Infuriating editorial of the day

If your blood pressure is feeling up for it, you might want to read Andrew Irvine’s latest tirade against university hiring policies. Called “The real discrimination at universities is against men,” it’s available here. Clearly some comments/letters to the editor are warranted. Irvine, a full professor in philosophy at the University of British Columbia, is also the author of “Jack and Jill and Employment Equity,” Dialogue, vol. 35 (1996), no. 2, 255-291, available here.

5 thoughts on “Infuriating editorial of the day

  1. The editorial is laughably bad, and more rife with fallacies than one would expect, coming from an academic philosopher (reminds me of the “maverick philosopher”). That, and the lack of specific examples for his more grandiose generalizations (” Most departments allow men to apply, but almost always “give preference” to women”) makes it that much weaker, and leaves me that much more skeptically inclined.

    Nonetheless, I think there’s at least one thing that we should take away from it, and from the associated PDF article: hiring committees that apply policies of affirmative action need to make their decisions transparent. This means (I think), among other things,

    -Setting out clear conditions for evaluating the effect of the policy. In other words, set goals that would indicate when the policy can or will be abandoned, and by which it can be judged whether the policy is effective, ineffective, or harmful.

    -Notifying successful and unsuccessful candidates for whom affirmative action was a deciding factor.

    Despite whatever else he’s wrong about, I think he’s right that once a certain threshold is reached, the continuation of affirmative action policies becomes unfairly discriminatory. The challenge is that almost nobody seems to have put any effort into thinking about these thresholds, and into increasing transparency for hiring processes in which AA is involved. The result is that we who are in the so-called “dominant” group have no idea how they’re applied: are we losing to less or equally qualified candidates, are we losing out based on AA or merit, etc. From this perspective, the mystery of the processes at work makes them seem like undue punishment.

    So, yeah. I remain sympathetic to some of the concerns, despite Irvine’s ineptitude.

    On a (slightly) related note, how many men teach in women’s studies departments, and how does that number compare with the general pool of male applicants? I’m just curious, not trying to start anything.

  2. Thanks for posting this. I’ve commented on the article, and I hope others from here will, too, despite the obnoxious registration process. It’s hard even to figure out where to start–so many things to say!

  3. What I found incredible was Irvine’s obstinate avoidance of the main question of why there are fewer women in philosophy (or other underrepresented disciplines). Take note that there are only 3 women out of 20 in his own department’s graduate faculty.

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