The American Association of Law Schools (AALS), helps law schools connect with people who want to become law professors. Toward that end, the AALS runs the Faculty Appointments Register (FAR), a database to which each job candidate can submit a one-page, standardized form describing where he or she went to school, worked, and so forth. The FAR form asks candidates to identify their sex and ethnicity.
The AALS allows law schools to search the FAR forms online through an interface that allows you to, for instance, pull up only candidates who have gone to particular schools, passed certain bar exams, held judicial clerkships, and so forth. The AALS interface also allows schools to sort candidates by sex or ethnicity. Interestingly, though, that interface allows only certain sorts of searches. Under the heading of sex (“Gender” in AALS-speak), the only options are “No Preference,” or “Female.” Under the “Race/Ethnicity” heading, the only options are “No Preference,” or “Minority.” You thus cannot search for male or non-minority candidates.
Why does the AALS offer such curiously circumscribed searches? I am not sure, and right now I do not intend to speculate. For now, I am content to wonder whether it can possibly be legal to discriminate between job candidates by making it harder to find males and non-minorities. Or, to put it in complementary terms, I wonder whether it can possibly be legal to encourage the preferential treatment of women and minorities.
Perhaps I am silly to even raise the question. Surely an association of law schools would not misunderstand their obligations under federal and state laws forbidding discrimination on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin! Why, the AALS’s own Bylaws say, at section 6.3.a, “A member school shall provide equality of opportunity in legal education for all persons, including faculty and employees with respect to hiring . . .without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, or sexual orientation.”
Could an organization such as the AALS itself be violating laws that forbid sexual or racial discrimination in hiring? Call me a legal simpleton, but the question really does throw me for a loop. I guess that we won’t really know for sure unless somebody brings a lawsuit, one that might helpfully resolve this seeming legal paradox.