More notes on affirmative action: Prof. Ian Hunter

I’d like to add to my view in the discussion at Prof. Stackhouse’s blog on how affirmative action has degraded educational standards, with a note from retired Professor of law at University of Western Ontario, Ian Hunter, who wrote an article entitled “Academia’s road to ruin” (The Next City, 1999).  He wrote the following lines about affirmative action:

My former colleagues have witnessed 15 years of affirmative action hirings, where merit is secondary to an applicant’s race, gender, even sexual proclivity. No academic institution can pursue a deliberate policy of hiring mediocrity and expect to build a meritocracy.

The hiring policy at York University — that pons asinorum of Canadian higher education — is, alas, fairly typical. In academic units in which 45 per cent or less of the tenure-stream faculty are women, a female candidate must be offered the position unless there is a “demonstrably superior male candidate.” Every hiring committee, even more every dean, knows that proving “demonstrable superiority” is a steep hill to climb. How much easier, how much better for one’s career prospects, to avoid trouble, to avoid confrontation, to avoid the accusation of chauvinism, and to just go along with the university’s stated policy of “encouraging diversity.” So let us have the “diversity” candidate, although perhaps not the “best” candidate. A decade and a half of such hiring decisions have reduced Canadian universities to the intellectual backwaters they now are.

Prof. Hunter wrote later that many who responded, but only a slim minority in defense of the university (in “Can The Universities Be Saved?  So It’s Agreed Our Universities Are A Farce. But What Can Be Done About It?” (Report newsmagazine, Jan 24, 2000; emphasis mine):

The reaction came all right, but the magnitude and depth of it surprised me. First, portions of The Next City article were reprinted in the Montreal Gazette and Halifax Chronicle Herald. Second, The Next City received more letters about it than about any other article in the magazine’s four years of publication. Most remarkably, the letters that flooded in all said essentially the same thing. They said: “Yes, what you say is true, but you understate the institutional corruption. Now let me tell you how bad things are here.” It was as though the letters had been composed from a common template. The response came from professors (emeritus professors predominating, perhaps because they are free to speak without fear of reprisal), from Newfoundland to Victoria, and many universities between.

Now I emphasized part of the text because it requires a certain kind of courage to say that the preferential hiring of women and certain visible minorities has been detrimental to education.  Prof. Hunter said in 2000 that retired professors do not fear speaking out against affirmative action and the other problems of the university.  The academy isn’t a forgiving community and it has a long memory.

Notes on affirmative action

At Prof. Stackhouse’s blog, the discussion concerning diversity continues.  I want to strengthen my point that affirmative action has (1) watered down academic standards; (2) is discrimination against certain minorities (particularly Asians and Jews).  Here are some of the articles that I found:

When Affirmative Action Is A Quota System (at the American Thinker)

By Russell Eisenman

A university professor, Eisenmann claims that affirmative action has become a quota system that is basically un-American and leads to resentment.  The Ku Klux Klan could  have invented it as system to make whites hate blacks.

By the way, it may be that some elite schools can do their affirmative action hiring and hire a top candidate. But, this is certainly not the case for most schools. In my experiences, and in that of colleagues I have discussed this with, when affirmative action hiring is done, the dilemma is always that there are better qualified candidates not within the quota category. Sometimes, the person hired, because they have the right skin color or sex, is markedly less qualified than some of the other applicants.

Should Colleges Have Quotas for Asian Americans? (Washington Post, 2004)

By Jay Mathews

Matthews’ article writes about Chinese-American Ed Chin who has been very critical of the quota system of Ivy League schools.  But Matthews, against Chin, concludes its ok for the best schools to discriminate against Asians, because they can get into other schools.   But dear Mr. Matthews, racial preferences have made it more difficult for Asians to get into other schools as well.

And yet the recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions on affirmative action preserved the system at most selective private schools in which Asian American students with very high tests scores are passed over in favor of African American and Hispanic students with lower scores because the schools want significant numbers of all ethnicities on campus. Supporters of such policies say a diverse student body helps everyone learn to live in the real world, and there are plenty of other fine colleges that take students, Asian American or otherwise, whom they reject.Whenever I raised this point, Chin would accuse me, rightly, of shrugging off the American commitment to fair play for individuals. He cited comments made by Abigail Thernstrom, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a Massachusetts state school board member. “I think these racial preferences are very pernicious,” she said in an interview on a PBS Web site after voters banned the use of affirmative action based on race in University of California admissions. “I don’t think they do black students much good. I think they’re poisonous in terms of race relations. And I do not think they are fair to the Asian student, for instance, who has worked very, very hard and is kept out of a Berkeley because a student with a slightly different skin color has gotten in as a consequence of racial identity.”

The Asian-Jewish connection: Is it really kosher to call Asians the “new Jews”? (SF Gate, 2010) by Jeff Yang; The New Jews? by Jennifer Rubin (Weekly Standard, 2008).  Rubin writes to belie Matthew’s point above:

In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court cases concerning racial preference policies at the University of Michigan’s law school (Grutter v. Bollinger) and undergraduate school (Gratz v. Bollinger) highlighted further evidence of great disparities between groups. At Michigan’s law school, the admission rates of “preferred” minorities miraculously held steady between 10 percent and 17 percent in the years for which data were provided. According to Peter Schmidt’s Color and Money, “Among applicants with certain grade point average and LSAT-score combinations, the university was admitting virtually every black applicant while white and Asian American applicants had a less than 1 in 40 chance of getting in.”

The article that first made me aware of the problem of discrimination against Asians, was in the American Thinker in 2005:  Asian Americans and Affirmative Action, by James Chen, who writes about the extraordinary measures that Asian parents will go to in order to overcome discrimination of their children, even moving to “white” areas so that their children will have a better chance of graduating close to the top of their high school class.  Chen’s article infuriated me.  I realized that all of the job post advertising women and minorities are encouraged to apply did not at all mean me, since if a university will discriminate against students applying to a school, how much more will they be willing to do so when hiring a professor?

Headlines that make laugh

From the National Post website, March 20, 2010

It is in vogue to laugh at “goldbugs”.  The fact is that gold remains steady at $1100 and it seems to have found a new floor at US $1050, the price at which India will buy gold for their treasury reserves.  But a headline I saw on the National Post website, made me laugh:  “Gold plunges 1.8% in wake of strong US$”.  Perhaps, “nosedive” or “steep decline” or “precipitously fell”; but “plunges”?  But what’s really laughable is that the “plunge” was caused by a strong US$.  The US dollar has been anything but strong of late, at least from a Canadian perspective.  And frankly, if you bought gold any where below $1050, you’re laughing right now.  The US dollar is in trouble.  It’s just a matter of time before the inflation of the dollar becomes a major issue.