As some of you may have noticed, (at least some of) legal academia is abuzz about the fact that Scholastica, the ExpressO competitor, asks authors to provide optional information about their gender identity, race, sexual orientation, and any additional “hardship diversity,” such as socio-economic status or geographic region. In response to objections by some, Scholastica has given individual journals the option of requesting the information or not, and to date, only California Law Review and NYU Law Review have done so. As a result, when you submit through Scholastica, you will be asked to provide optional demographic information only if you submit to one of those two journals. Josh Blackman has the background, including screen shots of the prior and current “diversity widget” and responses from various law review editors (here, here, and here). You can find additional musings about all of this at CoOps (here, here, and here), Prawfs, ProfessorBainbridge, and the VC. (Update 2/16/13, 5:30 pm: Kaimipono Wenger has a thoughtful Defense of Law Review Affirmative Action over at CoOps.)
Although these musing reflect a range of views, the majority, it seems to me, objects — in some cases vehemently, with calls for a boycott — to the notion of journals deliberately selecting articles on any basis other than merit. My immediate interest in this is not about the appropriateness, per se, of what I’ll call, for simplicity’s sake, affirmative action (AA) in article selection. (For thoughts on that, see the links above.) Rather, I’ve been struck by the strength of objections to this apparent practice in light of equally strong beliefs in the appropriateness of AA when it comes to selecting conference participants, and the like. Here’s the question I posed on one of Dave Hoffman’s Scholastica threads over at CoOps:
I’m curious if you have a position on using gender, race, and the like to select invitees for symposia, conferences, and similar speaking engagements. Is doing so an equally bad idea, in your view, or are there differences between the two situations that suggest different answers? I ask because my first instinct, on hearing of (what it seems to me fair to call) affirmative action at the level of scholarship selection, was that this, like many other aspects of legal scholarship, is a clear anomaly within academia at large (quite apart from its merits or lack thereof as a practice). But then I considered the fairly common — and fairly strong — norm (if not necessarily consistent practice) elsewhere in academia of trying to ensure that one invites a suitably diverse panel of speakers. Indeed, in philosophy, entire boycotts are currently afoot in response to perceptions that conferences failed to include sufficient numbers of women. So I’m wondering whether you think these situations are on all fours, or whether there are significant relevant differences. (To be clear, I don’t mean to be asking a leading question; I’m truly just curious about what you and others commenting on this think about this possibly analogous practice.)
Although “Anon” responded that s/he viewed these as “analytically equal” (and equally inappropriate), one "AnonProf" argued at some length that the two practices could in fact be distinguished, with AA appropriate — indeed, “very important” — for symposia invites, but not for article selections. Dave, who has said that AA in article selection is a “terrible, terrible practice,” agreed. [Update 2/17/13, 11:05 pm: Dave has clarified his reasons for distinguishing article selection from symposia invites here.]
As I said there, “I’m actually not convinced that the two situations are much different — and I’m definitely not convinced that any difference between them is as large as “very important [to do]” in the context of selecting diverse speakers (in AnonProf’s words) and “a terrible, terrible practice” in the context of selecting diverse writers to publish (in Dave’s turn of phrase).” Since the Faculty Lounge seems to be the only law blog without a Scholastica diversity post, and since my fuller response to AnonProf’s argument would have further hijacked Dave’s thread, I thought I’d move this aspect of the conversation here.