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GWU Caves to "Backlash" Over "Sausage Fest" Rule
GWU Likely to Change Gender Quota Rule in Bow to Academic Freedom
As CollegeFix noted, "While law professor John Banzhaf was the loudest critic of the change, even though it didn't affect him, the policy also drew scorn from the Elliott School's Jonathan Chaves, a professor of Chinese. He told The Hatchet he was "outraged" by the policy, which denigrated the importance of expertise on conference panels.
The Hatchet just reported that "Since it was announced, the policy has been panned by legal experts who said it goes against the academic principle that merit should be the only consideration in holding scholarly discussions and conservative sites, including The College Fix and Breitbart who picked up the story." The Hatchet report continued:
"John Banzhaf, a public interest law professor, said the new policy was not only foolish, but also failed to target aspects of diversity that might generate more discussion in panels relating to international relations, like country of origin or political affiliation.In a statement last week, Banzhaf called the rule a 'draconian attempt to prohibit 'sausage fests' at Elliott School panels."
"'I'm not an expert in international relations but I hadn't been aware that there was a great gap in the approach of male faculty members and female faculty members. He singled out one criteria which doesn't seem to be directly relevant to the kind of issues which would come up at a panel on international affairs,' he said in an interview, referring to Brigety. Instead of requiring that at least one male or one female be included on a panel, Banzhaf said the Elliott School should consider an "affirmative action" approach in which selection committees for panels consist of both men and women, but not necessarily the event itself."
"He said this system would make diversity a factor in deciding speakers, but it wouldn't be the only consideration, he said. 'That's a much fairer way of doing it, a much more reasonable way, and much more likely to guarantee you and other students that they're going to get the benefit of a variety of viewpoints based on criteria other than their genitals,' he said."
Banzhaf, who is also a statistics expert and the inventor of the "Banzhaf Index," pointed out, even if there were no sex discrimination whatsoever, simply the random luck of the draw would often produce panels of three which were all male - thereby triggered the automatic requirement that the moderator had to be female.
But GWU law professor Jonathan Turley, who concluded that "The policy raises serious questions of academic freedom and the subordination of intellectual content in favor of the diversity policies," went on to describe just how foolish the requirement of a female moderator can be. He reported:
"A few years ago, I was on a panel at the World Bank that had been long arranged and composed of international leaders in the field. World Bank officials however panicked at the event when they realized that the four of us were all white males. They solved 'the problem' after some delay by randomly taking an African American woman from the audience and having her introduce everyone on the panel. The draftee had no knowledge of the backgrounds of the panel or much involvement in the subject matter of the event. However, it was viewed as essential if the panel was to go forward."
Ironically, this latest example of identity politics and gender norming comes just as GWU is planning to celebrate Martin Luther King, whose best known message was that people should "not be judged by the color of theirskin, but by the content of their character." He would probably agree that panelists at academic conferences should not be judged by their genitals, but rather by their expertise, argues Banzhaf.
JOHN F. BANZHAF III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D.
Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH),
2000 H Street, NW, Wash, DC 20052, USA
(202) 994-7229 // (703) 527-8418