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Source: (consider it) Thread: Affirmative Action, or "Positive" Discrimination
stonespring
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I support Affirmative Action, which is the term used here in the US for efforts, particularly in university admissions, to take an applicant's race into account in a way that favors historically marginalized groups. (It could also be about gender, sexual orientation, geographical origin, class background, religion, disability, etc., but when it is debated it is usually about race).

The US Supreme Court has ruled that affirmative action at state universities, or at private universities that receive federal research grants and whose students receive federal academic financial aid, is constitutional as long is it not implemented as a quota system or another mechanistic system that does not consider each candidate "holistically" (including race). The truth is many state schools receive so many applications and do not have the time or money to not use some kind of numerical point system where being from a marginalized racial group gives you extra points. But when state schools defend their admissions processes to the courts they are able to present a facade of holistic evaluation and the Supreme Court has, so far, accepted this (but when Justice Kennedy retires all bets are off).

The Trump administrations' justice department is, it is being revealed, taking up an investigation the Obama administration turned down (because it was also running separately through the courts) in which a group of Asian-American applicants to Harvard (a private university) are claiming that Harvard, in order to prevent Asian students from being represented at Harvard in proportions much greater than in the general population, hold Asian applicants to a much higher academic standard than members of any other racial/ethnic group, including non-Hispanic whites. With Kennedy on the Supreme Court, this case will probably eventually fail, because Harvard has the money to have a huge admissions staff that is able to put a lot of attention into evaluating candidates, plus Harvard can afford really good lawyers (and is the Alma Mater of quite a few current and former Supreme Court justices).

It is very common in the US for mostly white opponents of Affirmative Action to promote stories of Asian Americans with very high qualifications being denied placements because, they allege, of Affirmative Action. Many Asian-Americans, in fact, support affirmative action, especially because the "model minority" stereotype of academic high achievers is just that, a stereotype, and some Asian groups such as Filipinos and the Hmong suffer rates of poverty and barriers to academic achievement similar to that of other marginalized racial groups.

So what do y'all think? Is Affirmative Action (or your country's equivalent) discrimination like any other that should be abolished or is it a necessary evil?

(It is worth noting the the University of California system is banned from using race as a factor in admissions because of a California State (not Federal) Supreme Court ruling about the California State Constitution. Since this ruling, the representation of blacks and latinos in the UC system has gone down considerably, and the representation of Asian-Americans has risen to a level well above that in the general population at some campuses.)

(And one last injection of opinion from me: I think Affirmative Action, which I support, would be much less controversial if much, much more were done to increase representation at universities of people from low-income families, people who are the first in their families to attend college, people from rural or isolated areas, etc. A lot of talk at elite schools is currently about making college more affordable, which is very good and necessary, but there is considerably less talk about admitting more poor, lower middle class, and rural students in general and doing more to make their universities seem like a place where such students would fit in (since many such students who are admitted, even with full scholarships or debt-free financial aid, choose not to attend)).

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Dave W.
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quote:
Originally posted by stonespring:
(... A lot of talk at elite schools is currently about making college more affordable, which is very good and necessary, but there is considerably less talk about admitting more poor, lower middle class, and rural students in general and doing more to make their universities seem like a place where such students would fit in (since many such students who are admitted, even with full scholarships or debt-free financial aid, choose not to attend)).

Really? There are many disadvantaged students who go all the way through the process of applying to elite schools, get admitted with full scholarships or generous aid, and then choose not to attend? I find that hard to believe.
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Enoch
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In the UK, legislation that forbids negative discrimination normally also forbids positive discrimination except in certain specific and rather narrow circumstances. So affirmative action that goes beyond encouraging people to apply is usually illegal.

Unlike Stonespring, I agree with that.

One is supposed to choose the best person in a way that is blind to ethnic or socio-economic background.

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Baptist Trainfan
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In Britain it has been reported this week that children from the most economically-deprived backgrounds are up to 2 years behind their peers by the time they get to the GCSE examinations at the age of 16. These kids are not going to be helped by any Affirmative Action in the university admissions procedure: they are part of a far more complex and intractable societal problem.

