May 30, 2002

Letter to Editor

John Furedy

National Post

At least since the federal employment equity bill of 1986, Canadian universities have used not only merit but also sex in competitions for tenure-stream faculty positions. The more academically prestigious Canada Research Chairs (CRC) have, however, been protected against this sort of sexist discrimination; they are awarded solely on the basis of outstanding research performance. Now Rene Durocher, the director of the CRC program, proposes that the nature of the genitals of outstanding researchers be a criterion for selecting CRC competition winners, and that universities not meeting "targets" (i.e., quotas) be financially penalized ("Women awarded only 15% of federal research chairs, May 29, 2002).

Academic research excellence may seem rather arcane and esoteric to many tax-paying Canadians, so let's consider a hypothetical example from a field with which more are familiar: professional basketball. Suppose that the NBA Commissioner had instituted a skin-color, "employment equity" requirement that stated that all NBA teams must aim to recruit a "representative" percentage of white players, and that, some years after instituting this recruiting policy, the Commissioner now complained that not enough white players had been selected as MVPs and/or members of All Star games.  Suppose further that the Commissioner proposed to penalize teams and All-Star selecting committees who did not meet their "targets".

How long would such a Commissioner keep his job?

John J. Furedy, Department of Psychology, University of Toronto

Return to Issues/Cases Page