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Queensland University Removes ‘Merit’ as Hiring Criteria

Selection panels will consider diversity factors including LGBTIQA+, gender and ethnic backgrounds

The Queensland University of Technology (QUT) has removed the word “merit” from its hiring process, citing concerns about “bias.”

The university’s focus is on hiring a diversity of personalities in order to avoid uniformity among its employees.

As part of the new policy, selection panels are required to take into account the diversity of responses, including those from Indigenous, multicultural, and LGBT+ backgrounds.

Margaret Sheil, vice-chancellor at QUT, expressed concern that the word “merit” could reflect a form of bias based on individual experiences.

“When people say things like ‘We do this on merit,’ they’re actually reflecting the bias of their own experience,” she told ABC Brisbane.

She explained, “There isn’t a way of being color-blind that’s not got some form of bias into it.”

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“I’ve been working on improving diversity in academic environments my entire career; it’s got nothing to do with contemporary politics,” she said.

“We need to access the entire talent pool, and we don’t want everybody to look the same.”

Concerns about the policy were raised by Liberal National Party Senator Gerard Rennick on Nov. 20.

“If it’s not on merit then some people will be discriminated against plain and simple,” he said.

‘Diversity’ To Be Considered

During the hiring process, the selection panel at QUT must consider the “diverse ways in which policies may be expressed”, The Australian newspaper recently reported.

This includes applicants who are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, LGBT+, culturally and linguistically diverse, have a disability, or are applying for a “non-traditional” area of employment.

The panel can also consider how a new hire achieves “equity, diversity, respect and inclusion obligations.”

One academic told the publication the policy to get rid of merit was “bordering on embarrassing.”

Meanwhile, the Queensland public service is also removing merit and will instead consider “suitability for the role,” 3AW reported on Nov. 7.

Panels in the public service will need to consider equity, diversity, and cultural background as part of the new directive.

Going Back to the ‘Dark Past’

Executive director at the Australian Institute for Progress, Graham Young, noted this is a trend not just in the public service and academia but also in multinational corporations, adding that “ultimately it’s going to be disastrous.”

“You want bridges to stay up, you want airplanes to fly, you want the best person,” he told 3AW radio.

“You should just want the best person, male or female, I don’t care, black or white or brown or brindle, it doesn’t really matter.

He said historically, merit became the key measure of Western societies to eliminate the class system.

“Now we are going to back to the dark past because some people aren’t able to get there on merit.”

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