Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity and Diversity

201 Carlotti Administration Building 75 Lower College Road Kingston, RI 02881 USA

dconnolly@mail.uri.eduPhone: (401) 874-2442 Fax: (401) 874-2995

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Myth & Reality

Myth: Affirmative action is another name for quotas.
Reality: Affirmative action   requires the establishment of goals where either women or people of color are   represented at less than availability within an affirmative action job group. Affirmative action regulations provide that goals serve as “targets   reasonably attainable by means of applying every good faith effort to make   all aspects of the entire affirmative action program work” and that   goals “may not be rigid and inflexible quotas, which must be met.”   Quotas may be imposed only by judicial order, and only as a last resort to   redress a pattern of blatant discrimination.

Myth: Affirmative Action amounts to a form of “reverse   discrimination.”
Reality: This myth implies that women and minorities are inherently less   qualified than white males. Affirmative action regulations specifically state   that goals “do not provide … a justification to extend a preference to   any individual, select an individual, or adversely affect an individual’s employment   status, on the basis of that person’s race, color, religion, sex or national   origin.” Affirmative action does mean taking affirmative steps to   attract women and minorities for available employment opportunities and to   ensure that candidates are evaluated fairly using non-biased job-related   selection criteria. The fact that women and minorities continue to be   represented at a level less than their availability in numbers of job groups   refutes the notion that white men have been subject to “reverse discrimination.”

Myth: Affirmative Action rewards gender and race at the expense of   merit.
Reality: Affirmative action is intended to ensure that employers hire the   most qualified people, including members of groups that previously have been   subject to unlawful discrimination. The reality is that the best qualified   candidates don’t always get hired. A number of studies have shown that there   continues to be a bias that favors men over women and non-minorities over   minorities. Affirmative action is intended to alert us to this so we can work   to overcome the biases that have disadvantaged women and minorities in the   past.

Myth: The pool of women and minorities in my field is so small that it   is virtually impossible to effectively compete for the few who are available.
Reality: There are some fields which women and minorities have not   entered in large numbers. There are no major disciplines, however, in which   women and minorities have not earned terminal degrees. Effective outreach and   recruitment are important in helping us reach and attract women and minority   candidates, particularly in fields in which there is limited availability.   That outreach and recruitment should include networking with women and   minorities in the field at other institutions, making efforts to be familiar   with women and minorities in the academic pipeline, advertising in   publications widely read by women and minorities or with women’s or minority   special interest groups within professional or scholarly organizations, etc.   A study related to the commonly held belief that institutions must engage in   “bidding wars” to attract scholars of color found that contention   to be a grossly overstated. Of the nearly 200 scholars of color who   participated in that study, most of whom earned their Ph.D.s from highly   prestigious research universities, only 11% were personally solicited by   academic institutions and received more than one job offer. It is important   that we take responsibility for aggressively searching for diverse candidates   and ensure a selection process as free from bias as possible, and not excuse   lack of progress on the basis of an assumed inability to compete for a   limited number of minority scholars.

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