Before I begin my prepared comments, I would like to thank the University of Michigan AAUP chapter for inviting me to participate in this discussion. It is a challenging, and I think, exciting time to be vigorously discussing these issues which are both extraordinarily timely and of critical importance to all of us here.
The issue that I will address today is the American Association of University Professor's current policy and perspective on affirmative action, and why the Association believes there is a continued need for Affirmative Action in dealing with past and current discrimination. In preparing my remarks, I have borrowed from two sources in from comments made at a Capital Hill press conference by Mary Burgan, the AAUP's General Secretary and from a report put out by the California Faculty Association, who jointly with the AAUP is the bargaining agent for the California State University System.
Within the last two weeks we have seen Affirmative Action in the national and local press any number of times. In fact, yesterday's Chronicle of Higher Education had affirmative action on the cover once again. Two news stories come to mind - First there is the recent Appeals Court decision regarding the illegality of the admissions procedures used by the University of Texas Law School in which the Court said that the University had failed to show justification for giving some racial preference in their admissions formula. Secondly, the Ann Arbor News reporting of the University of Michigan Medical School cultural diversity assessment stands out locally.
You may recall that comments from the Ann Arbor News article included the following "85% of the medical school's minuscule black faculty agreed with the proposition that 'the environment is cold and unwelcoming.'" And from the medical student perspective " All of the black graduate students and half of the black medical students (but only 20% of the white students) in the survey agreed that "Instructors treat me as if I'm not smart enough to be here." 43% of the women said they had experienced "outright discrimination against me because of my gender." and, Dean Bole was quoted as saying that he was searching for a cudgel with which to increase diversity in the faculty ranks - a telling remark. So the context of this panel's discussion is indeed timely, and given the recent court decision, even urgent.
Let me move then to the AAUP position on Affirmative action. In 1973, the AAUP formally endorsed affirmative action in higher education, and reconfirmed that commitment in 1983 in a formal statement. The AAUP policy rejected and continues to reject quotas; rather these policies assert that a failure to draw on the experience, imagination, and critical intelligence of all citizens works to diminish "intellectual vitality." As the 1973 statement further explained:
As Mary Burgan states, "Higher education cannot afford to waste talent and potential because of discriminatory views, overt or unconscious. Without the incentive of affirmative action, many faculty appointments would simply replicate the ethnic backgrounds and gender of those in authority. While we may now be dealing with more subtle discrimination, it still exists, and we still need these incentives to keep higher education open to every aspirant -- whether student or faculty."
Now, let me take a minute to describe what the AAUP means specifically by the term Affirmative Action -- note that we have already stated that it excludes quotas from its prescriptions:
The AAUP policy is that university affirmative action practice should consist of the four following categories of action:
• Examination of recruitment policies to be certain that they are scrupulously nondiscriminatory in principle and in practice, followed by corrective actions where needed.
The rationale for this is that even when eligibility, appointment and advancement standards have been conscientiously reviewed and revised, they may yield very little if the manner in which the department recruits relies on limited sources and word of mouth referral. This will tend to result in pools of candidates who reflect the preferences and characteristics of those doing the recruiting. Affirmative action here, then, means taking affirmative action to broaden the field of persons whose interests and qualifications the institution should want to know about.
• Examination (and where appropriate, modification) of eligibility, appointment, and advancement standards to be certain that there are current bases for their existence, and that they are indeed nondiscriminatory.
"Excellence" and "quality" are aspirations of higher education which are thought to be served by seeking certain attributes and skills in those to be considered for academic positions. Some of these attributes may in fact be relied upon based upon custom or history, and presupposition (for example, that graduates of certain programs are "better" than graduates of others). Where these attributes have never been verified as necessary or effective, they should be very carefully reviewed. In cases where certain standards or attributes serve to greatly diminish the opportunity of women and minorities for possible appointment (such as prior teaching experience, perhaps) they should also be carefully reviewed for their effect (all experience is NOT good experience, for example).
Additionally, the AAUP position statement suggests that the overall excellence of any department may be better assured by considering its current strengths and weaknesses, and then, varying the emphasis given to different kinds of individual qualifications for appointment from time to time, instead of hiring more faculty with similar backgrounds (and therefore limiting diversity intellectually as well). A question we may ask ourselves then is whether we tend to discern "excellence" in others who resemble ourselves, and by appointment and promotion generate proof that merit is the function of those similarities.
• Awareness of race and sex in the appointment and retention process when faculty make the academic judgment that diversity is desirable and that between two or more highly qualified candidates, affirmative action considerations might control the final choice. It may be the case, for example, that a department with a substantial number of female majors has no female faculty member. The desire for diverse role models and for more diverse perspectives on the faculty may serve to motivate the use of gender as one selection variable.
• Finally, AAUP believes that the establishment of achievable goals for the appointment of women and minority faculty members should be used not to guarantee representation for certain groups, but rather as a useful monitoring device consistent with the principle of nondiscrimination and the rights of individuals.
Well, that is a brief overview of the AAUP thinking regarding affirmative action and the hiring and advancement of faculty. I would like to turn now for my last few minutes to more general questions underlying a position in support of affirmative action:
• Do we really need it?
• Does it seek to rectify the effects of individual or group discrimination?
