Quotas On Campus

April 2016

The next generation of teachers of Manitoba will be a shining rainbow of diversity. As colourful as they may be, however, don' t expect them to represent the world as it actually exists. Or to be the best of all possible candidates.

Beginning in 2017, applicants to the University of Manitoba’s faculty of education will face an entirely new set of entrance requirements: 45 per cent of incoming spots are to be allocated to “self-identified diversity categories.” At nearly half the entire enrolment, the list of who qualifies for special consideration stretches the definition of minority group accommodation to the breaking point.

Native candidates are to be awarded 15 percent of all spaces at Manitoba’s largest teachers program. Non-whites get a 7.5 percent share. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual, two-spirited or queer receive another 7.5 percent. Persons with disabilities, 7.5 percent. Finally, disadvantaged persons will receive another 7.5 percent of spots available. If this last category sounds somewhat vague, the university explains it includes those who have “experienced systemic barriers and/or inequalities on the basis of their religion, creed, language or state of social disadvantage.” That is to say, anyone who’s ever complained about someone else’s privilege.

A mere 55 percent of available spaces will be allocated on the basis of merit alone. Like LP- of-the-month clubs and toe socks, relying solely on effort and high marks to become a teacher is now embarrassingly out-of-date.

The new quotas are, quite obviously, arbitrary and unfair. And given a 2014 report from the Council of Ministers of Education that found Manitoba’s test scores on math, science and reading to be the lowest in the country, putting greater emphasis on identify over ability when selecting potential new teachers seems unlikely to make things better. Manitoba, by the way, also boasts Canada’s most expensive teachers.

The school loudly proclaims it’s not running a quota system: every student must still meet minimum entrance standards (a C+ average). Maybe so, but the rules also state that if any particular diversity category goes unfilled, those spaces are to be offered to other groups within the overall ‘non-quota,’ rather than opened up to merit-based applicants. Candidates can also self-identify in as many categories as they wish. The new system is clearly arranged to ensure those diversity spots don’t go unfilled.

And yet if the overall goal of this process, as the University of Manitoba states on its website, is to ensure future crops of teachers “reflect the diversity of the communities we serve,” it seems the school has somehow overlooked another category of student who are also grossly under-represented as teachers.

As is common at teachers college across the country, there’s a distinct lack of men at the University of Manitoba. Enrolment in the faculty of education is 72 percent female, and has been that way for decades. Across the country 75 percent of all education degrees are earned by women. If teachers colleges are meant to mirror society, it can’t be overlooked that half the population is male, especially given the well-established importance of male role models in combating high drop-out rates among boys. China is now aggressively recruiting male teachers, according to a recent New York Times report, in order to “salvage masculinity in schools” and improve the consistently poor performance of boys in college entrance exams.

While statistical imbalances have long been used as prima facie evidence of systemic discrimination when alleging gender wage gaps or racially-motivated hiring practices, this sort of proof apparently only holds when the aggrieved party fits an approved narrative. In explaining away its complete lack of interest in correcting a massive gender imbalance within its walls, the faculty of education’s website claims “While classroom teachers are predominantly female, those in positions of power within the teaching force (principals and superintendents) remain predominantly male.”

Such an excuse puts the lie to any claim the new policy is meant to ensure classrooms more accurately reflect society. While it is theoretically possible more males will apply through the various new diversity categories, it seems readily apparent there’s no administrative interest in furthering this sort of fairness. It’s about power, as defined by gender and identity. Consider it another blast of the trumpet against the monstrous regiment of white, straight men.

The fate of the unloved minority of men at the University of Manitoba’s faculty of education is indicative of the broader disappearance of male students across all Canadian universities. Women now make up 56 percent of university enrolments, and 58 percent of graduates. As with education, 75 percent of health science students nationwide are female. Social sciences and law are 67 percent distaff. Business studies are also majority female. Today the only degrees with reliable male majorities are the sciences, technology, engineering and math: STEM subjects.

Curiously enough, everyone seems hard at work trying to eliminate these last few redoubts of maleness on campus. Countless scholarships, outreach programs and other special programs aim to lure, cajole and frog-march more female students into STEM degrees in the name of greater diversity. At the University of Waterloo, renown for its high tech success, administration has endorsed a United Nations Women campaign called HeForShe that aims to boost female enrolment in STEM subjects by, among other things, requiring “mandatory gender sensitization programs for first-year students;” male students will thus be informed they’re to blame for a lack of women in their courses.

In all likelihood, however, women with an aptitude for math or science are already at university, and enrolled in health sciences, medicine and other related disciplines −all of which offer career paths every bit as lucrative and secure as traditional STEM pursuits. The ultimate effect of female-only science scholarships and other inducements may well be to cause men to lose their current majority status in the STEM subjects and become an even smaller minority of overall university enrolment. To what end?

To be clear, none of the above should be considered a counter-revolutionary argument for pro- male affirmative action campaigns. If men and women freely express differing educational preferences, why should schools or society attempt to reverse such decisions? Sex, race and a whole host of other identifiers ought to be completely irrelevant to getting into university. As with justice, acceptance decisions should be blind. And every student in Manitoba deserves a teacher who earned their spot on the basis of ability, not strategic self-identification.