Thursday, May 03, 2007

Nibbling away at excellence 

I should do a series of these. Here's today's example of how the academy is tossing away standards of excellence in return for quite marginal changes to access for historically marginalized groups. A historian proposes a panel for the annual meeting of the American Historical Association. The conference organizers reply that the panel is of high quality and should be in the prestigious meeting, but only if they would put a woman on the panel. Erin O'Connor notes:
Shouldn't the goal be to assemble the best panels and to host the most intellectually vibrant conference possible? Annual meetings of huge scholarly associations are commonly described as "zoos." But in requiring that every panel display a token female--see female historian talk! see female historian think!--the AHA is taking the zoo image to a new level entirely.
Perhaps calls for papers for the AHA should include "women and minorities especially encouraged to present."