open discussion

Thu, 3 Mar 1994 15:11:00 PST

O'Brien writes:

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

In the best of all possible worlds, we could imagine that hirings,
promotions, etc. are based on some objective decision taking into account the
"qualifications and quality" of the work done by each person. In the real
world this obviously has not always occured and some persons have been
systematically excluded for reasons other than the claimed basis of using
qualifications and quality of work as the basis for hiring, etc. While this
discrepancy between stated ideal and practise may be most evident when
considering racial/sexual discrimination that has taken place, it should be
noted that the ideal is often breached even in the context of "white, middle
class males"--taht is, the claim is: we hire the best, but without a clear
statement of what constitutes the best this becomes a means to practise
discrimination. Without agreed upon and enforced, standards of what
constitutes the best, the best gets redefined in terms of other goals; e.g.,
females are disqualified by failure to not meet the stated standards--but
males are often not required to meet those standards. The problem I see is
that while it sounds good to say that we will hire the most qualified, in
fact this becomes very subjective, hence wide open for discriminatory
practises. Who can show that person X was in fact more qualified than person
Y who got the job when the criterion for that decision are vague to being
with? Reverse discrimination, quotas are not the answer; but if the
rejection of quotas is to be based on e.g.,principles such as: hire the most
qualified, then it behooves us to make explicit what are those criteria so
that they can be honestly tested and challenged when in fact those criteria
become merely a facade.

D. Read