Education bubble XII: Hiring policy, nothing to do with your merit

I was once interviewed for a job in Georgia.  It was a no brainer.  It was a small pentecostal college that had am academic dean with a master’s degree–it paid probably 30k, and so the money wasn’t anything special.  I waited weeks afterward and only to find out that they gave the job to a guy studying at an American seminary who ABD–nobody bothered to inform me.  The academic game had surprised me.  In today’s analogy, I was Lebron–I studied at prestigious university, my PhD was all but in hand, and to top it off, I could speak three modern languages, and had proficiency in Greek, Hebrew and Coptic.  It was a no brainer.  But in the end, the other guy received the call, and I was still out of job.  How could this happen?  I did everything right and I was ready to step into a job, and they give the job to some guy still working on his PhD!  Well, in the end, I determined that merit often has little to do with who gets a job in academics.  Here are the real criteria:

(1) Ethos:  Who fits into the reigning ethos of the school?  A recent graduate from an expensive school is not likely to fit in well at a small school in Georgia that puts no priority on research or writing.  Such a person has to be used to deprivation and self-sacrifice and must be satisfied with the small wage the school has to offer.

(2) Politics:  a recent informal survey of social psychologists at an academic conference showed that their profession is dominated by those on the Left side of the political spectrum. Only an extremely minute number were self-identified conservatives.  This sort of difference can only happen when the admission policies to graduate programs and the hiring policies intentionally weed out those of conservative persuasion, since the conservatives in the American general population greatly out number liberals.

(3) Diversity (=Affirmative Action):  Michael, who reneged on his obligation to return to Africa, was one of 160 candidates for a job at a Christian University.  When I pointed out that the reason he received the job offer was that the school was implementing a policy of diversity, he was offended, but I was able to point out the page on their website that showed that they were trying very hard and had even offered a job to Botswanan the year before.  Adjuncts who had been working their butts off at one seminary I taught at were passed over as white males to hire full-time females; the next three biblical studies appointments were women.  This wasn’t about their relative merit as professors but about increasing the number of women in the faculty.

(4) Old boys’ school:  J. F. K.’s essay explaining why he wanted to go to Harvard was lamentably lame, but he happened to mention that his father was a Harvard man, and he would like very much to study there too. [BTW, old boys could now be a bunch of liberal woman for all I know–I don’t belong to the club–in fact, I’ve never seen the inside of the club either].

Ok.  So lets consider this question from the standpoint of how good the education is, given that merit is not usually the reason why people get hired.  The Chronicle of Higher Education reviews a recent book by researchers of the products of university education in America:

Growing numbers of students are sent to college at increasingly higher costs, but for a large proportion of them the gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and written communication are either exceedingly small or empirically nonexistent. At least 45 percent of students in our sample did not demonstrate any statistically significant improvement in Collegiate Learning Assessment [CLA] performance during the first two years of college. [Further study has indicated that 36 percent of students did not show any significant improvement over four years.] While these students may have developed subject-specific skills that were not tested for by the CLA, in terms of general analytical competencies assessed, large numbers of U.S. college students can be accurately described as academically adrift. They might graduate, but they are failing to develop the higher-order cognitive skills that it is widely assumed college students should master. These findings are sobering and should be a cause for concern.

A cause for concern indeed!  You mean you can send  18-22 year-olds to school and they aren’t one wit smarter after four years of partying and learning about diversity and multiculturalism?  Wow! Who woodda thunk?

I have heard the dogma that if schools become indoctrinators instead of educators, strongholds of political correctness and diversity, that that makes them better places, richer and superior to the monolithic schools (read: professors are all white males) that prioritize academic achievement.  Yet after 30 or so years of this crap, we now have schools where large swaths of kids come out no smarter than they were before they entered.  So what does a BA mean today?  It means a huge debt without necessarily any usable or productive skills.  It means that a university education for something like a third of graduates is a waste of time and money.

