Merit System Is Unjust Because It Rewards Productive Individuals, Professors Argue

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by Kate Anderson


Professors from the University of Arizona and the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs are arguing that “success and merit” are “barriers” to the equity agenda.

“Admitting that the normative definitions of success and merit are in and of themselves barriers to achieving the goals of justice, diversity, equity and inclusion is necessary but not sufficient to create change,” professors Beth Mitchneck and Jessi L. Smith recently wrote for Inside Higher Education.

Mitchneck and Smith attributed those definitions to a “narrow definition of merit limited to a neoliberal view of the university.” Specifically, they express concern that universities receive funding and recognition based on the individual performances of professors’ own work such as peer reviewed journals and studies.

Campus Reform reached out to Smith, asking what should be done to alter the merit system. Smith did not provide any alternatives.

The professors are not the only scholars in academia to critique the merit system. Last month, University of Illinois professor Eunmi Mun said that merit-based pay does not take “nonperformance-related factors” into account.

Speaking with Campus Reform, Mun said, “[M]erit-based pay systems may increase the gender gap in bonus pay, which is more sensitive to individual performance than base pay.”

Both Mitchneck and Smith do recognize examples of universities attempting to add a ‘mission of DEI’ to their programs and recognition system. However, they argue that those efforts are insufficient.

“While these examples stand out for the good, that is, in many ways, the problem,” the professors write. “While we can point to the few institutions that are trying to change merit structures, many others seem resistant to change.”

Campus Reform reached out to Beth Mitchneck for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.

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Kate Anderson is a Nebraska Campus Correspondent with the goal of educating Americans on political issues where traditional media will not. She is graduating in May of 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a minor in Psychology. This year, Kate is the Vice President of the Turning Point Chapter at the University of Nebraska, Omaha as well as the chapter’s Campus Coordinator. Upon graduation, she is planning on working with news media as a journalist or political commentator.





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