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Not unlike a “pure white jury”: NAR deals with the diversity of the ethics panel

Discussion of a new hate speech policy by the National Association of Realtors has largely centered on fairness to those who may be accused of violating the policy. On the flip side, some members have questioned the lack of diversity among those who will decide the outcomes of such ethics complaints – an issue the 1.4 million member trading group claims to be working on.

In November, NAR’s Board of Directors approved controversial changes to its professional standards to combat racist and discriminatory speech and behavior.

One of the policy changes, Standard of Practice 10-5, reads as follows: “Brokers must not use harassing speech, hate speech, nickname, or insult based on race, color, religion, gender, disability, marital status, national origin. sexual orientation or gender identity. “

On Monday at the NAR’s mid-year conference, the Realtors Legislative Meetings, the Trade Group’s Professional Standards Committee approved four case interpretations for the new policy, although some members who protested one of the interpretations on religious grounds were pushed back.

In the last of six monthly training webinars NAR hosted as part of the ethical changes, some participants pointed to the lack of visible diversity in the webinar panel and wondered about the diversity of the 100-member committee in general.

Kate Lawton

“In terms of the entire committee, I think there isn’t such a huge diversity,” Kate Lawton, NAR’s vice president of membership experience, told attendees.

“This is really something we are focusing on at the national level to make sure we have a representative rotation on all of our committees, not just in this edition, but on all of our committees that really reflects our membership more closely. So that’s a goal. We are constantly working on that. “

In the 2020 NAR Member Profile, published in July, 80 percent of respondents identified as white, 10 percent as Spanish or Latin American, 6 percent as black or African American, 5 percent as Asian or Pacific, 1 percent identified as Native American, Eskimo or Aleut, and 2 percent identified as “other,” said NAR Inman.

When asked if a session of the Realtors Legislative Meetings this week and next will discuss diversity in the association’s professional standards committees, NAR spokesman Troy Green told Inman that there is no discussion specific to that the composition of such committees is aligned.

“However, NAR members are working to establish a strategic direction to encourage more inclusivity and diverse participation in governance committees at local, state and national levels,” Green said via email.

Not unlike a “pure white jury”

Matt Difanis, chairman of the committee’s interpretations and practices of professional standards, said the group was “painfully aware” of the lack of diversity and noted that the national committee is made up of volunteer members, first by their state’s professional standards or local association work committees.

Matt Difanis

“This really requires that state and local leaders work proactively to recruit more inclusive groups of volunteers and ensure that members of the color are not piled up solely in diversity, fair living, or other DEI-related committees [diversity, equity and inclusion]”Said Difanis.

“NAR’s Pro Standards [Committee] cannot become more inclusive without states and locals doing it first. “

“It’s important not only to recruit volunteers who don’t look like the people you are seeing right now, but doubly important that we make sure those volunteers are not grouped into a handful of stereotypical committees, which ultimately leads to that When we do a disservice to the organization and a disservice to the volunteers of the Color we are involved in, ”added Difanis.

He cited concerns “dating back years” about all-white ethics hearing panels, similar to concerns about all-white juries in society in general.

“There is this concern [that] An all-white panel, when you have colored members who are the parties, will immediately lose credibility before anyone has spoken the first word in a hearing, just as a black party in a criminal case is judged by an all-white one Jury of their colleagues, ”said Difanis. “We know this is a big deal.”

He noted that due to the pandemic and the fact that more local associations are handing enforcement of standards to state associations, more virtual hearings are taking place. “This means that we have a larger, more diverse pool of volunteers who don’t necessarily have to go through their state for hearings. “

“We take all of this very seriously and I can’t wait for groups and panels like this to have a wider variety of skin colors in the near future,” he added.

“Please join in”

Difanis said the advisory board was made up of 20 percent or 25 percent of non-whites as well as members of other minority groups. “So we are much more diverse than before.”

Even so, Difanis said increasing the committee’s diversity was “an obsession” and encouraged members who did not “look like me” – which he made clear, not just by race or gender, but also by LGBTQ status and disability status – to join in engage professional standards on site.

“While it’s very, very important to find a more inclusive group that better reflects the inclusiveness of the members we serve, you can’t land on the NAR Pro-Standards Committee or the Interps Advisory Board straight away,” said Difanis said.

“You really have to have the necessary experience. So if you are someone new to experience please, please, please get involved at the level of your local or state pro standards because even a couple of years of volunteer experience there can get you what you need with it We can use your skills. “

Although there are requirements to join a NAR committee, anyone has the right to file a complaint under the Realtor Code of Ethics, Difanis reminded participants, asking them not to make anyone discriminated against the person making a complaint must submit.

“Please be brave,” he said. “Be brave. When there’s something that needs to stop, when there’s something that needs to be sanctioned, the only way that will happen is to take action.”

“10-5 gives people the opportunity to be allies,” he added. “Do not burden the person who is the victim of discrimination to carry this torch. Wherever possible, be an ally. Do not make the person who is already a victim of discrimination into the person who bears the burden of enforcement. “

How many all-white ethics panels?

How many technical committees and ethics hearing bodies of local associations are pure white? NAR doesn’t know because it doesn’t track the local association ethics volunteers’ demographic information, NAR spokesman Mantill Williams told Inman via email.

Mantill Williams

“NAR does not ask committee applicants to identify their membership in any protected class under state and federal law or the NAR Code of Ethics,” Williams said.

“However, we are committed to ensuring that leadership experience at the national level includes the diverse perspectives and perspectives of the 1.4 million NAR members by specifically seeking to improve our engagement with new members and our ongoing work with various multicultural real estate groups .

“We continue to work on improving communication and transparency in the committee’s application process.”

When asked if individuals filing complaints claiming to be a minority have been targeted should be concerned if their complaint is heard by an all-white panel, Williams said, “The parties to an ethical complaint will become brought to court through a tiered process.This includes the ability to question the qualifications of any hearing panel member whom the parties believe are biased and to appeal a hearing panel’s decision if the parties believe that the panel is biased. “

Mentoring program for inclusivity

NAR recently unveiled a mentoring program, NAR Spire, that will match broker mentors with mentees who are professionals, “from historically marginalized communities, with the goal of removing barriers to home ownership denied and the people from American Real estate industries have kept out, “the group said in a press release. The program starts in nine pilot areas: Chicago; Memphis, Tennessee; Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina; Rochester, New York; Trenton, New Jersey; Seattle; Washington, DC; and the state of Maryland.

Bob Goldberg | NAR CEO

Mentees learn the basics of the real estate industry and, according to NAR, receive information on business processes, marketing, valuation, information technology and finance.

“NAR Spire is a groundbreaking new initiative designed and developed to promote inclusivity in the real estate industry,” said Bob Goldberg, CEO of NAR, in a statement.

“We have pushed the boundaries of NAR to work with partners from a number of industries, and we are confident that this program will help brokers improve their reputations as invested, dedicated, and integral members of every US community.”

NAR encouraged brokers interested in adding diversity to real estate and expanding their influence in the industry to apply for mentoring.

Email Andrea V. Brambila.

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