Women in Higher Education

By W. Todd Furniss; Patricia Albjerg Graham | Go to book overview

MARGARET L. RUMBARGER


The Great Quota Debate and Other Issues in Affirmative Action

The past months have witnessed a continuing debate on campuses about the equal employment opportunity requirements for universities and colleges holding federal contracts. It has been argued, for example, that enforcement of the law against discrimination will somehow compromise what in conventional wisdom are the egalitarian principles of professional and scholarly excellence upon which institutions of higher education were founded and have flourished. It has been argued that the traditional prerogatives of departments and faculties will be compromised by affirmative action requirements in the hiring and promotion of faculty. It has been further argued, and I believe more seriously, that affirmative action hiring will discriminate against white men, inasmuch as most colleges and universities are under an obligation to increase the number of women and minoritygroup personnel on their staffs, both academic and nonacademic.

More specifically, the complaint has been raised that the federal government seems obliquely to be calling for the use of quotas, even if not by name, by making compliance otherwise so expensive and difficult, or the demonstration of good faith so arduous, that as a practical matter administrative instructions to departments would result in preferential hiring, even at the expense of diluting professional quality. Given the current academic job market (which already discriminates against those who have spent the better part of their adult lives in training for employment or in actual employment in the academy), the consternation of young white men turned away or even dismissed in the name of affirmative action poses a particular dilemma for the academic profession. A case was made in the now-infamous letter quoted by John Bunzel in the Wall Street Journal, July 27, 1972, in which an aspiring candidate was informed that

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