The Right Coast

March 24, 2006
Some Realism about Affirmative Action
By Maimon Schwarzschild

A revealing and important post by Michael Livingston, a law professor at Rutgers-Camden, about what really happens when affirmative action takes over academic faculty hiring:
Because it is so costly [given the affirmative action pressures] to dip below the required minimum of diversity faculty, in practice almost anything has to and is done to ensure that they are happy. At my school, I have watched sadly as one after another of the unwritten faculty rules--the level of publication expected, the expectation that one's work would be presented to the faculty before tenure, even the assumptions regarding physical presence at the law school--were compromised or abandoned to accomodate female or minority candidates who the law school simply could not "afford to lose" under the new dynamic. Once these principles are given away, of course, the same concessions are demanded by other professors, so that the entire system of expectations that cements a faculty begins to come crashing quickly down. A case in point is the tenure and promotions review process: since we began our diversity commitment in earnest, not one tenure candidate has been turned down, and I am hard pressed to think of a single serious criticism in a tenure report. Indeed, the only serious debates have concerned conservative candidates who disagreed with the diversity program, which should give a fairly clear idea of what is happening.

This leads to [another] and in my view most significant problem with diversity programs: their effect on civility and free speech at the relevant institution. Because everyone knows that the people other than the best candidates are being selected, but in the nature of things cannot really say so, they tend to develop a habit of dishonesty and "wink-nod" compromises that is extremely difficult to limit to this one area. The entire trust and honesty that characterize academic exchange accordingly tends to atrophy in very short order.
These consequences of affirmative action are by no means unique to Rutgers-Camden, of course. Meanwhile, the people who now control the ABA accrediting process for law schools want to pressure the schools to turn over even more of their hiring to affirmative action than is already the case.

Do read Livingston's entire post.