I read with interest the exchange of letters, reprinted in your September edition, between Dr. Thomas Brzustowski, president of NSERC, and two critics of NSERC's gender-restricted University Faculty Awards. In his reply to the second critic, Dr. Brzustowski admits something quite damaging to his case, evidently without realizing how damaging the admission is. He writes of the "Council's strong belief that the appointment of first-class women scientists and engineers will provide excellent role models for future generations of students of both genders." But if, as he says, female scientists can serve as excellent role-models for male students, then surely male scientists can serve as excellent role-models for female students. In that case, however, the entire role-model justification for a women-only UFA program breaks down. Dr. Brzustowski says he hopes that his letter "clarifies NSERC's position." Indeed, it does, and the position looks pretty shaky once clarified.
Department of Philosophy, Acadia University
To Coin a Term
'Affirmative action' is used less among analysts of university affairs in the USA nowadays, and the franker term 'racial preferences' appears more often.
Perhaps the term 'identity preferences' would be appropriate for the Canadian context, since the pursuit of designated-group preferences is an application of 'identity politics.'
Professor Emerita, York University