Tuesday, November 11, 2014


What is Equity?

Douglas MacDonald, Professor emeritus
Department of Political Science


Since there has been so much controversy raised by the recent demonstrations on campus over diversity in the Admissions Office, I think we should reflect on what “diversity” means in the existing context of Colgate’s history.  

As we all know, until 1970 Colgate was an all-male university.  By doubling our intellectual gene pool with co-education in that year, we have moved the university from a respected but relatively provincial institution to one of national note.  If one looks at the history, it is the same for many, many formerly male colleges and universities, including Amherst and others.

The early women at Colgate, students and faculty, struggled with entrenched stereotypes and worse as they have changed the institution.  This was all very much a part of similar changes ongoing in American society, in my view almost all for the better.  They were pioneers, that most exalted American appellation, at least until recently.   

But the recent demonstration caused me to look into the situation as it exists in the second decade of the 21st Century.   If one defines “diversity” as a rough parity of “representation” (however defined) of groups as they are roughly represented in American society, then there is a significant bias in the Admissions Office that must be addressed.   

(My personal choice would be ideological diversity rather than cultural and/or racial/ethnic, as I find the latter category rather gooey intellectually; but I understand that is an intellectually minority view, perhaps why I hold it.) 

In any event, if we are going by numbers, the disparity in the Admissions Office is male/female.   Out of a total of 15 personnel in the Office, eleven are female, and a mere four (though including the director) are male.   Would this disparity be so facilely accepted if the gender ratios were reversed?   I think not, and I would hope not.  On its face, then, we need more males in the Admissions Office to add the special male experience in America to the collective experiences of our community.  Obviously, a female cannot by the definition of identity politics understand the difficulty of being male in capitalist America.  Therefore, a majority of women in the Admissions Office is inherently unfair to males, according to Equity and Title IX-style criteria.

Do the statistics of our student body support a prima facie case for prejudice based on gender?   Unfortunately, they do.   The student population at Colgate is: 1,601 female students and 1,326 male students.   This really is a rather significant difference produced by an Admissions Office that is more than two-thirds female.  By the usual Dovidian methods of judgment, this is at the least suspicious, if not ominous.  The class of 2017: 764 enrolled (42% male; 58% female).   Using the typical methodologies of affirmative action and “diversity-counting,” this is also intolerable bias.

My point is that if we are to use a particular methodology to determine possible bias in one area, we should use the same criteria to identify possible bias in all other areas. 

Fair is fair.   Or at least it used to be.

The above post does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the AAUP membership or that of its officers, nor does inclusion of the post on this website constitute an endorsement by the Colgate University chapter of AAUP.

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