• What about white men?
• Does affirmative action mean hiring unqualified individuals?
• and, Long term, who benefits from affirmative action?
Do we really need it?
Yes. Various means of attempting to eradicate & remedy institutional and individual discrimination have been tried and in large part have failed. For example,
• The 1995 report by the federal government's Glass Ceiling Commission (established as a result of legislation introduced by Senator Bob Dole) found that serious barriers to advancement remain for minorities and women. (examples - persistent stereotyping, fear of change, and erroneous beliefs that no qualified women or minorities are out there.)
• In the recent Urban Institute Report entitled Opportunities Denied, Opportunities Diminished: Discrimination in Hiring - a significant level of discrimination in hiring against Blacks and Hispanics was documented through a hiring audit. This study found specifically that even when white and black applicant qualifications were identical. black job applicants were denied jobs offered to the white applicants 15% of the time (This sounds like affirmative action for white applicants to me.)
• As mentioned earlier, women are 40% of all college teachers, but studies show that they only hold between 11-20% of the tenured positions.
• The dearth of minority and female faculty in many professional schools, let alone the rest of the university - and we could go on.
Does Affirmative Action seek to remedy acts of discrimination against individuals or groups?
Affirmative Action is not the same thing as the remedy of specific acts of discrimination towards a given individual. The EEO law has avenues of redress for those acts. African Americans, women, and other targeted groups have for centuries -- as groups, not individuals -- been excluded from both economic and political opportunities. Granted, overt exclusion has decreased in recent years, however, the effects of past discrimination continue to limit educational and employment opportunities. By implementing race and gender conscious remedies, formerly inaccessible avenues for women and people of color have been and will be opened. Affirmative Action is not a source of individual discrimination, but rather a vehicle for removing the effects of discrimination against significant groups in our population.
What about white men?
In many departments (and other work places) people still have a well-documented tendency to hire people who are like themselves in many ways, including race and gender. Since white men still hold the vast majority of positions of power, these tendencies often work in favor of white male applicants -- as they do in the advancement decisions as well. Some studies have indicated that 86% of available jobs are filled by word of mouth. While white men are roughly 33% of the population - they make up 85% of tenured professors and 85% of partners in major law firms, and 95% of Fortune 500 CEO's. Granted there are complex sets of historical and social reasons for these statistics. But this still has the effect of affirmative actions for white males.
Does affirmative Action mean hiring unqualified individuals?
No. Affirmative action means adopting new or more flexible techniques for identifying a broader pool of qualified applicants, particularly inclusive of those who might be screened out by existing or historical approaches. For example, as I've already mentioned, in some workplaces personal referral of an applicant by an employee gives that applicant some preference in hiring process. But if only white employees are in the workplace, it is highly likely that a Latino or African American who may be highly qualified for the job, will nonetheless never be recommended. Affirmative action requires that employers and for us, faculty, examine our ideas about qualifications and the hiring and recruitment systems we use in order to broaden our reach. Additionally, there are situations when race or gender as one variable for selection from a pool of equivalently qualified individuals makes good sense - this too, is appropriate affirmative action.
Who Benefits from Affirmative Action?
In some admissions decisions in universities, an oboe player may benefit from affirmative action (the orchestra needs one). Athletes may benefit from affirmative action. High school graduates from the Southern United States may benefit (we need to diversify our student body based on geography). An applicant for a faculty position may benefit by having a Ph.D. from the U of M School of Business -- I certainly did, and I was told so in several hiring decisions. A faculty member who has lived abroad may be hired for the "international experience" on the assumption that somehow it will translate into richer teaching.
These examples may make a point, but let me get to the central point. Women and minorities, both theses protected groups as well as some of the individual members of these groups, clearly benefit from greater access provided by affirmative action policies and practices. However, in addition, others benefit as well. Let me give a few examples:
• A US. Council of Mayors survey reported that nearly 40% of the cities responding believe that affirmative action programs have contributed greatly to improved job efficiency and productivity.
• Affirmative action brings the diverse skills, knowledge, and abilities of
women and minorities into the U.S. labor market in ways that support business. If a company is marketing to a particular group, it helps to have members of that group providing input to the ad campaign and product design. If we are teaching members of diverse groups, it helps to have some members of the faculty who have a deep understanding of these students experiences and who can provide insights to students whose backgrounds differ. As Justice Powell said in the Bakke case, "This nation's future depends upon leaders trained through wide exposure to ideas and mores of students as diverse as this nation of many peoples." Racially and ethnically diverse student bodies and faculties improve the learning process for everyone.
If we no longer take affirmative actions to assure increasing diversity, we will live with the costs of perpetuated discrimination. Subtle and historical forms and effects of individual and institutional discrimination have not disappeared, nor will they disappear without affirmative actions taken to eradicate them.
Where does this leave us? Let me conclude with the following:
The AAUP's continued support of Affirmative Action programs, carefully construed and implemented, serves to strengthen higher education and therefore society in the United States. However, for this to be successful, faculty must make it their business to educate themselves regarding these issues, to take thoughtful actions where appropriate, and to keep affirmative action in their hands. Given the University of Texas decision, it is unclear whether we will be allowed to do this without a difficult fight.
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