The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Friday, September 26, 2008

Right to Think

Does UMass discriminate against conservatives?

We all love UMass, but sometimes its politics can be, shall we say, a bit disappointing. In an article on the Students for Academic Freedom website by UMass Professor Daphne Patai, the chances of you being hired to be a faculty member at UMass are made less likely if you fail to answer correctly certain trick questions designed to force you to reveal your political orientation. According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education:

Daphne Patai is a professor in the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She is the author and editor of eleven books, among them The Orwell Mystique: A Study in Male Ideology (1984), Brazilian Women Speak: Contemporary Life Stories (1998), Women’s Words: The Feminist Practice of Oral History (1991, co-edited with Sherna Berger Gluck), Rediscovering Forgotten Radicals: British Women Writers 1889-1939 (1993, co-edited with Angela Ingram), and Heterophobia: Sexual Harassment and the Future of Feminism (1998). Her 1994 critique of women’s studies programs, written with Noretta Koertge, was reissued in a new and expanded edition in 2003 as Professing Feminism: Education and Indoctrination in Women's Studies.

This is what Professor Patai has to say about the hiring practices of her place of employment:

At the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where I teach, a document both sublime and ridiculous advises us how to go about determining if applicants have what it takes to work here. Along with the usual lists of questions that may or may not be asked, the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity provides some crucial guidelines in a document titled Supplemental Search Instructions. I reproduce the final section of this document below:


Search committees often have difficulty determining if a candidate is aware of and responsive to minority and women's issues and to issues involving the disabled and other groups requiring sensitive treatment. When prospective employees are asked, "Are you concerned about and supportive of these issues?", they will invariably give an affirmative reply. Unfortunately, that gives little indication of their level of concern or commitment. Asking some of the questions listed below may help you gain a better understanding of a candidate's position on these issues. Many of the questions suggested below do not have a "right" or a "wrong" answer. These questions should be asked by both men and women on the search committee because having only women or minority persons ask questions about these issues may give a candidate the impression that equity issues are not important to the institution as a whole. Many candidates will not have prepared answers to these questions in advance. These questions will, therefore, be useful in drawing out the candidate's opinions rather than the "correct answer".
Parentheses are used to indicate that one or more of the following words are missing: Minorities, Blacks, Hispanics, Native-American; Women; economically disadvantaged persons; disabled persons; veterans or disabled veterans; homosexuals, gays, lesbians; protected groups; affirmative action groups, etc.

How have you demonstrated your commitment to (____) issues in your current position?

Which of your achievements in the area of equity for (____) gives you the most satisfaction?

How would you demonstrate your concern for equity for (____) if you were hired?

In your opinion, what are the three major problems for (____) on your campus?

How are general issues in higher education related to (____) issues? What is the link?

Describe activities--include articles, interviews, and speeches--in which you have taken part that demonstrate a public commitment to equity.

In your current position, have you ever seen a (____ ) treated unfairly? How would/did you handle it?

In your current position, what is your relationship to the affirmative action officer? Have you ever sought his or her help in recruiting?

How many of the top people at your current or previous institution are (____ )? What did you do to encourage hiring more (____ )?

Which committee at your current institution would you consider the most powerful? How many (____) are on it? How many (____ ) have you appointed to it?

How did/would you deal with faculty members or employees who say disparaging things about (____)?

What scholarship about (____) have you read lately?

Have any students ever complained to you about sexual harassment or discrimination in any work with professors or staff? If so, how did you respond?

Obviously it is impossible to answer those questions without revealing your political attitudes. As Professor Patai explains:

Not only are the "suggested questions" an embarrassment to public education (private too, but that's a somewhat different story), they also endorse subterfuge on the part of the interviewers: no direct questions but rather attempts to trap the candidates into revealing something about themselves (all the while pretending there are no right or wrong answers, as the paragraph introducing the questions explicitly states). Potential faculty are thus being pressured to adopt and embrace -- or merely pretend to do so -- the requisite "attitude" toward minorities, political activism, and social issues, and to provide evidence that they have acted on these supposed commitments. And, scarier still, these questions by implication are presented as legitimate requirements for employment, though they have nothing to do with either education or intellectual and scholarly accomplishments. And, even worse, the questions are designed to weed out the merely formal assenters from authentic true believers.

What can it possibly mean to ask candidates what they've done lately to demonstrate their "public commitment to equity?" Any chance that an acceptable answer would be the following: "In view of what happened in the USSR, China, Cuba, Cambodia, and many other parts of the world under communist rule, I believe that the best thing I can do to promote equity in our society is to help strengthen capitalism and democracy in every way I can and, toward that end, I actively promote Republican candidates"? Another piece of micromanagement revealed by these questions is that they're obviously meant to induce the candidate to name names of identity groups, and to express specific allegiances and particular political positions, precisely because the questions are so carefully framed. Here's another sure-winner answer: "I'm increasingly concerned about what's happening to gifted children in our society and thus I'm working in my spare time to promote charter schools and advanced placement courses."

How long will it be before tenure and promotion decisions, which so far involve political considerations mostly unofficially and surreptitiously, will also openly embrace such procedures?

A good question, Professor Patai, and a brave one to ask about the place where you work.

I see that they have put up a stone in order to identify Amherst's Kendrick Park and its donors.

Oh wow, it's an Edgar Allan Poe action doll in the window of this Northampton shop!

I like this downtown Westfield safety billiard. Smiling as you go through the windshield?

Finally, here's a video of the band Haunt playing at The Elevens in Northampton last weekend.

A priest was being honored at his retirement dinner after 25 years in the parish. A leading local politician and member of the congregation was chosen to make the presentation and give a little speech at the dinner.

However, he was delayed, so the priest himself decided to say a few words of his own while they waited: "I got my first impression of the parish from the first confession I heard here. I thought I had been assigned to a terrible place. The very first person who entered my confessional told me he had stolen money from his parents, embezzled from his employer, had an affair with his best friend's wife, and taken illegal drugs. I was appalled.

But as the days went on I learned that my people were not all like that and I had, indeed, come to a fine parish full of good and loving people."

Just as the priest finished his talk, the politician arrived full of apologies at being late. He immediately began to make the presentation:

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I'll never forget the first day our parish priest arrived," said the politician. "In fact, I had the honor of being the first person to go to him for confession."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey great Haunt video!