I’ve been looking at university positions and typical is this fine print from the University of San Francisco (which used to be Catholic):
The University of San Francisco is an equal opportunity institution of higher education. The University does not discriminate in employment, educational services and academic programs on the basis of an individual’s race, color, religion, religious creed, ancestry, national origin, age (except minors), sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, medical condition (cancer-related and genetic-related) and disability, and the other bases prohibited by law. The University reasonably accommodates qualified individuals with disabilities under the law.
The more particular these disclaimers—or rather proclamations—are, the more they invite scrutiny and legalistic nitpicking. They don’t discriminate in “employment, educational services and academic programs”? So they do discriminate on promotions and funding? That kind of thing.
USF is anxious to tell us that they won’t discriminate on sex, race, or color, a common phrase, usually placed directly under the one which announces “Women and minorities are encouraged to apply.” In logic, this is what is known as a paradox. Two contradictory phrases, both earnestly believed, neither of which can be politically abandoned.
What’s the difference between “religion” and “religious creed”? What if the applicant is anxious to restore, and actually participates in Aztec rituals? Or what if an employee wears a visible crucifix? (Incidentally, USF is of course well within their rights to discriminate based on religion.)
The legalese even affects the writers of these things. Used to be the going term was non-discrimination against age, but likely due to an interaction with some sea lawyer they felt compelled to add parenthetically “except minors.” See what I mean about nitpicking?
The progressive, or academic, phrase “gender identity” is there, as is “sexual orientation.” But these are both code phrases which do not carry their plain English meanings, nor can they. An applicant who expresses an “orientation” towards infants or dead goats would likely be discriminated against.
“But everybody knows what ‘sexual orientation’ means!” Saying that admits the argument that the phrase does not mean what it says and that institutions do in fact discriminate on “orientation.” As, it should go without saying, but which it unfortunately cannot, they should.
Disability shows up, as it always does, as if there is a wide-spread movement against the wheelchair bound. Now, to be dis-abled is to lack an ability. Ability is a facility to accomplish a certain act, such as teaching or performing research. So what about an applicant who has had a lobotomy or has been found to pledge to NPR? Would the university discriminate against them?
This is the first time I’ve ever seen “medical condition (cancer-related and genetic-related)”. Nice to know that suffering cancer or the genetic-related Down’s symdrome won’t bar you from employment. But what if you had the flu, or even AIDS? Oh, boy. Whoever wrote this ad goofed: look to the expansion of the list of allowed ailments in the future.
And the trend is in the direction of lengthier “diversity pleas.” Give us five, ten years and there won’t be space left for traditional job qualifications. But they won’t be needed then, either.