Speaking Out

Affirmative Action Revisited

Several years ago the Senate Executive Committee [SEC] charged the Senate Committee on the Faculty with developing a procedure for monitoring affirmative action. Roughly, the proposals provided for (1) the development of procedures which were to be followed by search committees; (2) all search committees to be informed by the school's affirmative action officer of those procedures; (3) a review of the procedures actually followed before the search committee made its recommendation; (4) and exit interviews whenever a woman or a minority faculty member was to leave the University.

While the proposals were accepted, they have never been implemented because the development of a few procedural rules was delayed until a new affirmative action officer could be appointed. The climate has since changed and affirmative action has lost a lot of support. The recent Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action can be viewed as undermining that support further.

This does not mean that the Faculty Senate proposals should now be forgotten. On the contrary, since an affirmative action officer has now been appointed, the Faculty Senate's proposals should be implemented as soon as possible. It is important that every vacancy be filled by the best person available. If the search for candidates for a position is not wholly impartial, a female or minority potential candidate that might have been the best to fill the vacancy could be overlooked. The Senate proposals emphasize monitoring the search process and the examination of resignations and terminations to make sure that neither bias nor harassment was involved. It does not target quotas. Examination of the proportions of females and/or minorities in the various faculties is nevertheless warranted. While the proportions are not important in themselves, they may indicate a need to investigate whether the faculty involved had be acting in a discriminatory fashion.

Finally, in those instances when the search process has been called into question because the proportion of female or minority candidates is low relative to the populations from which they were drawn, careful attention should be paid to those cases in which white males were chosen rather than female or minority candidates who were equally qualified on academic grounds. Such instances need very careful scrutiny since, all other things being equal, the female or minority candidates have the advantage of providing needed role models for the students in such departments.

-- Morris Mendelson, Professor Emeritus of Finance


Tuesday, July 18, 1995
Volume 42 Number 1

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