There is little real question that if one goes back a number of years
one finds a pervasive pattern of discrimination against minorities in academic
employment. This applies not only to blacks and other minorities regarded
as "disadvantaged," but also to Jews, who were effectively excluded from
many leading university faculties before World War II.1 The
situation of women is somewhat more complicated and so will be deferred
for the moment. However, the question that is relevant to affirmative action
programs for both minorities and women is, what was the situation at the
onset of such programs and how has the situation changed since?
and universities were subject to the general provisions of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964 and to subsequent executive orders authorizing cancellation
of federal contracts for noncompliance,2 the numerical proportions
approach dates from the Labor Department's 1968 regulations as applied
to academic institutions by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.3
More detailed requirements-including the requirement of a written affirmative
action program by each institution-were added in Revised Order No. 4 of
1971,4 which contains the crucial requirement that to be "acceptable"
an institution's "affirmative action program must include an analysis of
areas within which the contractor is deficient in the utilization of minority
groups and women" and must establish "goals and timetables" for increasing
such "utilization" so as to remedy these "deficiencies."5 For purposes
of establishing a chronology, 1971 may be taken as the beginning of the
application of numerical goals and timetables to the academic world. The
question thus becomes, what were the conditions in academic employment,
pay, and promotions as of that date? For minorities in general, and blacks
in particular as the largest minority,
virtually nothing was known
about academic employment conditions at that point. Assumptions and impressions
abounded, but the first national statistical study of the salaries of black
academics is that published in 1974 by Professor Kent G. Mommsen of the
University of Utah.6 In short, affirmative action programs had
been going full blast for years before anyone knew the dimensions of the
problem to be solved. Professor Mommsen's data for the academic year 1969-70
show a grand total of $62 per year salary difference between black
Ph.D.s and white Ph.D.s.7 An earlier study by Professor David
Rafky found that only 8 percent of black academics in white institutions
regarded themselves as having personally experienced discrimination in
their careers.8 These data may
seem to be sharply at variance with data showing numerical "underutilization"
of minorities in the white academic world, and it is these latter data
which HEW and other supporters of affirmative action rely upon. There are
some rather simple and straightforward reasons why the percentage of blacks
(or minorities in general) in the academic world (or at white institutions)
is smaller than their percentage in the general population:
(1) Only a very small proportion of blacks meet the standard requirements
of a Ph.D. for an academic career. Less than I percent of the doctorates
earned in the United States are received by blacks and, despite many special
minority programs and much publicity, less than 2 percent of graduate students
are black.9 Various surveys and estimates show less than 4,000
black Ph.D.s in the United States.10 This is less than two black
Ph.Ds for every American college or university-regardless of what goals
and timetables may be set.
(2) Most black academics teach at black colleges and black universities,11
and so do not show up in the predominantly white institutions where affirmative
action data are collected. Nor are these black academics eager to leave
and join white faculties elsewhere: the average salary increase required
to induce black academics to move was over $6,000 a year in 1970.12
The crucial element of individual choice is left out of the affirmative
action syllogism that goes from numerical "underrepresentation" to "exclusion."
One study (by strong supporters of affirmative action) showed that some
black academics refuse even to go for an interview at institutions that
do not have a black community nearby.13
(3) The career characteristics of most black academics do not match the
career characteristics of white (or black) faculty at the leading research
universities that are the focus of affirmative action pressures. This is
particularly true of the two key requirements at research universities-the
Ph.D. and research publications. A survey of the faculty at black private
colleges and universities found that only 25 percent had a doctorate and
only 4 percent had ever published in a scholarly journal.14
None of this is surprising, given the history of blacks in the United States.
Nor should it be surprising that academics with those characteristics prefer
to remain at teaching institutions rather than move to research universities.
None of this disproves
the existence of discrimination in the academic world. It merely indicates
that numerical underrepresentation is not automatically equivalent to discrimination.
More fundamentally, it makes discrimination an empirical question-not something
to be established intellectually by sheer force of preconception or to
be established administratively by simply putting a never-ending burden
of proof (or disproof) on institutions. For both minorities and women,
a distinction must be made between saying that there is discrimination
in general and establishing the particular locus of that discrimination.
Even the most casual acquaintance with American history is sufficient to
establish the existence of discrimination against blacks. The question
is whether the statistical end results so emphasized by HEW are caused
by the institutions at which the statistics were gathered.
