Affirmative Action and the University: A Philosophical by Steven M. Cahn

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By Steven M. Cahn

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Steele's concern is the ironic possibility that outcome targets, by generating legitimate doubts about successful candidates, will compromise efforts to correct discriminatory processes. The doubts arise if targets dilute qualifications. Steele points to a real dilemma here. On the one hand, targets may be the only way to attack a process that repeatedly devalues the qualifications of women and minorities. Employment goals may force faculty to act in spite of bias, to see new qualifications as relevant, or to devote renewed scrutiny to candidates.

Instead, they either argue that there are good reasons for the practice-such as that it yields more qualified applicantsor that they will be forced by the recog11ition of this kind of injustice into numerical quotas that will result in new injustices. 55 The first point is not disputed by defenders of disparate impact theories. If the employer can show good, employment-related reasons for continuing a practice, it is not discriminatory to do so; but it should be up to the employer to make this showing in light of the very real differences flowing from the contested practice.

For example, a university may insist on service that is relevant to the university's nlission but fail to give clear standards of what this means and appare11tly judge various kinds of community and professional service by different standards. 42 Teaching is most frequently evaluated by student course evaluations, yet data show likely gender bias in these evaluations. 43 Different standards may be applied in judging the rigor of teaching loads for minority and nonminority candidates. 44 Even judgments of research quality and capability may be subject to vague standards and biased assessments.

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