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MYTH OF REVERSE DISCRIMINATION

The Mail

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

To the Editors of The Crimson:

HEW's Stanley Pottinger is right: an affirmative action is suffering from a backlash of rhetoric which the University should actively combat.

"Goals are quotas. And quotas mean reverse discrimination. So affirmative action is unconstitutional," the usual argument goes.

Goals are not quotas. Quotas are rigid limits designed to keep members of a certain group out on irrelevant grounds such as their numbers in the population. Goals are flexible and designed to bring in qualified people previously excluded by a biased hiring procedure. Goals are set on the basis of the pool of qualified minority or women candidates. Goals are not the only tool of affirmative action, but they are one that Harvard has not sufficiently developed.

For example, suppose in field X. 30 per cent of the nation's Ph.D.'s go to women, yet Harvard's department X has only 3 per cent women on its faculty. It has been shown that this discrepancy is due to a closed system of hiring through personal contacts and the like. If department X foresees 6 appointments of assistant professors in the next 3 years, it should set the obvious goal: hire 2 women during that time. The best evidence that department X has begun to use a fair hiring procedure is the meeting of that goal. But if the goal is pot met. Harvard loses no government contracts. Rather, other evidence that the procedure has been amended to be undiscriminatory can be presented.

Goals are indispensable for keeping our progress in perspective. If department X hires one woman, this can be properly seen as modest progress, not the end to department X's affirmative action efforts.

Reverse discrimination, for from being required, is actually prohibited by the HEW guidelines. The concept of goals itself embodies this prohibition. Goals are to be set in proportion to the numbers of qualified candidates only. In no case does the goal concept advocate the hiring of an unqualified candidates, regardless of race or sex. Such hiring would equally violate the rights of white males, systematically hiring them out of proportion to their qualified numbers.

Yes, Virginia, there really are qualified women shcolars. Setting goals to bring them into Harvard does not mean discriminating against anyone more highly qualified. Jane English   Graduate Women's Organizatiion

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