Certainly throwing resources at "Sure Start", at schools in deprived areas, in adult literacy and learning programmes for parents, in neighbourhood regeneration, would help - but it will cost a lot of money over many years before long-term effects start coming through. Governments don't work like that, especially one must still remain dubious about the outcomes.

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Arethosemyfeet
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quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
In the UK, legislation that forbids negative discrimination normally also forbids positive discrimination except in certain specific and rather narrow circumstances. So affirmative action that goes beyond encouraging people to apply is usually illegal.

Unlike Stonespring, I agree with that.

One is supposed to choose the best person in a way that is blind to ethnic or socio-economic background.

Isn't the latter the whole point of affirmative action? To choose those who are most capable, correcting for prior attainment that can be a result of socio-economic or discriminatory factors. You can't be blind to those things if you're using things affected by them (like academic results) as a yardstick.

In the UK universities tend to adjust for socio-economic factors rather than racial ones, which does lead to a very low proportion of Black British students at top universities. My recollection is that both affirmative action for race and socio-economic adjustments are supported by evidence of how well those students do in their degree compared to their ostensibly higher achieving counterparts from more privileged backgrounds.

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Alan Cresswell

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quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
One is supposed to choose the best person in a way that is blind to ethnic or socio-economic background.

The problem is that it's not that easy. Just to carry on with university admission (but, similar dynamics work in employment and other parts of our society), even if the admissions system was entirely blind to candidates race and background those from disadvantaged backgrounds would still be disadvantaged. As has been pointed out, students of equal ability will systematically score lower in exams if they're from poor backgrounds. So, even a computer-based points system where the candidates are offered places without an interview where potentially less-blind humans get involved will carry that bias - and, in the majority of cases, good candidates will rapidly make up the differences from their backgrounds within the first year of university.

In the long term, what's needed is to address that underlying performance deficit. That must include enabling parents to support their childrens education - housing suitable for space to do homework, parents with time to spend on their children (rather than holding down multiple jobs and still failing to make ends meet), and the educational experience themselves to do that (which, by definition makes things multi-generational). We will also need to significantly reduce the financial burden of attending university - which must include society carrying a greater burden of that cost through society investing in the education of all our children rather than having the individual students and their families carrying that burden.

In the short term there needs to be mechanisms that can look beyond relatively poor exam grades to see real potential. That will look very much like affirmative action, with people from disadvantaged backgrounds being offered places on lower exam results than those from more advantaged backgrounds.

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Alan Cresswell

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Of course, I spent time composing my post, and so it was a cross-post.

To add to the debate, there surely still needs to be affirmative action against all forms of discrimination. When a big-budget motion picture can erase large portions of the population from a historical production to create a popular fiction portrayed as history that reinforces the negative stereo-types being fed to the people of the UK (and elsewhere) then we know there's a lot more work to do.

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Baptist Trainfan
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Now that was quite a sentence! [Overused]

In 1940 Winston Churchill would have approved of the grammar but not the sentiment.

[ 05. August 2017, 09:12: Message edited by: Baptist Trainfan ]

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Barnabas62
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@ Alan Cresswell

I guess that is a pop against "Dunkirk"? Haven't seen it yet.

Mind you, I remember CJ in "The West Wing" pointing out ruefully that whatever the social benefits of affirmative action, her father had suffered some career blight as a result. And I think that is the moral issue with affirmative action. At the level of selection or appointment, giving the edge to any candidate for reasons other than ability disadvantages other worthy candidates. Even if we see that something needs to be done to redress a historically unfair discrimination and imbalance, the disadvantage to others takes no real account of their part in that historical unfairness.

Is affirmative action the right "something needs to be done" response? Given that the alternatives are very long term, I can see the social engineering arguments in its favour, but am uncomfortable about what it does to the egalitarian principle.

[ 05. August 2017, 09:20: Message edited by: Barnabas62 ]

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:

I remember CJ in "The West Wing" pointing out ruefully that whatever the social benefits of affirmative action, her father had suffered some career blight as a result. And I think that is the moral issue with affirmative action. At the level of selection or appointment, giving the edge to any candidate for reasons other than ability disadvantages other worthy candidates. Even if we see that something needs to be done to redress a historically unfair discrimination and imbalance, the disadvantage to others takes no real account of their part in that historical unfairness.