The extent to
which the patterns of minorities can be generalized to women is also ultimately
an empirical question. In some specific and important respects, academic
women are quite different from minority academics:
(1) Women have not risen to their present proportions among college
and university faculty from lower proportions in earlier eras, despite
a tendency towards such fictitious parallelism in the literature.15
Women constituted more than 30 percent of all faculty members in 1930,
and the proportion declined over the next thirty years to about 20 percent
in 1960. Women reached a peak of nearly 40 percent of all academic personnel
(faculty and administrators) in 1879, with fluctuations, generally downward,
since then.16 Similar declines have occurred in the representation
of women in other high-level professions over a similar span, both in the
United States and in Europe.17 It is not merely that much of
the assumed history of women is wrong but, more important, that the reason
for current female disadvantages in employment, pay, and promotion are
misunderstood as a result. The declining proportions of female academics
occurred over a period of rising rates of marriage among academic women,18
and a period of rising birth rates among white women in general.19
In short, there is at least prima facie evidence that domestic responsibilities
have had a major impact on the academic careers of women over time-which
raises the question whether domestic responsibilities should not be investigated
further as a factor in current female career differences from males, rather
than going directly from numerical "underrepresentation" to "exclusion"
(2) Women have administered and staffed academically top-rated colleges
for more than a century,20 in contrast to the black colleges
which have never had top-rated students or faculty.21 Although
women's colleges such as Bryn Mawr, Smith, and Vassar have been teaching
institutions rather than research universities, their students have been
quite similar academically to those in the research universities and their
faculty typically has had training similar to that of the faculties of
research institutions. In fact, in some instances, these women's colleges
have been part of research universities (Radcliffe, Barnard, Pembroke,
and so on). In short, academic women have had both higher academic standing
than minorities and readier access to faculty positions at research universities.
Information barriers in particular have been far less important in the
case of women than in the minority case, and word-of-mouth methods of communication
among prestige institutions have included women for a longer time.
The point here is
not to minimize women's problems but to point out that they are in some
ways distinct from the problems of minorities. In other ways, of course,
they are similar. For example, women academics also do not publish as much
as academics in general22 and women academics do not have a
Ph.D. as often as other academics.23 But in the crucial area
of salary, not only do women academics average less than men,24
but also female Ph.D.s average significantly less than male Ph.D.s.25
In short, women in academia face a different, though overlapping, set of
problems from those faced by minorities in academia.
to questions about the HEW "solution" for minorities, there may be additional
questions about the simple extension of the minority solution to women
by Executive Order No. 11375.
It must be emphasized
that all the statistics cited thus far are for the academic world prior
to affirmative action. They are intended to give a picture of the dimensions
and nature of the problem that existed so as to provide a basis for judging
the necessity of what was done under affirmative action programs. Now the
results of those programs can also be considered.
1 Michael R. Winston, "Through the Back Door:
Academic Racism and the Negro Scholar in Historical Perspective," Daedalus,
vol. 100, no. 3 (Summer 1971), p. 695.
2 Lester, Antibias Regulation, pp.
3 Ibid., pp. 62-63.
4 Ibid., p. 76.
6 Kent G. Mommsen, "Black Doctorates in American
Higher Education: A Cohort Analysis," Journal of Social and Behavioral
Science, Spring 1974.
7 Ibid., pp. 104,107.
8 David Rafky, "The Black Academic in the
Change, Vol. 3, no. 6 (October 1971), p. 65. A sharp
distinction must be made between personal experience of discrimination
and general opinions that discrimination exists. Both minorities and women
report very little personal experience of discrimination and at the same
time a widespread impression that discrimination is pervasive. See "Discrimination:
A Cautionary Note," Law and Liberty, Vol. 1, no. 3, p. 11. Similiar
inconsistencies are found in opinion surveys of the general population.
See Ben J. Wattenberg,
The Real America (Carden City: Doubleday
& Co., Inc., 1974), pp. 196, 198.
9 Kent G. Mommsen, "Black Ph.Ds in the Academic
Journal of Higher Education, Vol. 45, no. 4 (April
1974), p. 253.
10 Ibid., p. 256.
11 Ibid., p. 258.
12 Ibid., P. 262.
13 William Moore, Jr. and Lonnie H. Wagstaff,
Black Educators in White Colleges (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers,
1970), pp. 64-65.
14 Daniel C. Thompson, Private Black Colleges
at the Crossroads (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, Inc., 1973), p.
155. See also Moore and Wagstaff, Black Educators in White Colleges,
15 For example, the "remarkable record of
women's progress through the professional ranks of a hitherto rigid academic
system." Change, vol. 7, no. 4 (May 1975), back cover.
16 Jessie Bernard, Academic Women (University
Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1964), P. 39.
17 John B. Parrish, "Professional Womanpower
as a National Resource," Quarterly Review of Economics and Business,
Spring 1961, pp. 58-59.
18 Bernard, Academic Women, p. 206.
19 Ibid., p. 74.
20 Ibid., pp. 2-3, 31-32, 38n-39n.
21 Christopher Jencks and David Riesman, "The
American Negro College," Harvard Educational Review, vol. 37, no.
1 (Winter 1967), pp. 3-60; Thomas Sowell, Black Education: Myths and
Tragedies (New York: David McKay Co., 1972), pp. 255-259.
22 Lester, Antibias Regulation, p.
23 Ibid., p. 42.
24 Juanita Kreps, Sex in the Marketplace
(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1971), P. 52.
25 Rita James et al., "The Woman Ph.D., A
Social Problems, vol. 15, no. 2 (Fall 1967), pp.