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Innocuous vs Unjust Systemic Discrimination

It's now widely recognized that problematic discrimination need not involve malicious attitudes: certain political structures might systematically disregard the interests of ethnic minorities, for example, even if nobody involved was "racist" in the traditional sense of harbouring prejudicial attitudes.  Still, sometimes people -- even highly-respected philosophers! -- move from this to the opposite error of assuming that any disparity in group outcomes is in itself constitutive of unjust discrimination against the disadvantaged group.  I've found this especially common in debates about QALYs. (One may, of course, raise reasonable questions about how QALY values are determined in practice: perhaps they fail to accurately track the welfare facts in some cases, adjusting down for certain disabilities that are actually harmless. But my target here is the more sweeping complaint that any form of the metric will be "ageist" and "ableist" simply in virtue of its being systematically disadvantageous for the elderly and (detrimentally) disabled, relative to an alternative system that sought to indiscriminately save as many lives as possible.)Granted, if a vulnerable group is systematically disadvantaged in some context, that will often be a sign of unjust discrimination: we know it's not uncommon for minority interests to be systematically disregarded, after all, so that will often be a natural hypothesis for explaining disparate outcomes. (I think this is true of [More]

Academic pay cuts vs job cuts

Hopefully the financial situation for universities next year will turn out to be less dire than many fear. And hopefully what cost-cutting measures are needed can largely be achieved by cutting down on non-academic "bloat" together with temporary reductions to discretionary budgets (turning research "travel" virtual, etc.).  But suppose that this isn't enough, and your department needs to spend less on academic salaries.  How should this be done, to minimize harm?Most universities appear to have already implemented a "hiring freeze" as a first step.  Contingent faculty may be the next to go.  This is all incredibly damaging, both for the individuals directly affected and for our academic disciplines more broadly.  It would seem far less damaging, and much more efficient, to look first for savings from the "haves" rather than the "have-nots".Immense gains are possible from encouraging retirement, as the most senior professors may earn several times what their more junior counterparts do (let alone contingent faculty).  But a hiring freeze is a major obstacle to this, at least if departments aren't assured that the tenure line will be promptly returned to them once the present crisis is past.My previous post set out the general case for beneficent retirement (with replacement). The strength of this general argument is magnified immensely in a financial crisis.  Next year is expected to have approximately zero academic jobs [More]

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  • Professor of Religion and Professor of Philosophy
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  • on faith as a cognitive sickness
  • Teaches Philosophy at Portland State University (Oregon)
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  • Has a passion for teaching in prisons
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