But untangling this a little - that discrimination and imbalance is not just historical.

Generally I see more people getting excised by the somewhat theoretical possibility that the 'best candidate' may be disadvantaged by affirmative action than by real studies that show real, regular and systematic discrimination against - say - CVs from candidates with ethnic sounding names. [It doesn't surprise me that West Wing - given its particular take on things - would feature the former]

That said I think the problem in the American case is that higher education ends up carrying a lot of water for problems further down the educational system that society at large is unwilling to address.

quote:

I can see the social engineering arguments in its favour, but am uncomfortable about what it does to the egalitarian principle.

Except this egalitarian principle is rather thin on the ground in the real world.

[ 05. August 2017, 09:38: Message edited by: chris stiles ]

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Alan Cresswell

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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
@ Alan Cresswell

I guess that is a pop against "Dunkirk"? Haven't seen it yet.

I've not seen it either, though been informed that it's technically fantastic. But, you still wonder whether Farage would have been so positive about the film if it had included some of the 10s of thousands of muslim troops (in the British army mostly from Pakistan, in the French army from N Africa) who fought and died holding the perimeter, or the thousands more African troops (and, sailors). Would it have appealed to his prejudice if the film acknowledged that the relative success of the evacuation was largely down to the black and muslim soldiers fighting and dieing to hold that perimeter.

quote:
Is affirmative action the right "something needs to be done" response? Given that the alternatives are very long term, I can see the social engineering arguments in its favour, but am uncomfortable about what it does to the egalitarian principle.
My egalitarian principle would say it shouldn't be necessary. But, I'm also a realist, and recognise within myself the tendency to prefer people "like me" and am under no illusions about egalitarianism being dominant within our society.

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Honest Ron Bacardi
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To respond to the OP:-
Yes, affirmative action is needed, but what sort of action?

I'm not fully up to speed on how the US system works, but I believe that it centres more on a process that enforces a better representation (in terms of numbers) of students from ethnic minorities that otherwise would be under-represented. Maybe some details might help here.

But if so, the main problem with that is that you are failing to tackle the causes that led to under-representation in the first place. You are fighting one form of discrimination with another. Far from getting rid of the discrimination, you are more likely institutionalising it.

Take a look at this article, which makes the case that the under-representation of certain racial minorities in HE is real, but is a visible part of a much larger problem. That is not to say that there are not other factors at work - there certainly must be - why are black students with the same grades as white students less likely to be accepted?

But the point here is the identification of injustices and their causes. These are the things that need tackling, surely, and where affirmative action is needed. Not exactly the same usage of the term, but in the long run surely more just and effective than an approach which is at best a sticking plaster, and at worst an encouragement to discriminatory behaviour. And this last point is important because amongst the causative factors, attitudinal ones figure. If they need changing, why would you want to pursue a course that reinforces current attitudes?

(I am taking it as read that we are searching for the same outcomes here.)

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Honest Ron Bacardi
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(that last post of mine was x-posted with that of Barnabas62, who makes some similar points.)

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Barnabas62
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@ chris styles

CJ, the devout white feminist liberal in "The West Wing", who saw the positive the value of affirmative action, nevertheless pointed out that it had disadvantaged her father. Whose life had suffered as a result.

Is it a cost worth paying? I suppose it depends if the cost is being paid by those who are closest to us. It tends to become more personal then.

I don't think you can argue that affirmative action is compatible with the selection of the best individual candidate for any vacancy. Even if the current playing field isn't level, you don't make it level by tilting it another way. There is much to be said for effective and stringent scrutiny of selection processes to safeguard against tilting the playing field, or guarding against other corruptions.

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:

There is much to be said for effective and stringent scrutiny of selection processes to safeguard against tilting the playing field, or guarding against other corruptions.

As a matter of law positive discrimination of the sort that affirmative action would constitute is forbidden in the UK except in a handful of cases.

Yet it looms as a bigger problem in the UK media than the various forms of systemic discrimination which are actually shown to exist.

