By Steven M. Cahn
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Extra resources for Affirmative Action and the University: A Philosophical Inquiry
A more promising approach to understanding why traditional measures are thought to be the basis for desert is to look at what they are being used as selection criteria for: academic jobs in the discussion here. George Sher's recent study of desert is the most comprehensive discussion of this issue. 68 Sher explores several ways in which we might make connections based on desert between selection criteria and the underlying enterprise. Sher's basic view is that desert claims have an expressive function: they convey information about the merit of the person pronounced deserving.
268 (1989). Because of the highly subjective nature of decisions regarding acadernic appointments and promotions, however, courts often give great deference to universities' judgments about professional qualifications. For example, see Brown v. 2d 335, 346 (1st Cir. 1990); Zahorik v. 2d 85, 92 (2d Cir. 1984). 24. For example, see Hazelwood School District v. S. 299 (1977). Although the disparate impact theory originally was developed for analyzing objective employment criteria such as standardized tests or high school diplomas, it has been extended to subjective processes such as promotion by supervisors or academic appointments decisions.
Once the target has been attained, minority or women candidates drop from consideration once again. These concerns underline the importance of connecting targets to the process-based discrimination at issue and of understanding what counts as a successflLl1 correction. But it remains an empirical issue whether carefully drawn targets will have worse effects than letting a discriminatory practice continue. The judgments here must be comparative. On the one side is a practice that has been shown to be discriminatory and incorrigible.