Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Discriminated for

I have my job in part due to discrimination. For a religious educational institution like mine, it is legal to consider my religion in the hiring process- by the same law that banned discrimination based on race, sex, etc. (Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII).

I have to say, it was a huge advantage for me. I am very qualified for my job and am doing decent work, don't get me wrong. But the fact that I am of the same religion as my institution put me at the top of the candidate pool. I simply had to compete with fewer (by far) people with the same qualifications as I had.

I recall a conversation with a person at a conference who was an Instructor at a huge, well known school. He had clearly been trying for many years to get on the tenure track, but ended up as an instructor. He looked at me (only weeks into my job) and said, how did you manage to get a T-T position? And I explained that it was a perfect institutional fit (read: my religion). He said, "That's not fair".

While I do feel bad for him and everyone he represents, and I am very grateful for my opportunities earned or stumbled upon, I do support the idea of institutional specialization in Higher Ed.

If you want to go to an elite college, and can get in, that should be your choice. The country where I did a post-doc did not have that option. If you want to go to an all-female college, you should have the option. If you want to go to an HBC (Historically Black Colleges), or to a school for the deaf- your choice. If you want to attend a college of a particular sect or religion, this should also be available to you.

Now the question arises: to maintain the identity of the institution, should a deaf college prefer deaf faculty? Should black colleges prefer black faculty? Should women's colleges discriminate by hiring female faculty over like-qualified men?

Weigh in, what are your thoughts? I would especially like to hear from the foreign readers...


  1. This is a very interesting blog and so i like to visit your blog again and again. Keep it up.


  2. I interviewed (for a tenure-track position in Science and Technology) at one such institution a couple of months back. That institute, is a very rich and very religious university in the midwest, and has pretty decent reputation in academia. The dean of the college mentioned to me the importance of religion in this way: "When we hire here, we look for three core principles, excellence in undergraduate teaching, excellence in research, and alignment to the mission (religious) of the university. We are impressed by your credentials in teaching and research, but do you have anything to say about our mission?"

    Obviously I did not, as my religion is different from that university, and I treat it as a part of my personal life anyway. So, all I did was to wiggle out of that situation, saying something along the lines of "I do not have issues with the university's religious mission, though I do not follow the same religion."

    Later on, when I spoke with a couple of faculty members, who also do not share the same religion as the university's, they were very clear. It turns out that the university can legally discriminate while hiring. But it cannot, once a person is hired in as then it becomes illegal. So I was told, that I may not get the job if they can find a second-best candidate who is "aligned with the university's mission."

    I guess that is what is probably going on, as I have not heard from them yet. Nothing, but static silence.

    How I am taking it? Well, I am powerless and not in control. For now. But in the future, if I see anything science-related from this place-—papers, manuscripts, grant proposals, conference talks--this incidence will come back to my mind, and I will have to try hard to be impartial.

  3. I don't know how to answer it. It's my problem in general, when do you need a [insert the 'target group'] and not just 'another person advocating the target group'. Simple thing; when is it needed to have women in a female college and when is a man talking about how great women are as good? Or when a whole faculty is hearing can that really be great for a deaf college?

    I would think that you need to see the overall picture as a whole and therefore every person is different when hired since you look at the overall faculty.* If you notice that a HBC only has nonblack people teaching, it might be something that needed looking into? Or just adding more outside guestspeakers?

    I don't know though, as a general I am not an advocate for "specific research institutes" as female/HBC/religious colleges. that doesn't mean that I haven't thought about it... I would hope that you wouldn't want to be at a place that doesn't fit with your personal view (religious for example) but that is utopia - we all want a good place to work and I think you'd be able to work in a place with different religious affiliation as long as they don't clash completely? Then again, I'm not sure I could work in a religious institute, even if I am religious since I am use to keep that section of my life personal and private and not in my research.

    Clearly I am ranting and not super clear on what I think ;) sorry.

    *I guess like my take on the Supreme Court. You want to fit a judge in that fit with the overall composition of the others...

  4. this is an unresolved paradox. I personally promote the primacy of difference, but who say that standing up to what you believe in (religious, political views or otherwise) isn't a way of communicating difference? I probably wouldn't be happy going into an institution knowing that that I believe (in terms of religious view or other view) cannot be changed in the future. I think that we change every second as we continue to live.