEC Board of Directors
As we announced in August, the Board of Directors of UTEC has retained a neutral third party to review claims of racial and gender-based discrimination made about the organization on social media. The review has been completed and the Board is now providing an update. As mentioned in our earlier statement, the Board has taken these assertions very seriously, and remains committed to ensuring that UTEC’s mission of providing economic and social mobility for young adults in the Merrimack Valley is preserved and protected.
The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee of the UTEC Board retained Todd and Weld, LLC to conduct a comprehensive and independent evaluation of the claims and to provide a report with findings and conclusions to the committee. Selected due to their relevant experience, Todd and Weld’s evaluation was focused on specific assertions of racial discrimination, gender-based discrimination, retaliation, hours worked issues, and unsafe workplace conditions. Ms. Tara Dunn, the lead attorney for the review, is an African American woman who we identified because of her prior experience on civil rights and employment cases, including a strong background on bringing a racial equity lens to her work. It was also imperative that the law firm be truly independent from UTEC. Todd and Weld met this standard as well.
Conducted over two months, the review consisted of more than two dozen interviews or statements from both past and current UTEC staff members, reviews of social media postings, e-mails and other communications, analysis of significant internal UTEC policies and documentation, and other relevant records. Current and past staff members were encouraged to come forward and speak openly and confidentially about their experiences, both specific to the assertions and more generally at UTEC.
The key conclusions of the review are as follows:
- Todd and Weld did not substantiate claims of racial or gender-based discrimination on the part of the Executive Director of UTEC or the UTEC organization.
- Todd and Weld did not substantiate claims of retaliatory behavior on the part of the Executive Director or the UTEC organization.
- Todd and Weld did not substantiate claims of hours worked issues.
- Todd and Weld did not substantiate claims of a pattern of unsafe working conditions at UTEC.
- Todd and Weld did find that, while UTEC has in place written Personnel Policies and an extensive Employee Handbook, the absence of a dedicated Human Resources professional and the lack of consistent oversight, structures and formal processes regarding personnel matters may have contributed on occasion to disparate treatment, or at least a perception of it, on the part of some personnel. The review also noted that most of the assertions of disparate treatment related to a period of instability and turnover among the UTEC management team from 2016-2018.
- Todd and Weld also cited examples of harassing behavior by some UTEC staffers that occurred in the 2016-2018 time period. To the extent that UTEC leadership was made aware of such examples, swift action was taken, including the termination of staff members directly involved. While UTEC has long had a written anti-harassment policy, the report suggests that the organization should enhance its gender equity training and that senior management should clearly re-affirm the organization’s commitment to gender equity.
While the Todd and Weld review did not substantiate the principal Facebook claims, its conclusions should not be construed in any way as minimizing the lived experiences of staff members, past or current, or ignoring or condoning any disparate treatment. The Board is very much aware that we have work to do in order to further strengthen equity across our organization for people of all genders, races, and ethnicities, and we are deeply committed to that work. Notably, that work, some of which is underway, is focused on the following important initiatives:
- The organization has hired a highly qualified woman of color to direct our new Human Resources Department. She is focused on ensuring that the organization has the appropriate personnel infrastructure in place, including policies and procedures that reflect strong DEI principles.
- The UTEC Board has complete confidence in the current leadership of the organization. In the coming months we will work with that leadership team to ensure that the strengths of the Executive Director are complemented by strong, empowered, and diverse operating leadership long into the future.
- The organization has engaged a third party consultant to conduct a comprehensive DEI audit initiated and led by staff of color, along with regular circle meetings to address any emerging concerns on a real time basis and to ensure that people feel valued by the organization. UTEC will also create a staff position dedicated to advancing the organization’s DEI mission in the future.
- UTEC leadership is committed to ensuring that its team reflects the racial and gender diversity of the communities served. Currently, eight of 16 managers at UTEC in director positions or higher are persons of color. In the future, the organization will integrate DEI practices in all hiring decisions by including DEI protocols in the design of job postings and the search process for leadership positions.
- The UTEC Board is also committed to continuing its ongoing efforts to ensure that its composition reflects the racial and gender diversity of the communities served. Currently 23% of the UTEC Board are persons of color. In the future, the Board will make DEI a priority for all board membership decisions, with the goal of having the Board comprised of at least 50% people of color as soon as possible.
- The UTEC Board is extremely supportive of the DEI initiatives currently underway at UTEC. The Board will work directly with UTEC management to ensure that our DEI objectives are met not just now, but long into the future. The Board DEI committee will work closely with UTEC staff on an ongoing basis to ensure that the proper training and resources are provided on a consistent basis.
The experience of the past few months has been an important and centering reminder that UTEC must continue to remain vigilant and guard against any form of discrimination on a continuing basis.
The UTEC Board wants to thank all of those individuals who came forward to help us better understand our opportunities for organizational improvement. We have listened carefully, and the entire organization is committed to leadership on this issue. UTEC is very much aware of the systemic racial and gender based challenges facing many of our young adults and staff every day in their lives, and we understand the important responsibility we carry to help them overcome odds that are often stacked against them.
Statement from UTEC’s CEO, Gregg Croteau
“I want to express my sincere appreciation for every single individual, former and current staff, who shared their experiences and ideas for how UTEC can be an even stronger organization moving forward. At a recent meeting, one of our staff said that we will be at our best when we can normalize the concept of consistently articulating how we can be better. In that respect, I do not see any of our DEI initiatives, including our third-party equity audit now also underway, as having actual end dates. Our work will be ongoing.
Given that our black and brown staff and young adults have been exhausted by so many injustices in their own daily lives for far too long, I believe that UTEC has a purposeful obligation to deeply examine how we can set the highest bar for advancing equity, both outside and inside our organization. I am firmly and personally committed to advancing my own learning, ensuring that we keep this work at our core with an eye toward healing and continually improving. And as someone who continues to value my role as a lifelong youthworker, I want to convey my heartfelt gratitude for the many critical conversations I have had with our young adults. We will be stronger because of your voices.”
Statement from UTEC’s Leadership Team
“As UTEC’s current nine-member leadership team (six people of color, seven women), we are very grateful for every voice that has been raised to help ensure that UTEC can be even stronger moving forward. Like many organizations, we know that we have work to do to be even stronger in advancing racial and gender equity. The past few months, as difficult as they were, have allowed us the time to process and move forward on specific actions. We are so appreciative and proud of the work of every single staff member who continues to support our young adults on a daily basis, and as always, we are very grateful to the young adults who make UTEC a very special place. We are confident in our plan to strengthen equity within our organization with the support and commitment of our CEO and full team. We say this based on the work that is already well underway. We have approved various recommendations from our Diversity Committee, and are now working with DEI consultants to ensure a thorough equity audit and implementation of recommendations. Due to systemic injustices throughout our country, this work is going to be long-term. We are committed to it, and deeply grateful to all who have shared your voices because of your dedication to this organization and our young adults.”