Glad To See U Of T Recognizes Conflict Between Merit And Equity

September 2007

The recent provostial advice for recruiting and retaining faculty ( administrators/recruitmenttoolkit/ advertising_and_Searching.htm) cites the university’s official “equity”-based advertising statement and comments on the statement as follows:

“As Furedy et al. (1999) note, equity statements are used to ensure equality of outcome in the recruitment process, not just equality of opportunity. The [advertising] statement recognises that … evaluation on the basis of ‘merit’ can unfairly discriminate. It also suggests a commitment by the institution to equity throughout an employee’s tenure (Powney, 1994).”

The first two sentences of the above appear to me to contradict the university’s official position on the equivalence of equity and excellence as formulated recently, for example, by Professor Angela Hildyard, vice-president (human resources and equity), when she stated that “we are talking about equity, diversity and excellence all at the same time, that’s unique to us here at U of T” (Linking Equity, Excellence, Nov. 28). On the other hand, those two sentences are consistent with my position that excellence (or merit) and equity are not the same (Dubious Partnership: Equity and excellence are not equivalent, Jan. 9), a claim that I supported by referring to empirical research on Canadian tenure-stream advertisements.

It also occurs to me that the third sentence that advocates applying equity principles not only to recruitment but also to retention of faculty in groups designated by sex and race (or ethnicity) is consistent with my view that one undesired consequence of these “diversity” policies is that individuals in these designated groups will be subject to the irrefutable suspicions that they were not only hired, but also promoted, on the basis of their membership in designated groups, rather than on the basis of their merit or excellence.

In any case, I am glad to see that the provostial advice has recognized that there actually is a conflict between merit or excellence and equity.