MORE DIVERSITY DEBATES AT UNIVERSITY  OF TORONTO
(The Bulletin, University of Toronto)

Letter Misrepresents Points Made
 
Philip Sullivan
Institute for Aerospace Studies
 
July 26, 2004
 
In his letter to The Bulletin (Case Resorts to Sophistries), Professor Vassos Hadzilacos challenges Professor John Furedy’s May 31 criticism of Simcoe Hall’s diversity policies (Academic Merit Undervalued).  But Hadzilacos’ letter does not contribute to debate on these policies: it misrepresents Furedy’s points and accuses him of using forms of argument tantamount to intellectual dishonesty.  Furthermore his concern is misdirected.  In the Feb. 9 issue of The Bulletin Furedy and I argue that it is the current academic plan that inappropriately emphasizes biology as a proxy for intellectual diversity (The Proportionality Game, Forum).
 
Hadzilacos’ letter also reinforces a view that Furedy and I share: apart from mantra-like repetitions linking diversity and excellence, from the Governing Council to individual faculty members, there appears to have been no serious justification of policies in the current academic plan promoting diversity.  In an institution aspiring to the stature of the best public U.S. universities, such policies ought to be controversial.
 
For example, in seeking an explanation of the low representation of women in the physical and mathematical sciences, Furedy cites the work of the internationally recognized Canadian psychologist Doreen Kimura – a woman, it is to be noted.  She and others have established that there are subtle but distinct differences in certain aspects of female and male intellectual abilities and interests and that these are traceable in part to biological influences.  Although these differences  are  negligible  for the   average man and woman, at the extremes of the distributions, the populations can differ greatly.
 
One would expect to choose university faculty from the superior extreme, so that an equity policy promoting proportionality must inevitably compromise excellence. There might be valid reasons for promoting a social good by compromising in this way but such a policy needs to be subject to informed, rational scrutiny.
 
On a personal note,  I taught  in the   elite   engineering science program for 38 years and during that time class composition changed  from almost exclusively white male to include many women and a broad representation of the ethnic groups now making Canada their home.  Some talented women and men from these groups have already become successful faculty: many more will follow.  Thus I fail to see why Simcoe Hall is preoccupied with a pseudo-problem at a time when the university faces real problems arising from chronic underfunding.

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