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Inordinate Ordnance: Marginalizing the Marginalized

Thursday, October 11, 2012

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Written by Chris Carr

To get the job here, at The Cannon, I had to fill out a "voluntary" form regarding my sex and background. The form wanted to know if I was of Latin, African, Asian decent. It also wanted to know what gender I identified with. Finally it had an adorable little box that I could have checked to tell my hopeful employers if I identified myself as "queer". Identifiers aside, there is something wrong with this picture, right?

Recently, since I am a student here at UofG, I got a CSA email regarding upcoming events and listings. One of which was a job posting. It was an opportunity to work for the CSA as a recruiter. Your job would to be to recruit "Marginalized students", for jobs with the CSA and surrounding areas. "The primary responsibility of this position is to promote and encourage more students/applicants from marginalized communities."

I can see how this program of sensitivity may have started. There was a group of youngish, progressive-minded people. All bent on equality, each not wanting to show any prejudice. One person may have suggested a way to insure their institution wasn’t populated by one skin colour or mindset, in the name of “diversity”. With the risk of being labeled a racist or bigoted in any way, no one piped up to say, “Hey, maybe this is stupid”.

It’s not a stretch to see that this practice marginalizes all those group who weren’t marginalized before. It’s like being a minority by being the only group that isn’t a minority (i.e. Caucasian males). Any job assessment or placement procedure is completely over-compensating with this practice.

Is there such a thing as too politically correct? In short, yes. We are a community of educated people. As a decidedly intelligent group, we understand that racism, sexism, homophobia and other bigotries are wrong. It’s decided and not abided. However, sometimes as we aim to usurp these potential prejudices, we create an entirely new problem—the stagnation that comes from the fear of perceived intent. Being considered racist, homophobic, sexist is worse that actually being bigoted. So to help curb this possible problem, the university (along with any larger corporation) makes the problem worse by subjecting people to testing, and self-categorization.

How do we get around this? Firstly, the university should drop their perceived political correctness. It’d be more politically correct to convert ever prospective employee to a number, each one with a list of qualifications. Distinguishing someone’s skin colour in order to better understand them is ridiculous and over compensation. To some, marginalization would also be being treated better because of the way they were born. This street goes both ways and the only way to walk it is right up the middle, on the dotted line.

“But we can’t compensate for individuals,” the University’s rebuttal may be. And that is a valid point. And if this is the reason for having such a protocol, it is almost understandable. It’s a way to weed out those who would discriminate. But I don’t think this is the case. It is posturing. It’s the university’s insurance against the possibility of being labeled as a slanted employer.

It’s a fear. That’s where these cockamamie procedures and over-articulated schemes come from. If we forgave cultural faux pas and snafus, maybe the corporation of the university wouldn’t have to implement “marginalized students” sign-up sheets. The circumvention of possible bigotry does more to separate than unify.

The university should take a stand, as an educated trend-setter, to quell over-political-correctness. Treat people as equals and hire based on qualification. Then we all gain from the most talented, capable people running and working at our university. I’d like to see a university working toward a better place for everyone, and not working so hard to gain their diversity merit badge.

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  1. Posted by: denise on Oct 11, 2012 @ 10:06am

    Don’t you think there is something inherently wrong with a student union that is not representative of the student body? In contrast with the university population as a whole, our student union has a history of hiring more men-identified and white students.

    In past years, the CSA has just brushed this off and gone on with their year (despite CSA explicitly stating that they must work to 'enhance the diversity of applicants on the short list'). This year and last, however, the CSA Human Resources and Operations commissioner (Joshua Ofori-Darko) took the initiative of contracting a student to ensure all groups were aware of the opportunities, especially those that have historically not applied for jobs.

    In the CSA’s hiring report from the period in which you got hired is available online. It states that only 40% of the applicant pool self-identified as female, well below UofG’s 60% female population. Only 9.5% self-identified as racialized, this is also well below the University population. (http://www.csaonline.ca/files/2012/07/EE-Report-Statistics-2011-2012-board.pdf)

    After a lot of work, proportional representation was somewhat reached and I think this is a victory for students at our university. Obviously, whatever was done worked!

    Two years ago, a heated decision took place to get rid of equity hiring practices all together during hiring. I was actually opposed to this. The policy went something along the lines of this: if two candidates were closely tied to each other, preference would be given to the candidate that self-identified as marginalized. This process was rarely used but the principle was loud and clear: there is a systemic problem with our hiring.

    When the CSA stripped this very mild affirmative action out of hiring policy, it supplemented by encouraging increased outreach. Now, the only thing that the CSA looks at (as far as I understands) is the hiring pool and what the end result of the hiring is. This is done to make sure that there is a diverse pool of candidates that were interviewed. Who gets the job from then, it’s all up to how qualified you are.

    To be honest, I don’t know how I feel about this new policy. I don’t think it’s very strong but time will tell. I certainly don’t think it’s done out of fear or for political correctness. It is done with the understanding that there are inequalities in our society which are gendered and racialized. I am happy that we as students have finally realized this and are trying to find policy solutions within our own organizations to do our small part.

