On Graduating From Top Universities and the Principle of “Fair Judging”

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Upon completion of their basic education, the next step for young people in the Philippines (and elsewhere)  is to choose a tertiary institution where they will spend the next four years or so to pursue the undergraduate degree they dream of completing. Given the chance, they would choose to enroll in one of the top 10, if not top 5, colleges or universities  in the country…better yet, in the world. Making it to the premiere universities and colleges is the dream of majority of those graduating from high school (and their respective parents and guardians).

Parents, no matter how expensive, would try their best to send their children to the tertiary institutions who are tops in the ranking. Even for basic education they enroll their kids to the most reputable schools. They inculcate in the young minds of their children the need to strive harder than the others so they would graduate in high school at the top of their class with GWAs acceptable to the universities they are targeting. And their children follow them like good soldiers heeding the marching orders of their generals.

The foregoing is a manifestation of how society have embraced the idea that when students graduate from highly-ranked universities their success is guaranteed and their future bright. What could have permeated that notion are classified ads trumpeting that only graduates of “this and that” university may apply for certain job openings. Such hiring policy “is not giving priority to alumni of top-notch universities,” it “is giving ONLY them” the chance  to fill up positions and vacancies in companies and organizations.

Business entities who implement the policy aforementioned cannot be faulted. It is a simple exercise of prerogative. If they want to hire only those who could present diplomas and transcript of records minted in their “preferred colleges and universities” there’s nothing that anybody can do against that.  They consider it their right to do so.

But is it so?

When reason is allowed to prevail, there are rights that supersede other rights. And in nations where, indeed,  reason prevails, every individual has the right to equal employment opportunities. In the Philippines for instance, this is a right guaranteed by the constitution (1987 Philippine Constitution – Art. 13, Sec. 3)[1]. So, the policy of not allowing graduates of tertiary institutions not belonging to the “preferred list” to apply is not just discriminatory, it’s also unconstitutional.

In the United States it is illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or generic information. [2] Discriminatory practices under Federal laws  include employment decisions based on stereotypes or assumptions about abilities. [3] Employers thinking that graduates of university A is better than the graduates of university B is a form of stereotyping. It is an act of assuming that only those who graduate from university A have the potentials of contributing to the growth of a company or organization.

But why are graduates of low-ranking colleges and universities seemingly being looked down upon?

Are graduates of “whatever university” mere mortals and those who received their degrees from “supreme university” gods and goddesses? Would the latter become better persons and professionals after completing their training from their highly-ranked alma mater? Are the former just second best and meant to play second fiddle to the latter?

To say that graduates of top-ranked universities are better than those who received their diplomas from lesser-known schools is committing the fallacy of hasty generalization. Nobody can say which group is better. Graduating from a highly-ranked university doesn’t make one a better person and professional than those who sweat it out in lesser-known schools.

Employers need to observe the “principle of fair judging.” Applications should be judged on their merits. The  evaluation of the applicant should be in accord with the duties of the position; for example, for the job opening of choir director, the evaluation  may judge applicants based on musical knowledge rather than arbitrary  criterion such as hair color. [4]

“Education,” as Horace Mann puts it, “is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance-wheel of the social machinery.” The education offered by the universities provides “fair access to qualifications” [5]  intended to put applicants in equal footing before competition (for the job) begins. So, making a decision to hire based on “from-what-university” an applicant graduated is against equality of opportunity.

Graduates of  the best colleges and universities already have the best things in life. That’s the reason they could afford to pay exorbitant tuition fees and the high cost of board and lodging in cities. The ones studying in lower-ranked schools, especially those located in provinces, belong to indigent families pinning their hopes for a better life through education.

Those who have less in life need to be given a chance, at least an equal opportunity for employment.

At the vantage point of an employer, applicants for a job need to be evaluated using objective measures. The decision to hire should not be based on from what college or university they graduated.

This is not asking that graduates of lesser-known schools be given priority. Let the applicants, wherever they graduated, undergo the hiring process.

They must be asked to submit their resume and the corresponding documents and attachment. These papers, in one way or another, will reveal things about the applicants that will inform decisions to hire or not.

The next steps would involve interview (or a series of interviews) and battery of tests. These parts of the hiring process will gradually show who’s who among the applicants.

What could be considered as the best part of the process is the demonstration of skills. The applicants need to actually show their repertoire of skills related to the job they are applying for.

The decision to hire must be based objectively on the over-all results. The alma mater of the applicants should not be factored. This way, the applicants are given equal employment opportunity.

Companies and organizations limiting their choices to graduates of top universities are also limiting their chances of possibly getting the best applicants. One thing certain, there are brilliant young people sharpening their minds and honing their skills in lesser-known colleges and universities, especially in the provinces.

They are diamonds in the rough waiting to be mined and polished.

__________

[1] http://www.gov.ph/constitutions
[2] http://www.natlawreview.com/author/us-equal-employment-opportunity-commission
[3] https://www.eeoc.gov/facts/qanda.html
[4] Richard Arneson (Aug 29, 2008). “Equality of Opportunity”. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
[5] Mark Bevir (editor) (2010), Encyclopedia of Political Theory, SAGE Publications.

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