Feminism | Posted by Kate S on 05/28/2010

Affirmative Action?

affirmative action

affirmative action

Maren H. wrote a great piece on the importance of feminism and focused on gender discrimination in hiring. It coincided with something that ticked me off today so here is my rant.

As my tradition-bound boarding school continues to figure things (substitute with race, gender, sexuality, etc.) out, the issue of gender disparity arose in Academic Council, a committee of department chairs and major school authorities. Of course, as a student, I am not supposed to know about this but let’s just say that I have my ways.

A lot of faculty members are leaving the school this year, which means that our only female academic department chair, an English teacher, will be leaving as well. As a result, the Academic Council—composed of the movers and shakers of the school—has become entirely male: the associate Head of School, Academic Dean, and respective department chairs. Faculty members involved in this group are highly-qualified teachers who have worked their way up. It is unfortunate that there is not a single female faculty; however, I believe that the new department chairs were chosen and hired with thoughtful considerations and if qualified candidates happened to be all male this year, then the Academic Council 10-11 will be all male.

During their meeting, one member decided to point out a lack of female presence in the group. To this, the Associate Head of School suggested that he would invite any female faculty to join the Academic Council. That gesture, while it is a response (mind you, a disturbing one), is an act of discrimination. I commend the male faculty for discovering a lack of diversity; as long as we have acute-minded members in the group, I am confident that the Academic Council will continue to move and shake the school to best foster the young leaders of tomorrow. Yet, I cannot help but question the mindset of this group of middle-aged, all-male, white faculty when their solution to an absence of female member is to just ask one to join them. They are all known to be hard workers within the school community and they have rightfully earned their positions as department heads and campus authorities. Inviting female colleagues to participate in the meetings is not only doing injustice to the current (and legitimate) members’ years of perspiration but also demolishing the true essence of feminism: equality between men and women. Just adding a female touch shares the same apathetic mentality with the infamous—unjust—Affirmative Action.

I will be graduating in a month: I guess it really does not matter what the school decides to do after I leave. But I learned so much in the past four years; I would not be writing this without the mentorship of the teachers I have come to model after. Knowing how much it meant for me, it pains me to see school authorities taking such an archaic approach. My sister is in the ninth grade and I want to see this school become more equal, if not for me, at least, for her sake. I hope to return for reunion in the future and discover the campus full of talented, dedicated, and passionate teachers of diversity. I really hope so.

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  • Garnett | Mount Virtus » Blog Archive » What About Democrat AG Candidate | My Income Multiplier @ at 10:08 pm, May 28th, 2010

    […] Affirmative Action? | fbomb […]

  • Cat F @ at 4:49 pm, May 29th, 2010

    I don’t know how I feel about affirmative action. But what it is attempting to counter are very real disparities in opportunity. If we say that in the mid-70s, equal access to higher education became fairly common for (upper-middle class) women, then that generation is more than old to be holding high-ranking positions at schools. I don’t think women should be promoted for their gender, but I think we need to take a long look at why the executive faculties at many educational institutions remain mostly male.

    Race is a different conversation for a different time. But suffice it to say that affirmative action, in my opinion, is an imperfect solution to a massive problem – one that can only be truly solved through a radical overhaul of the entire educational system in this country.

  • Niamh @ at 6:22 pm, May 29th, 2010

    Like the comment above me I’m in complete conflict over affirmative action. I see there’s a need for it and understand what it is for, but I often feel it’s not implemented quite correctly. I often consider that perhaps affirmative action in the collegiate world should be implemented by wealth? Inner conflict galore.

    As for the situation at your school, I agree with the comment above me. In this situation, it would be important to figure out why the talented female staff members had not been considered for high-ranking positions previously.

  • Tessa @ at 10:24 pm, May 29th, 2010

    Affirmative Action is so confusing to me because I don’t know exactly how I feel about it. In some instances, like the one you mentioned, I find it to be unjust. It’s not that I think the policy of Affirmative Action is terrible. I just think the way it is implemented in our society is projoundly unfair to certain groups of people.

    If, for example, there is an Asian female and a White male with the same qualifications for a job, I say that the job should go to the Asian female for diversity in the workplace. However, if the male had greater qualifications than the female, then admitting her based off her race and gender would be unjust.

    Affirmative Action, if used fairly and correctly, is a great policy for diversity. However, many times it’s used unfairly, so generally, I do not support it.

  • J Wu @ at 10:34 pm, May 29th, 2010

    I’m an chinese-american female, and am against affirmative action. mostly because when I start applying to colleges, they’ll only let in a certain number of asians to leave room for people of other races. My grades are really good compared with everyone in my grade, but are slightly below average when compared with other asians. (sorry that was put so awkwardly!)

  • Melissa @ at 11:24 pm, May 29th, 2010

    While I agree that it’s probably not an appropriate solution to just say that any woman who wants to join can (perhaps a few weeks of research/interviews to determine the most qualified candidates is in order), the intent behind the change seems great. The decision to have women on the committee (and while they’re at it, if the committee’s still all white they have a big problem) isn’t arbitrary. Straight, white, able-bodied men in our culture are in a uniquely privileged position. They’ve been able to get to where they are with a great deal less effort than anyone else in the world would have needed to put out in order to reach the same place. Therefore, they don’t tend to have the same depth of understanding when it comes to issues related to oppression and civil rights (which are extremely important in a school environment, from curriculum, to treatment of students, to handling of major events, etc.). Even straight white able-bodied men who are wonderfully anti-oppression and get it right 99% of the time still can’t fully grasp what it is to live in a marginalized body. (And the more intersecting oppressions a person experiences, the more deeply ze can understand and the more sensitively and appropriately ze can respond to these issues.)

    So…yeah. Although I think that some attention should be paid to the qualifications of the people joining the committee, the sentiment itself is a very good one.

  • Mark @ at 12:31 pm, May 30th, 2010

    Affirmative action is trying to end racial inequality via controlling racial presence. Hypocrisy? I think so.

  • J Wu @ at 11:13 am, May 31st, 2010

    yeah, I kind of agree with Mark. Affirmative action played a part in ending racial/gender inequality, but now that the goal’s been achieved, affirmative action needs to end too. Or else white men could become a permanent underclass. Judge everyone by the content of their characters, not just minorities.

  • Melissa @ at 2:24 pm, May 31st, 2010

    If you believe that racial/gender inequality has ended, then what are you doing on a feminist website?

  • J Wu @ at 8:50 pm, May 31st, 2010

    first, to leave my comment. second, because of Support Women Artists Sunday. third, because the articles are sometimes interesting.

  • KS @ at 12:50 am, June 1st, 2010

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. Just to clarify….I titled it “Affirmative Action?” because I felt like the school’s decision to just add female faculty was basically a sexist version of that pathetic policy. Hopefully, there will be a day when meritocracy hires people as opposed to quasi-sympathy towards race and gender.


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