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Sunday, February 15, 2004

Dr. S.A. Robertson is hereby awarded a prize (consisting of something completely worthless to be determined later) for being my very first commenter. Ever. Thank you, Dr. Robertson.

He points out that the political beliefs of the pool of candidates are skewed left, probably by biases built into the system which discourage conservatives from entering the fields to begin with. He is undoubtedly correct about the politics of the pool of potential candidates, and probably correct as to why. He concludes that it is therefore entirely possible that there might be no discrimination in hiring.

A valid point.

However, it was also once true that in a given field of employment, there were few, if any, minority or female candidates. In some cases, it still is largely true. Would an assertion that "we tried to find a candidate from [pick your excluded group], but received no applications from qualified candidates" work as a defense against a claim of racial or sexual discrimination in hiring, even if the assertion were absolutely true? I am no employment law expert, but I think that such a claim, by itself, would be insufficient. At the very least, it would have to be accompanied by a showing that, however small the pool of candidates from the excluded group, that pool was thoroughly searched and all qualified candidates within that pool were encouraged to apply for the position. The alternative is a system of what I call quotas and others call "goals and timetables."

And that raises a larger question. By complaining about Dr. Brandon at Duke, I am not advocating affirmative action for political conservatives. I think Duke should hire the very best philosophy professors it can entice to North Carolina. If that means that the hires will be uniformly liberal in their political leanings, it is only because Dr. Brandon and his colleagues, by calling people from half of the political spectrum dumb and casually dismissing them and their political beliefs, have been stupid enough to discourage half of the highly intelligent people who might otherwise have been interested in the field from pursuing a career in it. The result of this discrimination is that scholarship in the field will suffer by either declining or (more likely) not achieving as much as it otherwise might. There are advantages to diversity.

I think it is unfortunate that Professor Brandon, and those of his present colleagues who are perpetuating the problem, are not likely to suffer the consequences of that perpetuation, given the time frame in which those consequences will manifest themselves. But the "cure" of affirmative action is far worse than the disease. I do not understand how anyone could expect to achieve the elimination of de facto discrimination (by race, by gender, by political belief or by any other factor not relevant to the position being filled) by creating and enforcing a set of rules which imposes approved types of discrimination. It boggles the mind (mine, at least) to believe that substituting one set of discriminatory practices for another could somehow end discriminatory practices.

On the other hand, I would find the irony of Dr. Brandon being forced to undergo "sensitivity training" hilarious.

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