I suspect that impact of the latter is rather greater than the impact of the former, both here and in the US. Yet it seems imperative that we first address the former. Why is that?

[and yes, I'm well aware of the plot of West Wing].

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Alan Cresswell

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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
I don't think you can argue that affirmative action is compatible with the selection of the best individual candidate for any vacancy.

I think the problem comes when it's applied to any vacancy. When you get to more senior positions where past experience and demonstrated capability are important then affirmative action will mean that the most qualified person won't get the job. But, at less advanced positions where part of the requirement is to learn on the job, and even more so at university admissions, then you're looking more for potential than past achievement and an adjustment for factors that have limited past achievement to reflect potential is more justified.

Though, ideally you want to systematically address those factors that limit achievement. But, that's the long-term problem - and, part of it being that parents who have been held back from achieving what they were capable of may, in turn, hold back their children (eg: if they're held back in relative poverty, not had the opportunity to go to university, find themselves working excessive hours etc - rather than anything deliberate). That may require some affirmative action now to level the field for future generations.

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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by chris stiles:
quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:

There is much to be said for effective and stringent scrutiny of selection processes to safeguard against tilting the playing field, or guarding against other corruptions.

As a matter of law positive discrimination of the sort that affirmative action would constitute is forbidden in the UK except in a handful of cases.

Yet it looms as a bigger problem in the UK media than the various forms of systemic discrimination which are actually shown to exist.

I suspect that impact of the latter is rather greater than the impact of the former, both here and in the US. Yet it seems imperative that we first address the former. Why is that?

[and yes, I'm well aware of the plot of West Wing].

I think that's a false "either/or". Discrimination on grounds other than knowledge, skills and experience is a catch-all for both the latter and the former.

Alan's point about potential is spot on, however. Spotting potential, promise, is a major skill in recruitment or first level promotion. The subjective element does leave it open to abuse, plus some subconscious promoting on one's own image.

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:

I think that's a false "either/or". Discrimination on grounds other than knowledge, skills and experience is a catch-all for both the latter and the former.

Taking the UK as an example - please provide evidence that it's a catch all for both the latter than the former.
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Arethosemyfeet
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I think there is a distinction between a multiple place situation like university admissions and single place situations like job interviews. On the large scale it's reasonable to infer that, on average, black students will have had less opportunity to fulfil their potential than white or East Asian students because that's what the data tell us. By accounting for those systemic effects you should end up admitting, again on average, applicants of higher quality overall. Now, necessarily in that situation you'll end up unfairly admitting some black people who haven't suffered significant disadvantage and excluding some white or Asian people who have, but you should still end up with a more able cohort overall. When you get down to individual positions the averages don't help you much, but at the same time there is far more scope for individual bias to creep in, not least the tendency (even subconsciously) for people to want to appoint People Like Them.

I remember the West Wing scene, and I was always struck by how implausible it seemed, that even with a relatively black city like Dayton there would be enough black women in the school system (and enough determination from school administrators) to seriously impede the career progression of a white man.

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Leorning Cniht
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quote:
Originally posted by chris stiles:

Generally I see more people getting excised by the somewhat theoretical possibility that the 'best candidate' may be disadvantaged by affirmative action than by real studies that show real, regular and systematic discrimination against - say - CVs from candidates with ethnic sounding names.

Because people (for which read white, probably male, people) find it easy to imagine a job for which they are the best candidate, and imagine losing out to someone else who ticked all the right diversity boxes. Those same people don't run the risk of being discriminated against because of their ethnic-sounding name, because they haven't got one.
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Leorning Cniht
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quote:
Originally posted by Arethosemyfeet:
I think there is a distinction between a multiple place situation like university admissions and single place situations like job interviews.

How does one university admitting a few thousand students differ from a few thousand employers each hiring one employee?

quote:

Now, necessarily in that situation you'll end up unfairly admitting some black people who haven't suffered significant disadvantage and excluding some white or Asian people who have, but you should still end up with a more able cohort overall.

But this is true for each individual employer as well. Sure - if you're hiring one person, you're not going to get the average, but the strategy to maximize the ability of your new hire is exactly the same as the strategy to maximize the ability of your 5,000 new students.

