Saturday, September 17, 2005

Taking the Measure of Rev. Robert Wild, S.J.: Gender Equity

This is the first of a series of posts assessing Marquette President Fr. Robert Wild.

A very large number of alumni, students and faculty were disappointed when Wild essentially “caved” to the demands of the politically correct crowd and refused to allow Marquette to return to the “Warriors” nickname. Many university presidents are capable of being quite hard nosed in the face of such pressure. Why not Wild?

We think one can learn about Wild’s handling of this particular issue by looking at how he has handled other issues.

“Gender Equity” at Marquette

If any issue sounds politically correct, it’s “gender equity.” Feminists have always claimed that women are the victims of less-than-fair treatment in almost every context, and feminists in any university can always find evidence of patriarchial oppression close to home.

Marquette went through a big campaign of evaluating “gender equity” between 1999 and 2003. The upshot was a collection of bureaucratic procedures, most of which are bland enough, but which increase the load of tedium on Marquette administrators. And conveniently, aid bureaucratic empire building by creating more work which administrators need more help with.

In this sense, gender equity is no worse than any other of a half-dozen fashionable bureaucratic busy-work initiatives.

Which brings us to Father Wild. In 2003, when the Gender Equity Implementation Task Force issues its report, Wild issued a message to the Marquette community on this issue. The following are some key passages:
To put it another way, it is imperative that all faculty, administrators and staff be recognized and rewarded based only on merit. This is more than a matter of law; it is a matter of justice.
And further:
In this effort, and in a variety of related efforts, we cannot let up until all our colleagues — men, women, Caucasians, minorities — can say without any equivocation: “Yes, I have just as much of an opportunity as anyone to succeed here at Marquette. Yes, I know that I am judged strictly on the merit of my work.”
This statement is absolutely stunning.

It’s stunning not because there is anything wrong with it, but precisely because there isn’t.

Wild is endorsing equal treatment, based entirely on merit.

That’s most certainly not what politically correct faculty and administrators in academia want. They want affirmative action preferences and quotas.

What “gender equity” means to the politically correct was shown in the late 1980s at Marquette, when very liberal Arts & Sciences Dean John P. Schlegel decided the Philosophy Department had too few women. He told them the next hire must be a woman. No men need apply although doubtless many did, since Marquette didn’t advertise that it would not consider them.

What “gender equity” means to the politically correct was shown in the spring of 2004 when the Political Science Department was hiring a new faculty member. Three members of the Department voted not to hire a young superstar because he was the wrong gender. Rather, they wanted to hire a female candidate. Had the merits of two candidates been closer, the “affirmative action” vote might have thrown the job to the less well-qualified female.

In academia, the issue is not whether women will get less-than-equal treatment. It’s whether men will.

Given this reality, what are we to make of Wild’s statements about “merit?” There are three possible theories.

First, it might be that Wild is a liberal Machiavellian. He might be using the rhetoric about merit as a cover for a reality that he knows will involve discrimination against males.

Second, it might be that Wild is a conservative Machiavellian. Perhaps he knows about the bias in favor of affirmative action in academia and, while producing glowing rhetoric about “gender equity” is subtly undercutting the politically correct people by explicit statements about equal treatment.

We favor a third theory. We think Wild is simply naïve about the issue. A good-hearted man, he really believes in equal treatment. But he doesn’t understand how the policies will be carried out.

For example, under the Gender Equity Actions in effect at Marquette, department chairs and deans will be evaluated on their concern with “gender equity.” Those department chairs that show an insufficient willingness to discriminate against men in hiring risk being graded down by politically correct faculty, and deans will be under pressure to show that they have actually hired some implicit quota of women.

And Father Wild, who was bamboozled by vague rhetoric about “human dignity” on the Warriors issue, will be proud that Marquette is treating people only on the basis of merit.

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