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Affirmative Thoughts

mcdonald at wsuhub.uc.twsu.edu mcdonald at wsuhub.uc.twsu.edu
Thu Aug 12 11:12:03 EST 1993

I would like to post my reaction to some recent sentiments 
expressed in this newsgroup which I paraphrase...

One poster (Dean Lee) trotted out the old arguments supporting 
hiring quotas. To wit, it's been so unequitable for so long that 
placing sex or race above achievement is justified, and 
anyway, we need some role models to attract under-represented
classes to the sciences.  

Another poster (Rae Nishi) wonders whether women should be held 
to the same level of scrutiny in tenure decisions because of their 
child-bearing/rearing responsibilities.

I find these thoughts disturbing, and especially so when 
viewed in tandem.  They could easily lead to hiring the less 
qualified, followed by promotion with lowered expected levels 
of achievement.  I find this most disturbing because of my love 
for science.  For me, wonderful and elegant science is like a 
beautiful symphony, with many different accomplished musicians 
working together to produce the ultimate work of art.  In my view, 
this musical metaphor is particularly germaine here.  Many 
symphonies place their auditioning musicians behind a curtain 
so that only the quality of their music is at issue.  Because, 
after all, if you hear a botched presentation of Mozart's Requiem 
Mass, will you really be assuaged if the orchestra is racially 
and sexually balanced?  And how can a poor violinist be a 
quality mentor?

However, I don't want to overstate my case.  I would very much 
like to be part of the generation of scientists that makes 
science more accessible to truly capable individuals who seek 
to contribute.  But I think this must be done very carefully, 
with an eye constantly cast toward the effects on the capability 
of the scientific community as a whole.  Rae Nishi, in her posting, 
broached the idea of work quality vs. quantity.  I agree with 
her that this is an idea of immense potential value which should 
be explored further.

Your thoughts please,

J. David McDonald, Ph.D., Assistant Professor
The Wichita State University
Department of Biological Sciences

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