It's just much harder to measure across thousands of companies than at one university.

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by Leorning Cniht:
Those same people don't run the risk of being discriminated against because of their ethnic-sounding name, because they haven't got one.

Oh I fully understand the dynamic, I was just pushing back against it being manifested in this thread.

As I said before, I'm necessarily not supporting affirmative action for college admissions. Against a backdrop of terrible educational outcomes among the poorest communities in the US, all it's likely to do is perpetuate some ethnic middle and upper-middle classes in the US. OTOH when I look at the US, I don't think that the biggest and most pressing issue when it comes to racial injustice is necessarily that of affirmative action.

In the UK of course, such discrimination is illegal except in a small set of cases laid out in the 2010 Equality Act. Again, I don't thing the biggest and most pressing issue is that of those set of cases.

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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by chris stiles:
quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:

I think that's a false "either/or". Discrimination on grounds other than knowledge, skills and experience is a catch-all for both the latter and the former.

Taking the UK as an example - please provide evidence that it's a catch all for both the latter than the former.
Logically, it is. Statistical anaylses suggest that something other than KSE (or in the case of some University entrance, demonstrable academic prowess) must be in play. The real argument is about appropriate remedial action, and whether affirmative action is appropriate. Prejudices die hard, as does promotion in one's own image.

I think affirmative action a blunt instrument. And I'm with Honest Ron Bacardi here.

quote:
But the point here is the identification of injustices and their causes. These are the things that need tackling, surely, and where affirmative action is needed. Not exactly the same usage of the term, but in the long run surely more just and effective than an approach which is at best a sticking plaster, and at worst an encouragement to discriminatory behaviour. And this last point is important because amongst the causative factors, attitudinal ones figure. If they need changing, why would you want to pursue a course that reinforces current attitudes?


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lilBuddha
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Pretending the playing field is level at the goal is to ignore the obstacles on the rest of the field, even were that actually true.
If one manages to surmount the obstacles, one faces invisible stoppers at the goal.
Prejudice is a factor and prejudice is not an on/of switch, it is a sliding scale.¹ At the more positive end, people will not even be aware of their prejudice, but it can affect their choices.
And beyond prejudice, there is familiarity. It is a human tendency to group by commonality. We like people who are like us.
If a set of identical twins with identical CVs is before a cricket-loving hirer, the twin who also enjoys the cricket will most likely get the job.

All things considered, positive discrimination does not push the advantage in the direction of the minority, but is a step in making the game equal.


¹Truly, it is a spectrum. But for simplicities sake...

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If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

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Hilda of Whitby
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quote:
Originally posted by Leorning Cniht:
Because people (for which read white, probably male, people) find it easy to imagine a job for which they are the best candidate, and imagine losing out to someone else who ticked all the right diversity boxes. Those same people don't run the risk of being discriminated against because of their ethnic-sounding name, because they haven't got one.

I'm not addressing Leorning Cniht personally, because I don't know if he/she holds the ideas expressed in the post, but --

What if they lost out to someone who ticked all the right diversity boxes AND actually *was* the best candidate due to competence, references, interview skills, etc.? That never seems to enter the head of the person who didn't get hired.

There seems to be a notion among some white people that any minority who gets a job that a white person applied for had to have been chosen because of affirmative action.

So .. no minority, no matter how intelligent, poised, and competent, could ever beat out a white applicant on merit? I just don't buy it.

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
The real argument is about appropriate remedial action,

This is true. But how likely do you think this will happen? The remedial action entails uplifting the poor as a major component. How likely do you think this is?

quote:

and whether affirmative action is appropriate.

Since pushing up from the bottom is not going to happen, reaching down from the top is one of the few, practical options.
quote:

Prejudices die hard, as does promotion in one's own image.

The biggest killer of prejudice is familiarity. And if you do not change the unfamiliar into familiar, there is no reason for that prejudice to die.

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
Logically, it is. Statistical anaylses suggest that something other than KSE (or in the case of some University entrance, demonstrable academic prowess) must be in play.

