open discussion

Sat, 5 Mar 1994 19:04:44 EST

B. Edward Pierce recently asked if membership in a disadvantaged minority
should be considered as a less valid criterion than physical attractiveness
and personality for job hires. It is an excellent question, one for which
I am not sure an easy answer is available. B. Edward, you are right! I am
not personally opposed to EO employment as a concept. I do oppose discrimina-
tion that hides under the guise of EO hires, and it is discrimination (no
matter how well meaning, if one can say that about a moral error) that I
adamantly oppose. The position is in part based on the caul that then
hangs over a minority person's head for the rest of their career . . . "the
unspoken intimation that the only reason they have their job is due to
irrelevant criteria and irrelevant qualifications." That is an insult to
any scholar.

As far as non-objective criteria are concerned . . . perhaps if they are
incorporated into process much as attractiveness and personality criterion
are in traditonal hiring . . . one could not object. Or if the standard
underlying perception of attractiveness and personality were to change
sufficiently so that people actually perceived minority physical appearance
and culturally\socially developed personality and identity as `attractive'
across the board, there could be no objection.

What tends to occur, however, is that the criteria becomes elevated to the
status of `most important qualification.' When that occurs, in the traditional
European descent mode, there is a negative connotation applied to it. Should
not the same kind of negative connotation apply to the same elevation of
physical and cultural characteristics as paramount characteristics of
academic value and worth?

I frankly believe that the best approach to the problem is for each department
to refuse to engage in well needed minority recruitment and EO hires, unless
the university provides two additional positions for the department which can
be fully open to all comers . . . regardless of minority status or gender.

These abuses are not restricted, by any means, to EO hiring . . . and any number
of horror stories by women, members of ethnic minorities etc. can be
accumulatedand presented. The problem is with all of us, and thus so is the

To answer your question about criterion . . . it seems to be a qualitative
judgement call. Taken too far, applying the criterion becomes ludicrus . . .
not far enough . . . and discriminatory . . . someplace in balance, and in
fact the need for EO recruitment would not exist.

John O'Brien
Indiana University