Followup to affirmative action post last week
Wow, some interesting comments from people, so I wanted to continue this discussion and respond to a few points that people raised.
First, what is a risky hire? Here's my thinking on this.
A 'good' hire is someone who fits the formula, which goes something like this:
Oustanding pubs + outstanding letters from famous people + named grants/fellowships (Burroughs Wellcome, Damon Runyan, Helen Hay Whitney, etc) + pedigree from famous schools = future success
A 'risky' hire looks more like this, but nobody knows it because they don't qualify for the 'bin 1' pile to be looked at more closely:
solid pubs + good letters from people no one has heard of + government postdoc fellowship + teaching experience + leadership experience in the scientific community - Harvard = future success
I think the whole point of affirmative action is, this person might not 'look' as qualified on paper, because the wrong qualifications are being measured, and the important qualities are being missed.
Notice that none of these things have to do directly with race or gender, but many of them were probably affected by slight disadvantages throughout a career, possibly due to economics, or discrimination, or both.
I've had many interactions with both teachers and students who benefited from affirmative action. In no case did I find the teachers to be in any way lacking. In a couple of cases, the students lacked some of the skills that their non-AA peers had, but in most cases they made up the difference by working hard.
I've never been one of the people who thought I should get a job only based on my abilities, because nearly every year I have an encounter that could qualify as discrimination or harrassment. So if somebody wanted to use me to fill a quota, I'd jump at the chance.
However, one of the drawbacks is, you can't get the job for the wrong reasons and not be expected to work extra hard to prove that you deserve it.
But you reach a point where nobody has been willing to really give you a chance, and you're willing to work extra hard if that's what it takes. I'm willing to play that card if I have to, because I've never used it thus far, but it has been used against me.