    Last thing: the University and the student union are two different entities.

    In solidarity,

    Denise Martins
    CUPE 3913 Vice President (Present)
    Thecannon.ca staff videographer (2011-12)
    CSA External Affairs Commissioner (2010-11)
    CSA Board Member (Winter 2010)

  2. Posted by: dubh on Oct 11, 2012 @ 11:46am

    Hi Chris,

    Your use of quotation marks in this article is interesting. You state that you had to fill out a “voluntary” form regarding your sex and background when you applied to be editor of thecannon.ca. In fact, you did not HAVE to do anything as the form was in fact voluntary, not “voluntary”. There is no overeager CSA diversity police just waiting to toss out applications from white men, as you seem to suggest.

    In fact, the CSA employment equity policy is relatively straightforward. You apply for a job, you are given the opportunity to self-identify as a member of a marginalized group (not “marginalized”), and then at the end of the hiring process statistics are compiled in order to ensure that the CSA workforce is representative of the diversity of the student body. If our student union is not hiring students from a particular background, that is a form of discrimination (however unintended and accidental it may be). At no point did the hiring committee that selected you to be the editor of thecannon.ca have access to whatever information you shared about your background on this voluntary form. The qualifications of the applicant are, in fact, the only thing that CSA hiring committees are taking into account.

    Its not uncommon for some individuals to occasionally come to the conclusion that all this talk about diversity and protecting the rights of marginalized groups is in fact discrimination against white men. These beliefs are often referred to as ‘reverse-racism’ or ‘reverse-sexism.’ The unfortunate part about these claims of reverse discrimination is that they are rarely grounded in any practices of actual discrimination. So going with the CSA hiring example, Denise correctly pointed out that there has never yet been any shortage of white men hired to the CSA (or as professors.. university administrators…etc.) In fact, the only jobs on campus that might (?) consistently hire more women and racialized individuals than white men are custodial positions and hospitality services staff, but it would be ludicrous to argue that this is an example of discrimination against white men. The real systemic discrimination is the fact that historically AND today white men are overrepresented in the best paying and most prestigious professions.

    continued below...

  3. Posted by: dubh on Oct 11, 2012 @ 11:47am

    You also mentioned that as a university community “we understand racism, sexism, homophobia and other bigotries are wrong.” Well, you may understand these concepts enough to call them wrong, but I’m afraid you don’t understand them enough to actually recognize when they occur on campus. Ask any queer or racialized student if this campus is really as enlightened and anti-oppressive as you suggest. Queer students regularly deal with homophobic comments in class and whistling and other verbal harassment if they are visibly queer. Racialized students also regularly deal with prejudiced comments, stereotypes and other forms of discrimination. Rape jokes are still deemed acceptable among a significant portion of the student body. We have a ways to go to reach the bigot-free campus that you describe. Unfortunately, crying discrimination when the student union implements the mild measure of checking to see if they have hired students from different backgrounds is probably not the way to get there.

    Roisin Lyder
    Random Student (2008-present)

  4. Posted by: blackcloud on Oct 11, 2012 @ 2:01pm

    Yikes, if this column is indicative of the new editor's critical thinking skills, it looks like The Cannon is in for a long year...

  5. Posted by: donnamarie on Oct 20, 2012 @ 6:03pm

    I think you people missed the point.
    Here's what I got out of this article and I absolutely agree with Chris.

    It's wrong that people are not hired because of their race and/or sexual preference.
    BUT
    I think it's just as wrong to give them a job for the same reasons.
    If the hiring persons claim they hire based on skills only than those forms shouldn't even exist.
    They are silly and insulting.
    peace.
    p.s. rape jokes are funny because they are JOKES.

  6. Posted by: Jordan203 on Oct 21, 2012 @ 9:44pm

    @donnamarie

    Are you marginalized? Have you ever been marginalized for being who you simply are? I haven't. I'm a white dude. You sound like a white dude judging by what you're saying in your comment.

    I'm not sure what you are talking about when you say rape jokes are funny. I'm guessing you're just trolling and trying to start a forum flame war , as I'm having a hard time believing someone would say something so unbelievably outrageous.

    Please think about what you said; please try and put yourself in someone else shoes who has suffered.

  7. Posted by: on Oct 30, 2012 @ 4:16pm

    The CSA, GCC and thecannon.ca hire solely on merit and the qualifications on the candidate. For those of you who think otherwise, you are very mistaken.

    I highly recommend you to read the CSA's Employment Equity Report, its really short and has pretty charts. http://www.csaonline.ca/files/2012/07/EE-Report-Statistics-2011-2012-board.pdf

    The CSA simply does extensive promotion on campus to encourage as many candidates as possible. The goal is that every qualified individual has a fair and equal chance at landing an awesome CSA Job.

    Stay tuned for a longer and more detailed comment!

    Joshua Ofori-Darko
    CSA Human Resources & Operations Commissioner

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