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Hath not a half Korean eyes? Part I

Prof. John Stackhouse sitting atop his endowed perch as Regent College’s Sangwoo Youtong Chee Professor of Theology, has declared me unfit to teach in the academy:

You certainly make it clear when dialogue is a waste of time. Your rage and bitterness simply render conversation impossible. I’m frankly glad you’re not in the academy where you can influence people. I hope you’re good at making people money as the “righteous investor” you advertise yourself to be, but I think we’re done listening to you on this subject.

Why did he do this?  Well, he wrote a blog post in celebration “International Woman’s Day: Who needs it?”  A theology student then challenged him about the lack of female representation on the faculty and board of Regent College.  Then Prof Stackhouse went into full apologetic mode, saying that despite actively recruiting diverse faculty, Regent College remains underrpresented.  This is where I came in as a half Korean who has never been recruited for anything in academics (well except my current writing project for on the Acta Pauli in CChrSA–but that wasn’t based upon being a half Korean), but especially never ever the prestigious Regent College Faculty.  So I wrote:

I left academics precisely over issues like affirmative action. I entered the job market at a time when hundreds of resumes of men were being thrown in the garbage to consider the handful of women scholars; such preferential hiring could not but have a detrimental affect on the quality of educational institutions. One result is that if you are female, you are now more likely to go to university. A lot of people are going to be offended by what I say, but they will have a hard time defending, based on academic standards, the narrowing of the hiring pool to the small percentage of female candidates.

I was asked if I really believed this to be true.  So I wrote:

I for one do not believe that the sacrifice of quality at the altar of diversity has been beneficial to academic standards in higher learning. Before I started job hunting, one of the colleagues in my field, explained to me how they did a job search at his California University (this was in circa 1994). He testified that they would receive maybe 100 applications. They would take the 95 or so from men and file them in the trash. Then they would choose three from the five women applicants and interview them, and then choose the best candidate from those three.

This means then that a woman can find a job in academics quite easily and men have a much harder time. This scenario is confirmed even by Prof. Stackhouse’s own confession above. Faculties will go out of their way to “recruit” women, but to hire a man, they just have to post the position and the applications come in.

The same holds true for racial minorities of the correct sort–forget it if you are either Jewish or Asian; that won’t help, because these are over-represented minorities–in fact only the best Chinese or Jewish kids can even get into some schools.

Now imagine if they did this with the NBA. Ok. We are going to give half-Korean men (they are underrepresented in the NBA, quelle horreur!) and females the preference for hiring. How long would it be before people would stop even watching the NBA and just start watching European league basketball instead? But in academics they’ve been selecting the team not to win championships (based strictly on the people with the best talent and the strongest dossier) but to create diversity–then telling the entire world that the team is better because of it. Well perhaps the faculty page on the website looks less monolithic, but I would rather watch European league academics where the concept of diversity has been much slower in catching on.

Then, I was accused of believing that “Europeans-based races excell intellectually and academically over other races”:  I said that I wasn’t saying that whites were smarter than half Koreans or other diversified people–the thought never occurred to me.  I was only arguing that preferential hiring would have a negative effect on academic standards.  Then, it suggested that I held to the assumption that women and minorities were second rate by academic standards, I said:

If women and minorities are not second rate, then there is no need to give their applications preferential treatment. They can compete in the general pool of applicants. I don’t agree with the assumption either and so I believe that preferential hiring must stop.

This discussion led to Prof. Stackhouse to start another blog post called, On Behalf of Diversity in Academic Hiring:  Part One; I think perhaps he thought by opening up another post, he could then get me to focus my bitterness and rage against something other than his post celebrating International Women’s Day.   This was a brilliant move on his part.  This will be discussed in part two of this series.

Hath not a half Korean eyes? Part One

Hath not a half Korean eyes? II Social justice for me but not for thee

Hath not a half Korean eyes? III A dead lamb doesn’t fear a knife

Hath not a half Korean eyes? IV Conservatism is a mental illness

Hath not a half Korean eyes? V Principled meritocracy

Hath not a half Korean eyes? VI Alumnus squashed

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?