Scholarships for “Special” People
Oh god that is so freaking depressing isn’t it? Reminds me of a sad story from when I was in grad school. Seems there was a boy with good looking transcripts but about equivalent to those of a girl in the program so they gave a hearty fellowship to the boy because, as you may have guessed, he’s got a Y chromosome and this advantage must be exacerbated with fellowships, grants and pats on the back at undeserving times. Guy goes on to be a decent researcher while girl is forced back into teaching, even though she’s obviously the better chemist. When the girl begins to mutter to herself about sexism, people cluck their tongues and talk about how loony she is. While guys certainly deserve a place in science, the whole thing struck me as substantially unfair since 1) this guy chemist turned out to be no better than average and 2) they had no way of knowing that to begin with. What’s really depressing is I’ve seen this happen a zillion times over the course of my career.
If we make the “special” applicants (those with a Y chromosomal disorder) take “special” tests (like the ‘are you a sexist ass’ test) then we’ve made these special people special in a decidedly interesting way. Whereas if we just give them money gratis then we’ve made them special in a very…special…way. Therefore, we either have to assume they’re useful and just take that risk, which is a seemingly very nonacademic thing to do, or do the un-PC thing and just give them money ’cause they did well as an undergrad, despite the realities (and imaginaries) their gender provided them.
Now, that said, I’m all for enticing men to come into sciences by offering fellowships to qualified candidates, but not at the expense of someone else more qualified. Which presents a unique issue here… how do you get around this problem? How do you make men feel welcome, but not privileged, in science without offering cash rewards for being… men.
Of course, it’s politics, which is academic in every unbelievably nuanced way, so I simply offer the most logical advice: in the end, peer review has been shown (in an article published in Nature) to be substantially influenced by the gender of the applicant. Ulimately, his successes and her failures will be magnified, even if it will come at a higher cost for the school. And when she fails, you can mock her relentlessly until she starts cutting herself or jumps off the library.
Goddamn moronic asshats. Here’s my further commentary:
You see reverse discrimination, and thus a widespread indictment of affimative action, because one woman failed to live up to the early promise of a scholarship SHE PRESUMABLY EARNED on the basis of an outstanding record, which you admit to. If she earned the scholarship, it was not affirmative action. In any case, affirmative action is NOT the awarding of scholarships and jobs to unqualified candidates. Affirmative action is assuring that a diverse candidate pool exists from which to draw on, and that the evaluation and selection process is as free from bias as possible. It is NOT the handing out of perks on the basis of gender or race – unless you count the unfair advantage that white men have had for the last millenium as affirmative action, then, okay, I’m with you on that definition of affirmative action.
When white men are awarded scholarships, or win a job, and fail to live up to the early promise they had shown, no one cries out that the system is broken and unfair advantage was conferred and white men are benefiting from affirmative action at the expense of others – do they? No, they see each individual white man as a separete case, meaningful only for his own particular story, instructive of nothing in general. But every woman, every non-white, stands in for the entire gender and race, their every action is a possible indictment. Bleah. It’s the oldest form of prejudice in the book. Give it up.