Tuesday, May 03, 2016

USC Video Gaming Conference Cancellation: Is No Conference Better Than A Conference With No Female Speakers?

   So...I'm inclined to think that there are decent reasons for making an extra effort to take race and sex into account sometimes and to some extent in cases like this. If there's a tie or a near tie, say, between a male and a female for the last spot on the panel, and there are no other women on the panel, and there aren't many women in the relevant field, then I think it's permissible to choose the woman for the final spot for social reasons/reasons other than merit. If in 20 years this kind of strategy hasn't balanced things out a bit sex-wise in the relevant field(s), then it'll be time to reassess. Men and women may simply have different natural interests. Discriminating on the basis of sex and/or race might be permissible in the short run to overcome past discrimination...but I'm skeptical about its permissibility in the long run as a means of fighting nature. But, of course, it's all complicated.
   At any rate...though it might possibly be reasonable to require a certain race and/or sex mix on such panels (for the short term), I can't see any way to defend the decision to cancel because a bit of bad luck meant that some panel didn't have the relevant mix.
   The cancellation seems to indicate that the powers that be misunderstand the only legitimate purpose of their own rule. It would be crazy to think that having a panel without the preferred mix of sexes is worse than having no panel at all--and crazy to think that an all-male panel is impermissible. For the rule in question to be reasonable, its purpose has to be to encourage future panels to have more women on them. If the rule is motivated by some crazy view that all-male panels are going to do more harm than good or some such thing...well that's a problem. Unfortunately, the cancellation only makes sense if it is the crazy interpretation of the rule and its purpose that's in play...  OTOH, perhaps the idea is that such a decision encourages people planning panels in the future to make sure that the viability of their panel doesn't hang on a single female member...but that's really too much of a stretch I'd say.
   Honestly, I don't see any plausible way to defend this decision.


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