At issue

Wilfrid Laurier University recently published a controversial ad for new faculty positions in psychology. The University asked for female applicants only, stating it sorely needed more women in a department where males outnumber females 18 to four. Critics charge that the school's ad itself is discriminatory. What do you think?

Nadia Cervoni, PhD student, Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics

The discrepancy between the number of female faculty and number of female graduate students demands affirmative action. However, does affirmative action necessarily require the methodical exclusion of male applicants? I think not. Affirmative action demands systematic and persistent education to change societal race and gender bias. Admittedly, this is a more demanding solution than hiring practices based on tokenism but, ultimately, a more pervasive solution.

Professor Anthony Paré, Department of Educational Studies

I support Wilfrid Laurier University's position on this issue. Ideally, our public institutions should reflect the society they serve, and if merit were truly the only hiring criterion, they probably would. But institutions, like individuals, must actively work against deeply ingrained prejudice and predisposition. Of course, critics will denounce efforts to create gender equity by dismissing them with that insidious term "politically correct," thus ignoring the fact that correctness of a different political stripe created the imbalance in the past and seeks to maintain it in the present.

Professor Vimla Patel, Department of Medicine

Efforts to improve gender balance in a male-dominated department are laudable. However, they must not be applied as an a priori criterion that totally eliminates the possibility of selecting even superb male applicants. When departmental faculties are gender-imbalanced, a university should investigate the causative forces. An advertisement limiting applications to females only inappropriately implies that women will succeed only if there is no competition with men. I believe in affirmative action, where specific types of applicants are encouraged to apply and are given preference when a department selects among otherwise comparable candidates

Professor John Galbraith, Department of Economics

The ad is commendably honest about the discrimination to be practised. But is it justifiable? Let's assume that the proportion of women in the department genuinely is lower than in the stock of psychology PhDs (rather than among recent graduates); simply eliminating any discrimination will ensure that the department evolves to reflect the profession's composition. Introducing overt discrimination against young men fails to correct any past discrimination (if some women were unfairly excluded in the past, compensate them), creates new injustices that may need to be compensated in the future and erodes the principle of legal equality. We shouldn't punish B for the actions of A, or compensate B for A's losses, because A and B share some physical characteristic. It is obviously a pernicious principle.