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By Steven M. Cahn

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Sample text

Minority candidates may be asked repeatedly about their interests in community service. Women may be questioned about teaching rather than research. In these and many other subtle ways, presuppositions slant what happens and what is perceived in the appointments process. Courts have discussed the difficulties of identifying subtle discrimination in evaluating academic qualifications, largely in the context of promotion and tenure cases. In an unsuccessful suit against Cornell University brought by four women who were denied tenure, the court reviewed the highly decentralized and subjective nature of tenure de- In Defense of Affirmative Action 21 cisions.

The criteria set forth by the Court in the Weber decisionthat affirmative action programs should be designed to break down discriminatory practices, should be a benchmark for gauging progress in ending discrimination, should have an understood stopping point as discrimination is brought to an end, and should not unnecessarily disadvantage others-are reasonable guidelines for both correcting discrimination and accommodating the expectations of others. Lawrence Becker's proposal, set forth later in this volume, is a thoughtful suggestion about how these guidelines carL be met.

The doubts arise if targets dilute qualifications. Steele points to a real dilemma here. On the one hand, targets may be the only way to attack a process that repeatedly devalues the qualifications of women and minorities. Employment goals may force faculty to act in spite of bias, to see new qualifications as relevant, or to devote renewed scrutiny to candidates. On the other hand, faculty faced with outcome targets may feel forced to "bend" qualifications and react with resentment. In some cases, but not all, these judgments will be correct.

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