open discussion

Thu, 3 Mar 1994 00:20:29 EST

A. ZAGARELL at Western Michigan has raised an interesting point in his
second post, by asking the question "can all male, all white, often
middle class faculty adequately represent the multiple viewpoints of
culturally constituted diversity."

My answer may surprise . . . since it is NO!

However, the issue of encouraging faculty hires from diverse backgrounds,
all presumably competent scholars as Zagarell states, IS SIMPLY NOT THE

Frankly I agree with encouraging and diversification. What I adamantly do
not agree with is institutionalizing racism, discrimination or other forms
of exculsion of ANY group or category. Sadly, encouragement has often been
interpretted to mean `quota' systems. Sadly, encouragement has often been
implemented as formal discrimination against candidates on the basis of
gender, ethnic back ground and age . . . not as policy of an institution,
but as some bizzare twist of academic minds that feels that discrimination
for a good cause is not wrong. That is the position that I feel is totally
indefensible, from a simple logic. If it is wrong to discriminate against
minorities, then it is wrong to discriminate against majorities as well.

I have more faith than Zagarell that, given time, a genuinely open hiring
system in a free market will correct the under representation problem . . .
without resorting to an equally corrupt wrong to theoretically right a
previous error.

I still hold that basing any hiring or promotion or admission decision on
a basis other than absolute qualifications and quality of work is indefensible,
regardless of if institutionalized as a formal quota . . . or institutionalized
as an informal committee choice. The end result is to cause pain and damage
to someone.

It is even worse when the practice is engaged in . . . in a `sneaky' and
back stabbing way . . . as is done when position announcements are
presented as `fully open hires' with affirmative action protection . . .
but are intended from the `git go' to be minority set aside. Discrimination
can destroy lives and careers, and worse - it can cause terrible personal
pain. It makes no difference if that discrimination is focused on white,
black, male, female, native american, hispanic surname, handicapped or any
other category . . . the practice itself is despicable and needs to be
ended! Perhaps that is too idealistic, but then that is what I marched
in Washington with King for . . . and what I believed when working for
the government under JFK. I still believe it, and don't think I elect
to reconstruct my value system based on practical expediency.

I am not altogether sure what position Zagarell is advocating on this
specific issue . . . and can agree in part with encouragement, as
suggested . . . but not with exclusion in what is obviously a decreasing
job market. I suggest that the real answer is to expand the job market
sufficiently to accept all qualified and dedicated personnel, regardless of
race, color, creed, national origin, or whatever else.

John O'Brien
Indiana University