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From our readers / CAUT’s equity analyses flawed by inappropriate comparisons

From our readers / CAUT’s equity analyses flawed by inappropriate comparisons

Jim Clark at the University of Winnipeg writes

Although it would seem reasonable that analyses of equity issues should have objectivity and lack of bias as major values, these qualities were certainly not obvious in the April 2018 issue of the CAUT Bulletin or in the CAUT Education Review on equity.

Most analyses involved inappropriate comparisons between statistics for university faculty and such groups as the general labour force, or the undergraduate student body. The most relevant and perhaps only fair comparison is with the percentage of various groups with PhDs, a pre­requisite to qualify for most professorial positions.

Inappropriate comparisons continued within the academy, most notably by ignoring the confounding of identity with such obvious corre­lates as rank and seniority. Even where such information was available, it was largely ignored. For example, women represent almost 50 per cent of assistant professors according to one CAUT table, but reports emphasized gender statistics collapsed across rank or focused on full professors.

Highly selective reporting was also observed in other areas. Discussion of racialized faculty focused, in some cases exclusively, on groups with lower representation. There was little or no mention of groups with higher representation; perhaps because the latter suggests that being “racialized” may not be the determining factor in under-representation.

Finally, calls for targets and quotas in some disciplines (generally STEM) by themselves are not reasonable. Women simply cannot be over-represented in some areas of the academy (e.g., education, health) and then mandated to equal representation in all other areas, at least not without males being markedly under-represented overall.

Although some academics dismiss objectivity as an oppressive Eurocentric and androgynous quality, I suspect that most academics would disagree. CAUT should resist tendencies to diminish objectivity in the service of any goal, including equity, lest its advocacy and ultimately standing be further compromised.

CAUT responds

CAUT is committed to achieving equity within the academy. It is with this goal in mind that the 2016 Census data was reviewed. The report, Underpaid and Underrepresented: Diversity and Equity among Post-Secondary Education Teachers, points to where there is further analysis and action required. It raises important questions that we must work to answer, beginning with why is the academy not re­flective of Canada’s diversity? Why is there slow progress in achieving gender parity at the highest rank? Why are women still underrepresented in STEM and overrepresented in “care” fields, and vice-versa for men? Why are white men most likely to be employed and have full-time work compared to other academics? Why are racialized university professors experiencing a worsening pay gap compared to non-racialized colleagues? Using national unadjusted data, the report shows that when it comes to representation, earnings and employment type, there is a lot to be accounted for and more to be done.