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Author Topic: Article discussion: Bias is not the enemy  (Read 29245 times)
polly_mer
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« on: August 05, 2011, 8:11:37 AM »

We have had a heated discussion on the One-offs thread about, well, various things related to diversity.

This morning, an article titled Bias Gets a Bad Rap from Diversity Executive showed up in my inbox.

The main point is that bias (in the sense of looking for simplified patterns to deal with voluminous information) is inevitable, the useful question is how to deal with that pattern-seeking oversimplification in a constructive manner.

Read, really read it and think instead of knee-jerking.  Then, discuss.
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wet_blanket
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« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2011, 10:22:30 AM »

I'm not sure I see anything controversial, or even particularly novel, in this article. 

The only thing that struck me was the claim that the norm (in thinking of diversity and managing it within organizations) was to minimize difference and pretend we're all the same.  Clearly my experiences have been very different than the author's.
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frogfactory
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« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2011, 11:39:35 AM »

I'm not sure I see anything controversial, or even particularly novel, in this article. 

The only thing that struck me was the claim that the norm (in thinking of diversity and managing it within organizations) was to minimize difference and pretend we're all the same.  Clearly my experiences have been very different than the author's.

Yeah.  It might be the most insipid piece of writing I've read all year.  However, it was striking how it insisted on using the word 'bias' when it actually clearly meant 'prejudice'.
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oldfullprof
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« Reply #3 on: August 05, 2011, 12:01:26 PM »

I have a different take.  "Diversity" is another way of spawning bureaucracy.  On our campus, it provides at least three jobs.  Moreover, the director of diversity is fairly political and is a pain in the butt.  Hu angles to get money away from other units, and is conniving in general.  Insofar as "diversity" substitutes for affitmative action, it's less just.  I'd quota a few United States racial minorities with slight advantages in acceptance for admission, hiring, etc.  The "diversity" paradigm advantages groups who cannot demonstrate economic oppression in the US.  Hiring African or Korean elites or middle class gay people (because of category) is not just.  I agree with Polly that we should be tolerant, but people must meet standards.
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polly_mer
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« Reply #4 on: August 05, 2011, 6:04:59 PM »

The only thing that struck me was the claim that the norm (in thinking of diversity and managing it within organizations) was to minimize difference and pretend we're all the same.  Clearly my experiences have been very different than the author's.

I've been in situations that are both ways.  As Oldfullprof wrote, the diversity bureaucracy sometimes goes to insane extremes to get people to "celebrate differences", when no one outside of the diversity office gives a hoot.  Can you do the engineering you were hired to do in a timely manner near budget?  Good, wear your burka, take your daily prayer breaks, and I'll pick up the work on Tuesday.  The superficialities are irrelevant to the task at hand and are just a minor thing that makes you individual no different to the work needs than someone else's sportsfandom gone awry.  Nobody wants to examine our differences and work it out because no problems exist among the people targeted.

However, the differences that are often minimized (and shouldn't be) are things like the different mindsets in HR people, the engineers, and the managers.  "Oh, we're just one big happy family working for the good of the company".  Um, no.  You want me to write a freakin' manual for a common lab procedure that all undergraduates can do in their sleep instead of doing work and the manager wants progress reports on the work, but I have to do all this unnecessary bureaucracy.  I'm sure that the manager and HR people could write similar things about those silly engineers who aren't focusing on what really needs to be done.
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polly_mer
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« Reply #5 on: August 05, 2011, 6:20:48 PM »

For OFP,

Diverse, to a fault? UC’s “diversity bureaucracy” questioned in critical paper

(Yes, I subscribe to a diversity-in-STEM newsletter, so I get all kinds of goodies once a month and today happened to be the day).
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prytania3
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« Reply #6 on: August 06, 2011, 6:39:03 PM »

I have a different take.  "Diversity" is another way of spawning bureaucracy.  On our campus, it provides at least three jobs.  Moreover, the director of diversity is fairly political and is a pain in the butt.  Hu angles to get money away from other units, and is conniving in general.  Insofar as "diversity" substitutes for affitmative action, it's less just.  I'd quota a few United States racial minorities with slight advantages in acceptance for admission, hiring, etc.  The "diversity" paradigm advantages groups who cannot demonstrate economic oppression in the US.  Hiring African or Korean elites or middle class gay people (because of category) is not just.  I agree with Polly that we should be tolerant, but people must meet standards.

I agree that "Diversity" has become a job mill.

I also realize there is much fuss and bother that many minorities who are hired are "elites." I say, so what. This practice still creates an atmosphere where people meet other people from a variety of backgrounds, and in that way, biases are broken down. The class war is a whole different struggle, and I don't think they can be fought together--if, indeed, you want to fight a class war.

Now it's true the point of Affirmative Action was to redress past wrongs. Originally intended for African Americans, it didn't take long for everyone else to hop on board with some historical beef. I say, fine. Let the workplace be full of all kinds of people, but since so many people are on the AA train, the train is no longer an escape for the economically oppressed minority.
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polly_mer
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« Reply #7 on: August 07, 2011, 5:04:04 PM »

Now it's true the point of Affirmative Action was to redress past wrongs. Originally intended for African Americans, it didn't take long for everyone else to hop on board with some historical beef. I say, fine. Let the workplace be full of all kinds of people, but since so many people are on the AA train, the train is no longer an escape for the economically oppressed minority.

I don't have a citation in front of me, but I've read several nicely written pieces over the years that make a good argument that middle-class white women as a group most benefited from AA.
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prytania3
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« Reply #8 on: August 10, 2011, 12:11:11 AM »

Now it's true the point of Affirmative Action was to redress past wrongs. Originally intended for African Americans, it didn't take long for everyone else to hop on board with some historical beef. I say, fine. Let the workplace be full of all kinds of people, but since so many people are on the AA train, the train is no longer an escape for the economically oppressed minority.

I don't have a citation in front of me, but I've read several nicely written pieces over the years that make a good argument that middle-class white women as a group most benefited from AA.

You're too young to remember what it was like for women before Richard Nixon, so I'm not even going to get into this debate with you.
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polly_mer
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Have you worked on that project today?


« Reply #9 on: August 10, 2011, 6:09:26 PM »

Now it's true the point of Affirmative Action was to redress past wrongs. Originally intended for African Americans, it didn't take long for everyone else to hop on board with some historical beef. I say, fine. Let the workplace be full of all kinds of people, but since so many people are on the AA train, the train is no longer an escape for the economically oppressed minority.

I don't have a citation in front of me, but I've read several nicely written pieces over the years that make a good argument that middle-class white women as a group most benefited from AA.

You're too young to remember what it was like for women before Richard Nixon, so I'm not even going to get into this debate with you.

Since Nixon resigned the year I was born, you are right.

I will state for the record, however, that I do have a solid appreciation for what has changed legally for women since the 1950's.  I am extremely grateful to the people who made sure that I am legally a whole person who can own property in her own name, sign her own contracts, make medical decisions on her own with no requirement to get permission from her husband, decide where her own domicile is, not be fired just for being pregnant, and other things that don't leap as readily to mind.

However, I don't see where that is relevant when looking at what groups gained the largest percentage of representation at what levels of employment compared to their logical representation as a percentage of the adult population.
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oldfullprof
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« Reply #10 on: August 10, 2011, 6:31:58 PM »

Article discussion: My Ass is not the enemy.

Except I'm sitting on it too much.
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