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Affirmative action debate

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12/15/2012 1:35:36 PM
Posted: 7 years ago

Good debate. In fact, it inspired me to do a little research and thinking and I thought I may as well capture them:

There was one area I felt was not well covered and that deals with the determination of what kind of obligation is felt by decision makers and also the details of the affect on decision making of candidate selection. I'm surprised the recent Univ. Texas court case was not considered. I personally am not a fan of the the U. of Texas system, but I'm curious how colleges in general use AA in the details of admissions.

College entrance is generally a formulaic review of past performance. Con would seem to argue that minorities given an AA opportunity struggle, implying AA brings in less-than-qualified candidates. Pro (I assume) would argue that, given a minority and a majority choice, both who qualify, AA ensures us that the minority choice is not only acceptable but the correct choice. As they say, the devil is in the details and the details of the actual AA affect on selection seem a bit opaque to me. Given Pro's arguments, it is the details that seem critical, not the statistics of how many minorities go to the U. of Texas vs the population of Texas.

Employment is quite different and is based more on one-on-one interviews and assessing soft skills, although past performance is also a factor. Because this is far from formulaic, the actual details of the affect of AA would seem very difficult to assess here. We can only be left with statistics, it seems. Quotas are illegal, but are they the only thing policy makers have to hold over hiring managers?

I read the DOL docs and pulled out a few key points:

contractor will take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed

It's difficult for me to understand, as a hiring manager, what exactly this means. Personally, I would take it to match Pro's debate arguments: given a choice where I had multiple candidates who met a base criteria, I would be obligated to choose the minority, at least as long my work force had:

under-utilization as having fewer minorities or women in a particular job group than would reasonably be expected by their availability.

However business's want to hire the best candidates they can find. It seems to me there is a flaw in the concept of an "equally qualified pool". AA changes this, attempting to make it work more like college admissions. It's something like "set a level of acceptable performance and take all candidates over that level. Then, given the above wording from the DOL, hire minorities where applicable". If I were a business owner or hiring manager, this would not be an ideal approach. If I'm unable to simply hire the best candidate, have I not lowered the bar? Or, is the argument instead "given two candidates who are very close in abilities, one who is a minority, the minority should be selected". AA makes a much more compelling argument if this is what is meant. However, this is generally not the way I've seen AA worded. I do not know for sure what actual policy is. Would like to hear more on this.

There is another argument that I felt could have played a part in this debate. What about the poor in general? When Pro argues of a level playing field, then certainly being poor is also quite damaging to opportunities. AA, as near as I can tell, does not address the poor. Since minorities are also poor, how does one separate the affect of being poor? In fact, should the poor be given the same hiring advantages?

My own personal feeling is that AA likely helps in many cases, but also does cause harm. I am somewhat neutral, leaning toward con, on where it lies in the balance. However, I believe quite strongly that there are much better avenues to explore in trying to address the struggles of booth poor and minorities than the use of AA. I'd start with the judicial system and then also throw in education (both very tough nuts to crack especially given the lock down of the system's the status quo seems to have).

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