Pardon me, but we appear to be talking past each other. My point is it's not like we have a 'generalised issue with discrimination by factors other than KSE' that manifests itself equally in both directions.

As I said, I don't believe that the issues caused by affirmative action either in the US - or marginally in the UK - are the biggest causes of racial inequality, which leads me to be rather suspicious of anyone making a huge noise about it - in the best case it does what lilbuddha describes above, in the worst case it perpetuates particular sections of ethnic middle-classes.

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by chris stiles:
OTOH when I look at the US, I don't think that the biggest and most pressing issue when it comes to racial injustice is necessarily that of affirmative action.

Of course it's not. But affirmative action is something that employers and universities can do NOW. Otherwise we have a situation of them washing their hands and saying, "Well the real problem is the racism endemic in our society. As soon as that changes, we'll have more proportional representation at our firm/school." Which is a cop-out.

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lilBuddha
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Funny the complaints about positive discrimination.
One of the most common is:
"The job should go to the most qualified"
This assumes that jobs have ever got the most qualified and that they need the most qualified. Neither is true for the vast majority of jobs. You simply need qualified. Well, in honesty, many jobs manage to exist without even that.

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Jane R
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Indeed. In my experience the job usually goes to either the internal candidate or the person who's best at selling themselves in the interview. Neither of these attributes guarantees that the applicant best suited to the post will be selected.
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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by chris stiles:
quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
Logically, it is. Statistical anaylses suggest that something other than KSE (or in the case of some University entrance, demonstrable academic prowess) must be in play.

Pardon me, but we appear to be talking past each other. My point is it's not like we have a 'generalised issue with discrimination by factors other than KSE' that manifests itself equally in both directions.

As I said, I don't believe that the issues caused by affirmative action either in the US - or marginally in the UK - are the biggest causes of racial inequality, which leads me to be rather suspicious of anyone making a huge noise about it - in the best case it does what lilbuddha describes above, in the worst case it perpetuates particular sections of ethnic middle-classes.

I don't think affirmative action, being a response to inequality, is a major cause of inequality and I do agree about folks who make too much of its shortcomings. I'm saying it has shortcomings which are worth recognising. I'm not discounting its pragmatic value in fostering good change.

JaneR

Interview processes are an opportunity for candidates to do a good job of selling themselves. But they are also processes of discovery about the merits of respective candidates. How effective they are in doing that depends on the quality and experience of interview panels. IME they weren't easily conned by shadow, rather they were pretty good at spotting substance. But YMMV of course.

[ 05. August 2017, 18:26: Message edited by: Barnabas62 ]

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Martin60
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quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
In the UK, legislation that forbids negative discrimination normally also forbids positive discrimination except in certain specific and rather narrow circumstances. So affirmative action that goes beyond encouraging people to apply is usually illegal.

Unlike Stonespring, I agree with that.

One is supposed to choose the best person in a way that is blind to ethnic or socio-economic background.

How do you differentiate experience from background?

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:

JaneR

Interview processes are an opportunity for candidates to do a good job of selling themselves. But they are also processes of discovery about the merits of respective candidates. How effective they are in doing that depends on the quality and experience of interview panels. IME they weren't easily conned by shadow, rather they were pretty good at spotting substance. But YMMV of course.

My mileage varies considerably with yours, B62. I've worked in, and adjacent ot, a number of different fields. And my experience most hiring is not done with amazing skill. Interviewing is an art and a skill. So is being interviewed.
Interview panels are like dogs: Everyone thinks theirs is the best and smartest and possessed of the ability to sort out the true soul of a person. But, in reality, most are quite average in ability and none can read minds. And almost all take cues from their masters.

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So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

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Barnabas62
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Guess I was lucky! Mind you, my experience goes back more than a quarter of a century now. I sat on several interview panels assessing fitness for promotion, but in common with all panel members, was required to attend an intensive training course in advance of membership. One of the key objectives was elimination of personal bias.

[ 05. August 2017, 20:24: Message edited by: Barnabas62 ]

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Anglican_Brat
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The argument for affirmative action is reasonable if one considers that rarely, in employment or university admissions is it a case that there is a low supply of qualified applicants compared to the number of spaces available. It goes like this:

If two applicants of equal merit apply to the same position, yet one is from a minority group and the other is from a majority group, then affirmative action is that you go with the minority person because having a diversity of people in your workplace/school is a value you aspire to.

