Rutgers University is investigating complaints of discrimination from female faculty in its political science department, including allegations of pay inequities and charges that male senior faculty members have held long-standing, decision-making dinners that exclude women.

The women first complained to the university in 2007 and in August took their complaints to the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General. While the university's probe continues, the matter involving five women is now in private mediation.

The Rutgers investigation comes after a university-appointed faculty committee found "significant evidence" of "biases that have created a difficult environment for women" in the political science department, the university said in a prepared statement.

The committee of four professors from other departments recommended greater oversight of the political science department, a strategic plan for it and a "close review" of all of its faculty salaries.

The department, which is based at Rutgers' main campus in New Brunswick, is made up of 18 male faculty and nine female faculty, according to the university.

The report was completed over the summer and first reported on this week by The Chronicle of Higher Education. The university declined to release the report.

Douglas Greenberg, the university's new dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, said the allegations have topped his agenda since he took the helm in the middle of August.

He termed the report's findings "very, very worrisome."

"I'm looking into absolutely everything in this report," he continued. "Before I act, I have to be sure I understand the situation as fully and completely as I possibly can."

The report cited examples of salary disparities. One senior female faculty member earned $113,029 after 35 years at Rutgers, while a senior male faculty member made $123,359 after 16 years.

Political Science Department Chairman Dennis Bathory declined comment yesterday.

Phone calls and e-mails to female faculty members also went unanswered, or members declined to speak including the five who filed the complaints with the state: Beth Leech, Cynthia Daniels, Jane Junn, Lisa Miller and Susan Carroll. Their filing alleged that the women's pay was not fair in several areas, such as base salary, merit awards, research account funds, summer salaries and course time.

Lisa Klein, president of the faculty union at Rutgers, said she is aware of the complaints, but the faculty involved have not asked for the union's help.

"I can't really comment on the situation, but it's not easy for women in any field," said Klein, who is the lone female faculty member in Rutgers' 23-member engineering department.

She said she believes the university is taking the complaints "very seriously."

But both Klein and Adrienne Eaton, a professor of labor studies and employment relations and treasurer of the union, said there have been long-standing concerns about female compensation at Rutgers. The union may take the matter up in its next negotiations, Eaton said.

The complaints from the female political science faculty surfaced in April 2007. A review of salaries by former staff in the office of the dean of the School of Arts and Sciences concluded that there was no evidence to support the allegations, the university said.

The female faculty members also complained in a letter to Rutgers President Richard L. McCormick.

Unsatisfied with the staff review, the university named a faculty committee in December, 2007, which produced the critical report.

Professors serving on the committee were: Joan W. Bennett, plant biology and pathology; Noemie Koller, physics and astronomy; Jerome Kukor, associate professor of environmental sciences; and Susan Schurman, labor studies and employment relations.

Greenberg declined comment on the alleged dinners by male faculty members in the department. The internal report, according to the Chronicle, found that many in the department considered the dinner meetings an "unofficial decision-making venue."

The report found that men in the department operated like a "club," the Chronicle reported.

"Members of this club apparently have no clue about modern norms of what is acceptable in the workplace," the report said.

Contact staff writer Susan Snyder at 215-854-4693 or