Modern-day Bias: Overcoming the “Where” Barrier

It’s funny how the mind works. Or, perhaps I should say, how my mind works…

In The New York Times last Sunday, Thomas Friedman’s Op-Ed piece seemed to be just the validation that student affairs staff need. It offered outside confirmation about the importance of skills that are not generally acquired in the classroom but in the work and interactions students have outside of class, usually through service and their involvement in the areas within the bailiwick of student affairs.

Rather than focus on these main points of the article, however, I keyed in on this sentence: “Talent can come in so many different forms and be built in so many nontraditional ways today, hiring officers have to be alive to everyone—besides name-brand colleges.”

This statement stood out for me because I am so disappointed in search firms and colleagues who overlook good people when hiring and good ideas when planning if the candidates or ideas don’t have the imprimatur of a “name-brand” college. Some potentially outstanding candidates are not given a second look if their resume or vita does not indicate that they have been connected in some way to a brand-name college or university. In the past month, I have talked with colleagues at three universities who could not accept innovative ideas because they did not consider the institutions where the ideas originated as their peer or aspirational institutions.

Just as I naively thought when I entered college that the professors and staff would be broad and open-minded and would not judge students by the color of their skin, I was hopeful that in today’s environment of innovation and leveling of playing fields that faculty, staff, and administrators would not judge people and ideas on their lack of connection to elite institutions.

I am not under the illusion that this attitude will change even though the experts at Google and Friedman assert that “The world only cares about – and pays off on – what you can do with what you know (and it doesn’t care how you learned it).”

I am hopeful that those who make decisions for hiring and planning in higher education will sooner than later adopt the attitude that we don’t care where you learned it.

One response to “Modern-day Bias: Overcoming the “Where” Barrier

  1. Reblogged this on AnneRStark and commented:
    Wonderful thoughts!

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