Sun, Jul 27, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Stop quotas in military colleges

One of two women accepted to enter the law school at the National Defense Management College this fall, Lei Chia-chia (雷家佳), gave up her slot to Chang Ying-hua (張穎華), who scored third among all the program's female applicants in the military's law examination and, more remarkably, obtained a top score in the joint-university examination in social sciences and physical sciences qualifying her for entrance to the nation's best law school. This immediately invited a lot of praise for Lei's selflessness and talk about making an exception to admit all three outstanding female candidates. While the former is justified and the latter simply misses the point, neither should be the focus of the discussions. What is really important here is to seize the opportunity to engage in a total reexamination of the military's use of quotas to limit the number of women in the ranks.

The use of quotas in school admission and in hiring, by itself, would be highly controversial -- if not downright unconstitutional -- in many democratic countries, be they quotas allocated based on sex or race or any other immutable characteristic. Objective and justifiable admission or hiring criteria formulated to identify individuals capable of rendering and acceptable level of performance are the standard.

So, for example, in the case of a physically demanding manual job, it is permissible to turn down individual women applicants who are not physically fit to perform the required tasks -- on a case-by-case basis. However, it would not be permissible to require that the position must be filled by a man, although a man may be chosen based on his ability to perform the manual tasks. Old beliefs about what each sex can and can not do are disappearing.

It is indeed unfortunate that despite supposed efforts by the government to engage in military modernization, the military still resorts to the practice of imposing quotas to keep down the number of women in active service and military schools.

Now, if there was a quota that set only the minimum number of women that must be admitted each year, then at least it would serve the purpose of encouraging women to apply, who are historically underrepresented in the military. But this is not the case. The college admits only two women applicants into its law school each year -- no more and no less. On the other hand, the number of slots for male students is 12, six times of the number for women. In fact, the ratio of the numbers of slots for women and men in all military colleges and schools this year is 6.33 to 96.

Moreover, the other four departments of the military college -- information management, business management, accounting and statistics -- do not even have any admission slots for women. One cannot help but wonder aren't these fields in which intelligence, rather than physical strength, matters more?

As a result of the ongoing recession, the financial stability and job security, jobs offered by the military have become especially appealing. That has meant that the numbers of applicants for military colleges and schools have surged significantly. In the past, the military has always had difficulty recruiting quality applicants. No such problem exists this year. To deny admission to such an excellent applicant as Chang simply on the account of her sex is preposterous.

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