The Scientist has an interview with Frank Douglas, an administrator and faculty member at MIT who recently resigned over discrimination:

“On June 3, I resigned from faculty and administrative positions at MIT, effective June 30. I did so because I perceived an unconscious discrimination against minorities and because my colleagues and the institute authorities did not act on my recommendations to address these issues. “

He goes on to address types of discrimination:

“Selecting and preparing these future citizens and leaders has historically relied on various methods. Foremost is that done on the basis of excellence, whether it is in ability to recite, repeat or find new solutions to historical problems. This is the discrimination of excellence to the discipline, and is widely held to be a good thing.

“The other two methods are not considered as positive because of the role that personal preferences – that is, prejudices – plays in them. One, the curious phenomenon of fraternities, sororities and special clubs, which discriminate along social lines, is the discrimination of social acceptance. The other, based on a behavioral or style component supportive of the goals of the department or discipline, is the discrimination of best fit. What makes these selection methods particularly troublesome for minorities is that discrimination of excellence to the discipline is impacted by the other two criteria….” [–emphasis mine]

A very nice way of summing up some of the political/social dynamics that bother me about academia. Tenure’s not just about money and publications, although that certainly helps. It’s about how much you are like all the other people in your department.

For women, for minorities, for the disabled, for…well, anyone more than one standard deviation from the departmental norm….you better get with the program ASAP. If you can.

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!


  1. in other words… it’s kind of like high school. Which is ironic :)

  2. AMAZINGLY like high school, yes :)

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