I also think that in the case of American universities, it should be noted that admission is not solely based on GPA or SAT scores. People are allotted points based on extracurricular activities, if their parents are alumni, if they have a sports or arts background, etc. When this issue was raised in the George W Bush Administration, supporters of affirmative action, perhaps too smugly, pointed out that GW Bush didn't get into Yale, strictly because of merit, (i.e. affirmative action based on his father being an alumni). Given this, to me, allotting points to historically marginalized minorities is not that unreasonable.

But it's more complex than how this issue is politically debated in the US which has an undercurrent of racism (those people are taking away spots from my people).

[ 06. August 2017, 01:38: Message edited by: Anglican_Brat ]

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Paul.
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quote:
Although you will never hear this from Mr. Sessions, men are the greatest beneficiaries of affirmative action in college admissions: Their combination of test scores, grades and achievements is simply no match for that of women, whose academic profiles are much stronger. Yet to provide some semblance of gender balance on campuses, admissions directors have to dig down deep into the applicant pool to cobble together enough males to form an incoming class.
(source: nytimes.com)
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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
Of course it's not. But affirmative action is something that employers and universities can do NOW.

Perhaps I failed to express myself properly; It was a comment on those who see affirmative action as a huge problem that should be solved by ending it because it 'tips the deck' in some way. My argument was more along the lines of solving the other problems first, as the magnitude of the problems *caused* (rather than addressed) by affirmative action were probably dwarfed by other systemic biases.
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Jane R
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Barnabas62:
quote:
IME they weren't easily conned by shadow, rather they were pretty good at spotting substance. But YMMV of course.
Not just mine: the Harvard Business Review agrees that interviews are flawed tools at best. It is also fairly generally accepted that appearance has an enormous effect on success at interview. Dressing in a suit when the corporate culture is casual, or vice versa, will lose you the job before you have finished shaking hands with the interviewer.

And what lilbuddha said.

[ 06. August 2017, 12:22: Message edited by: Jane R ]

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Barnabas62
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The Harvard Business Review article might almost have been written by my course trainer! Certainly, the processes we used included many of the corrective recommendations in that article.

Maybe things have regressed since the 80s and 90s? Or maybe my organisation was unusually enlightened? From what you are saying, it must not have been typical.

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:

Maybe things have regressed since the 80s and 90s? Or maybe my organisation was unusually enlightened? From what you are saying, it must not have been typical.

I think it's a mixture of things; that some workplaces are very much more conservative and that the sources of bias are often more persistent.

[ 06. August 2017, 13:49: Message edited by: chris stiles ]

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by chris stiles:
quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
Of course it's not. But affirmative action is something that employers and universities can do NOW.

Perhaps I failed to express myself properly; It was a comment on those who see affirmative action as a huge problem that should be solved by ending it because it 'tips the deck' in some way. My argument was more along the lines of solving the other problems first, as the magnitude of the problems *caused* (rather than addressed) by affirmative action were probably dwarfed by other systemic biases.
I addressed solving the other problems first. As I said, it's a cop-out for universities (etc) to say, "Well, there's nothign we can do until the other problems are solved first." Did you read my whole post?

[ 06. August 2017, 15:08: Message edited by: mousethief ]

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Dave W.
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
The Harvard Business Review article might almost have been written by my course trainer! Certainly, the processes we used included many of the corrective recommendations in that article.

Maybe things have regressed since the 80s and 90s? Or maybe my organisation was unusually enlightened? From what you are saying, it must not have been typical.

I suspect many organizations have implemented training to improve their interview processes, but just because people are trained doesn't mean the training is effective. What makes you think your system worked - did your organization have an outside auditing mechanism to verify that you had eliminated the effects of unconscious bias?
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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
I addressed solving the other problems first. As I said, it's a cop-out for universities (etc) to say, "Well, there's nothign we can do until the other problems are solved first." Did you read my whole post?

