In yet another example of an overheated — indeed, almost unhinged — response to the prospect of Michigan voters voting to outlaw discrimination on the basis of race or gender, University of Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman made one of the most extreme and unqualified defenses of gender-based hiring I’ve ever seen coming out of academia lately. (And that’s saying a lot.)
Coleman’s talk was devoted to predicting the various ways that the sky would fall on Michigan women if MCRI passes. Some of the items in her parade of horribles were obviously true, though not horrible: “Coleman said any gender-specific program administered by the state could be targeted if MCRI succeeds.” Well, yes. If you outlaw discrimination on the basis of gender, discrimination on basis of gender will indeed be “targeted.”
Some of what she worried about was simply wrong — that MCRI would prevent “outreach” programs to encourage women to enter non-traditional fields, or that it would bar support for activities that primarily involve women. As Chetly Zarko, MCRI spokesman, said, “MCRI allows programs that do not formally exclude men but attract women almost exclusively.”
Some of what she said was inexplicably odd: “that research is funded by the federal government and taxpayers’ dollars should not support a system that does not serve the entire population.” Well, yes, but how would barring discrimination prevent research dollars from serving “the entire population”?
Good question! Now note Coleman’s remarkable answer:
Coleman also argued that gender-specific policies in academia are necessary for the health of the American public. She noted that medical research conducted at the University must address the health concerns of both men and women. She held that women’s health issues could only be adequately addressed if women were actually conducting the research.
Note that this is not “one factor among many.” This is not “diversity.” This is undiluted sex-based job qualifications.
I wonder if Coleman thinks that only women can research and teach women’s history? That only women can research and teach women’s literature? But if that’s true, then it’s presumably also true that only men can research and teach about activities done by men, and, it would follow, “that [men's] health issues could only be adequately addressed if [men] were actually conducting the research.”
Who selected this person to be president of a major American university?
ADDENDUM [15 March 12:45AM]
I wonder if Coleman’s reaoning and analytical abilities might be suffering from the same malady that led MIT biologist Nancy Hopkins to announce with great fanfare that she “would’ve either blacked out or thrown up” if she hadn’t walked out of Larry Summer’s talk when he suggested that it was worth investigating whether mathematical ability might not be evenly distributed between men and women.
Quick! Let’s get a (woman) doctor on the case! Maybe there’s some research by a (woman) psychologist or (woman) brain physiologist that could throw light on this mystery of why apparently sane and balanced women academics seem to lose their analytical equilibrium when confronted with views and values they dislike.