Has diversity become more important than skill?

23 March 2018

Has diversity become more important than skill?

Image credit: Tetiana Savaryn (Shutterstock)

Most people born in the twentieth century would define equal opportunity along the lines of it being the principle of treating all people the same, and not being influenced by their race, religion, gender etc. However, in 2018 equal opportunity is rapidly being redefined along the lines of the Orwellian novel Animal Farm where “all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others”.

Case in point, the University of Sydney Union, one of the university’s oldest debating clubs, self-described as “one of the best debating institutions in the world”. The Union has announced that its affirmation policy will ensure that novice teams attending the Australian Easter Debating Championships will include more “persons of colour”, born-women, and others not identifying as “cis-male”.

Despite understanding the definition of cis-gender, the affirmative action guidelines of the Championships will continue to perplex.

A cis-gender person identifies as the sex they were assigned at birth. Non-cis males must be 50% or more of the number of debaters, and also one third of the number of tournament adjudicators.

Additionally, teams must include debaters who attend a disadvantaged public school, while each of the top three teams must also have at least one debater who identifies as a person of colour, from a minority ethno-cultural background, or “marginalised by white supremacy.”

The Union will be employing “equity officers” to attend the Championships in order to assist those who find debating “intensely competitive and stressful”. Given that this will be the Debating Championships, any participant should logically expect that the event would be inherently competitive, and that a certain degree of stress will result from attempting to best one’s opponent.

As with any equity system put in place to protect “minorities”, those people successful in securing a spot on a team will be left questioning themselves as to whether they achieved it due to their own superior ability or whether they are simply a part of a quota system. Alternatively, some students who are already recognised as being among the best of debaters will be unfairly passed over simply because they do not fit the demographic.

Individual ability has become the loser in this debate. But that’s just my two cents worth.