University’s Non-Discrimination Clause

I’ve been looking at university positions and typical is this fine print from the University of San Francisco (which used to be Catholic):

The University of San Francisco is an equal opportunity institution of higher education. The University does not discriminate in employment, educational services and academic programs on the basis of an individual’s race, color, religion, religious creed, ancestry, national origin, age (except minors), sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, medical condition (cancer-related and genetic-related) and disability, and the other bases prohibited by law. The University reasonably accommodates qualified individuals with disabilities under the law.

The more particular these disclaimers—or rather proclamations—are, the more they invite scrutiny and legalistic nitpicking. They don’t discriminate in “employment, educational services and academic programs”? So they do discriminate on promotions and funding? That kind of thing.

USF is anxious to tell us that they won’t discriminate on sex, race, or color, a common phrase, usually placed directly under the one which announces “Women and minorities are encouraged to apply.” In logic, this is what is known as a paradox. Two contradictory phrases, both earnestly believed, neither of which can be politically abandoned.

What’s the difference between “religion” and “religious creed”? What if the applicant is anxious to restore, and actually participates in Aztec rituals? Or what if an employee wears a visible crucifix? (Incidentally, USF is of course well within their rights to discriminate based on religion.)

The legalese even affects the writers of these things. Used to be the going term was non-discrimination against age, but likely due to an interaction with some sea lawyer they felt compelled to add parenthetically “except minors.” See what I mean about nitpicking?

The progressive, or academic, phrase “gender identity” is there, as is “sexual orientation.” But these are both code phrases which do not carry their plain English meanings, nor can they. An applicant who expresses an “orientation” towards infants or dead goats would likely be discriminated against.

“But everybody knows what ‘sexual orientation’ means!” Saying that admits the argument that the phrase does not mean what it says and that institutions do in fact discriminate on “orientation.” As, it should go without saying, but which it unfortunately cannot, they should.

Disability shows up, as it always does, as if there is a wide-spread movement against the wheelchair bound. Now, to be dis-abled is to lack an ability. Ability is a facility to accomplish a certain act, such as teaching or performing research. So what about an applicant who has had a lobotomy or has been found to pledge to NPR? Would the university discriminate against them?

This is the first time I’ve ever seen “medical condition (cancer-related and genetic-related)”. Nice to know that suffering cancer or the genetic-related Down’s symdrome won’t bar you from employment. But what if you had the flu, or even AIDS? Oh, boy. Whoever wrote this ad goofed: look to the expansion of the list of allowed ailments in the future.

And the trend is in the direction of lengthier “diversity pleas.” Give us five, ten years and there won’t be space left for traditional job qualifications. But they won’t be needed then, either.


  1. GoneWithTheWind

    It’s the classic ploy to say nice things but in fact to do whatever you want. Politicians do this and those who make the most inspiring speeches seem to always have the worst personality and moral failings. It’s much like the used car salesman who is selling a piece of crap so he feels the need to talk it up more then would be necessary if the used car was worth the price.

  2. The provide this long list of reasons that they will not use to differentiate you from the next entity. (I wonder if you can be a goat and apply). The flip side of the equation makes all of this completely moronic.

    You can be fired for just about any reason in any state (with the exception of Montana), just so long as the reasons don’t fall into the protected reasons.

    As a white anglo saxon atheist (a non-religion, non-creed) male, I can be fired for being white. I can be fired for being male. I can even be fired for being anglo saxon. I am not in any protected class.

  3. Look for the spot where you’ll be the token white male weirdo. That’s what finally worked for me.

  4. Ken

    Nitpicking, of course, is one way to look at it. It’s also the easiest, least intellectually taxing, way to go.

    Another, and one linked to pragmatic realities, is that every point of emphasis made in the so-Briggs-called “proclamation” directly correlates with a law with which the university MUST comply.

    RE: “This is the first time I’ve ever seen “medical condition (cancer-related and genetic-related)”. … Oh, boy. Whoever wrote this ad goofed: look to the expansion of the list of allowed ailments in the future””

    NO BRIGGS, you goofed. That is clearly a reference to legal oblications pursuant to the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). To appreciate that just do a search on that name & include “discrimination” as a keyword. 127 million hits (via Bing) come up. A brief review should reveal not only how broad that non-discrimination responsibilit goes, also, just how incredibly costly to the employer violating FLMA can be. With that perspective one appreciates that, of course, an employer is going to make every effort to comply and miss few opportunities to remind their employees (one key audience of such “proclamations”) every chance they get of their legal obligations. Those statements aren’t just for the customers, arguably, they’re mostly for non-customers (employees).

    THE ISSUE, missed completely, isn’t the content/wording of these non-discrimination “proclamations” — its the amount of government regulation necessitating such things be written along not to mention the numerous laws prompting each & every subject be properly addressed & managed.

  5. Briggs


    I accept the (unfortunate) correction. The conclusion remains unchanged.

  6. Sylvain Allard

    A few things:

    1-) Sexual orientation is between heterosexual, homosexual or even non-sexual. Pedophilia is not a sexual orientation but a sexual preference. The usual pedophile is a married man with children and the relation with a child is a dominant one. The biggest difference between pedophilia and homosexuality is that pedophilia involves a child who is unable to give consent; while homosexual are usually two persons of about the same age who are submitted to the same laws than heterosexual.
    The difference between State and Church is two folds; 1- It means that the church doesn’t tell the state what to do and 2- It also means that the State doesn’t tell the Church what to do.
    When taking about the State, it is not the individuals that have to show no preference for a religion but the institution. So someone wearing a crucifix but follow the state guideline for making is decision is secular. Someone who would refuse to give services because they are against his/her beliefs while working for the government is non-secular.

  7. ezra abrams

    once more, slowly, for those who have trouble with two simultaneously contradictory thoughts
    one can have a policy of non discrimmination
    and one can seek to actively overcome the past and *current* disrimmination against woman and minorities that infest our society.
    see – that wasn’t hard, was it ?

  8. Briggs


    Let’s see if it is hard. If you overcome *past* discrimination against, say, blacks, you must now discriminate against current non-blacks, which is to say you must discriminate in favor of blacks. Even those these current blacks have not adversely been discriminated against. That means the policy that says there is no discrimination using race is false, though it is claimed true. Next substitute sex, etc.

    You’re right: it wasn’t hard at all.

  9. Doug M

    This non-discrimination pledge for the most part is quoting exiting law. It is already against the law to discriminate against the idenified groups. The pledge really has very little heart to it. It says that we will abide by the law of the USA and the Sate of California.

  10. Mark

    I wonder if it would be easier to put either (a) that the USF will abide by US / state employment laws or (b) list what the USF *will* discriminate for/against. You know, like useful qualifications.

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