Yes I did, and I still think you are misreading what I'm saying.

I largely agree with you, and it would be a total cop out for universities to react in the manner you describe [While universities are not the most optimal way to fix racial disparities, I agree with you that there's a case for action where it's possible now].

My beef is with those - mostly on the right - who seem to think that 'affirmative action' is the biggest 'problem' from the point of view of discrimination generally. To whom I say; there are other larger (and provably quantifiable) sources of discrimination in society at large, and whereas there are corner cases where AA fails, there are also plenty of cases where it has worked. As they are generally less excised over these other sources of discrimination, I suspect their motives.

I wouldn't necessarily support transposing AA to the UK - but I can see why it exists in the US context.

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Dave W

There was an appeal system, agreed with the unions, who could represent an aggrieved candidate not satisfied by a debrief. The processes, including all supporting paper work, were subject to review by an internal audit unit, whose independence was protected by their ability to bring in external auditors if they saw the need.

The structure was pretty standard in the UK public service. It provided safeguards for internal candidates for selection/promotion.

The safeguards were different for external recruits. In general, people were recruited to an entry grade and interviews were carried out by an independent body. I was recruited to a grade first, then had a separate interview for a specific post in a ministry I'd expressed an interest in working for. I don't know what formal safeguards applied to that initial recruitment process.

[ 06. August 2017, 17:29: Message edited by: Barnabas62 ]

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Alan Cresswell

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I think there are different dynamics with internal promotion. You're talking about the choice between people who have already gained experience and demonstrated their ability within the organisation. In which case there are fairly objective criteria that could be applied, and audited. You also have a group of people not involved in the formal process (other colleagues who were not up for promotion and not on the panel) who would be able to smell a rat if the better candidate was passed over in favour of the white guy.

Also, by then the initial barriers have been overcome simply by already having a job. What's harder is to decide who's the best candidate when you have person A from a privileged background where statistically academic performance is better with 2As and a B at A level, and candidate B from a less privileged background with 2Bs and a C - both of whom could be equally able, and indeed the candidate with lower grades could be better.

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Dave W.
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That sounds admirably thorough, Barnabas62 - a good way to make sure the prescribed processes were all followed. But I was wondering if there was any mechanism to evaluate whether the processes, properly followed, were actually effective in countering unconscious bias. Was there a change in the hiring rate of women or minorities, for example? Were they well-represented among the ranks of management?
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Barnabas62
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I'm sure the statistics are available, I'm just not sure where! Anecdotally, in the 60s, I worked in two different government departments and in both my first senior bosses (2 ranks below the top Civil Service grade) were women. Both appointed before the feminist movement caught fire again in the UK.

I'm not naive about it, however. It was always possible (always is) to 'work the system' in favour of various glass ceilings. People can get round safeguards.

Although it sounds sexist these days, the ethical standard was supposed to be "Caesar's wife". Not just above suspicion, but seen to be above suspicion. How well was that applied to fairness issues? It varied! But I think I was lucky in my particular experience.

[ 06. August 2017, 19:24: Message edited by: Barnabas62 ]

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Barnabas62
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Dave W

Here is a link to UK Civil Services employment stats. I haven't looked at them in any great detail.

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by chris stiles:
[While universities are not the most optimal way to fix racial disparities, I agree with you that there's a case for action where it's possible now].

Universities are at the current time the optimal place to fix racial disparities in universities.

quote:
My beef is with those - mostly on the right - who seem to think that 'affirmative action' is the biggest 'problem' from the point of view of discrimination generally.
Right. That's insane.

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Jane R
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[disclaimer: the plural of anecdote is not data]

The basic problem is that affirmative action, though an attempt to address unfairness, is seen as unfair by the people who are passed over in favour of ostensibly less well-qualified candidates. Just as a classmate of my daughter's was annoyed at being reprimanded by the PE teacher for not surpassing my daughter's attempt at a long-jump.

"It's not fair - she did a jump the same length but she wasn't told off!" - because she was having a migraine, and she did the best she could at the time. The girl who got told off was just taking the piss.

Levelling the playing field is always going to be unpopular with those who would benefit from leaving it as it is.

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