Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hiring, Higher Ed and DNA

dna_strand_o.jpgYes DNA! UA hasn't collected any DNA yet, but is reserving the right to do so. Making this a requirement of the hiring process could have a real chilling effect on academia.

Is this an isolated incident or a disturbing trend? Imagine a young educator, just out of grad school, with huge student loans. Given the choice of submitting a DNA sample and getting the job versus maintaining their privacy and remaining out of work - which would they choose?

The Daily Dish

In an unprecedented move, the University of Akron is requiring that new employees should be willing to give their DNA to administrators. One adjunct faculty member has already quit over the issue. Scott Jaschik reports:
Laura Martinez Massie, spokeswoman for Akron, said that the university would not comment on the resignation of [Matt] Williams. She also said that to date, the university has not collected DNA and has no plans to do so, but is 'merely reserving the right to do so.'
Declan McCullagh digs deeper:
It's true that the University of Akron's DNA-testing policy isn't designed to weed out potential employees with, say, a gene linked to breast or prostate cancer that could make them more expensive to insure -- which is what [the 2008 Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act's] drafters were most concerned about. Instead, the school's ultimate purpose is the more conventional one of a criminal background check.

That doesn't matter, says Jeremy Gruber, president of the Council for Responsive Genetics in New York City. 'GINA specifically prohibits employers from requesting or requiring genetic information,' Gruber says. [...] Gruber believes that, in theory, there may be a way for the Akron administration to implement its policy in a way that complies with GINA: 'If the university had sufficient handling safeguards to demonstrate that they were collecting biological samples and sending the entire sample on to the federal government for testing without taking any steps to analyze the sample they might not be in violation of GINA.' But, he adds, if the FBI relies on fingerprints for background checks, why is a DNA sample necessary?

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