Alastair Norcross (Colorado) reports that the National Board of the American Philosophical Association has now taken action on an initiative that began with a letter from Charles Hermes (UT Arlington) (posted here last February) and then a petition he crafted (signed by over 1400 philosophers) followed by a motion put before the APA by Professor Norcross and with support from many others. Professor Norcross reports that the Board of the APA has now adopted the following language for its anti-discrimination policy:
The American Philosophical Association rejects as unethical all forms of discrimination based on race, color, religion, political convictions, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identification or age, whether in graduate admissions, appointments, retention, promotion and tenure, manuscript evaluation, salary determination, or other professional activities in which APA members characteristically participate. This includes both discrimination on the basis of status and discrimination on the basis of conduct integrally connected to that status, where "integrally connected" means (a) the conduct is a normal and predictable expression of the status (e.g., sexual conduct expressive of a sexual orientation), or (b) the conduct is something that only a person with that status could engage in (e.g., pregnancy), or (c) the proscription of that conduct is historically and routinely connected with invidious discrimination against the status (e.g., interracial marriage). At the same time, the APA recognizes the special commitments and roles of institutions with a religious affiliation; and it is not inconsistent with the APA's position against discrimination to adopt religious affiliation as a criterion in graduate admissions or employment policies when this is directly related to the school's religious affiliation or purpose, so long as these policies are made known to members of the philosophical community and so long as the criteria for such religious affiliation do not discriminate against persons according to the other attributes listed in this statement. Advertisers in Jobs for Philosophers are expected to comply with this fundamental commitment of the APA, which is not to be taken to preclude explicitly stated affirmative action initiatives.
Professor Norcross writes (this is his unofficial account of what transpired--presumably a formal statement from the APA will be forthcoming):
This statement will be displayed on the page where institutions buy ad space for JFP, and they will be asked to check a box to indicate that they are in compliance with our statement. If they do not check this box, a flag (i.e. a symbolic marking, like the dagger sign currently used to flag censured institutions) will automatically be added to the ad. The flag will say something like this: this institution has not indicated that it complies with the APA Nondiscrimination Statement.
In addition, the APA will fully investigate any complaints about institutions that may not be in compliance with our nondiscrimination statement, a flag will be used to mark ads taken out by any institution that is found not to be in compliance, and this flag will state that, following a full investigation, the APA has determined that the institution is not in compliance with the APA Statement on Nondiscrimination.
A proposal was on the table to disallow ads from institutions that either do not check off compliance with our statement or that are investigated and found not to be in compliance.
A number of reasons were given against this proposal. For example, if an institution that cannot advertise in JFP cannot use our placement service and if the number of institutions that would not be allowed to advertise is large enough, then we might reasonably expect there to develop a second, parallel job market. This would substantially burden jobseekers, and it would also deprive the APA a substantial source of power is has to promote equity (a power that it has historically wielded to good effect, e.g. by helping to ensure equitable treatment to female jobseekers).
The Board also considered having a single flag instead of two. The two-flag option was thought to have several benefits. Since it's not feasible to investigate what happens at hundreds or thousands of institutions (whose practices change over time) that might advertise in JFP, it was thought useful to jobseekers if JFP automatically records whether the institution indicated compliance. If it does not indicate compliance, that puts jobseekers on notice. However, ads are in many cases placed by office staff whom we cannot hold responsible for making an accurate declaration of compliance with our statement. Moreover, a representative of an institution that does in fact comply with our statement may yet refuse to check the compliance box because they believe that it's inappropriate to be asked to do so. For these reason, the first flag can only say that the institution did not indicate compliance. At the same time, it was thought that there should be a way to warn jobseekers about institutions that have been investigated and been found not to be in compliance, and this is the function of the second flag.
There was also some discussion of how institutions might be investigated and there was consensus that existing procedures should be used, with the understanding that the LGBT Committee may take the lead in identifying non-complying institutions.
I think this is a pretty good result, and the National Board is to be commended. Part of me wants to deny advertising space altogether to the offending institutions, but I think the reasons given to go with the censure route make sense. On balance, I would probably have supported this result, if I had been there. I am particularly pleased that the act-orientation canard has finally been put to bed by the new wording of the policy.
This is, indeed, good news, and we owe thanks to Professors Hermes and Norcross in particular for their work in securing this result, and also to the members of the Board for doing the right thing. Signed comments--full name and valid e-mail address--are welcome from readers.
HINT for the reading impaired: the stuff in bold means what it says, especially for the two who have tried to post comments criticizing or mocking the APA for doing the right thing. Sign your actual name with a valid e-mail address if you want your critical comments to appear.