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The Cry For Equality In Awarding Citations And Web Awards

Nov 25, 2007
"Discrimination" for purposes of this article means to treat a person or particular group of people differently, and unfairly, in a way that is worse than the way people are usually treated. To discriminate against someone is to treat them as if they have less of a right to fair and ethical treatment than others do.

In this article we will examine a situation involving Jill, an award giver, and Bob, an award seeker. Please note that Jill, Bob, and others depicted in this fictional situation are not modeled on any known persons, group, or situation. They are completely fictitious. They exist only to illustrate this article about discrimination.

The Situation

Our fictional award seeker Bob had spent a great deal of time building a website on his favorite political topic, and he thought it would easily win Jill's award. After all, Bob's website complied with all of Jill's criteria, and seemed to him to be as good or better than most of the sites on her winners list. So he sent in an application for Jill's award with confidence.

Our fictional award giver Jill also had strong political views, but they were completely the opposite of Bob's views. Because of this, Jill did not like some of the things that Bob's site advocated. Even though the site would have merited a gold award, based only on her posted criteria, Jill turned him down for an award. She thought it would be wrong of her to appear to support Bob's views, even with a web award.

After waiting an appropriate time, Bob sent Jill an e-mail asking her why his site had been turned down. When Jill explained her reasons, Bob felt that he and his site had been the victim of discrimination. After all, he had read Jill's criteria, her tips page, and her page of disqualifications; and he had even taken and passed her self-test. None of what he had read had stated anything against submitting his site with it's views, or any site with political views.

The Reaction

When Bob realized that his site had been turned down for an award solely because of his views, he was justifiably upset. The longer he thought about it, the more he felt a sadness rather than anger that someone would treat him this way because of a difference of political opinions.

He had also lost some of his sense of trust. Jill was a member of several award organizations, and she obviously had not abided by the ideals proclaimed by those organizations. Bob couldn't help but wonder if other people would act the same way, and he even started to wonder about other awards that he had failed to win. How many of those had been similar situations? The rational part of his mind told him that it was probably very few or none, but he couldn't stop being suspicious.

On the other hand, there was Jill, who thought at first that she had done the right thing. Then she began to worry about what people's views of her would be if word got out. She knew that she shouldn't have turned him down for an award when his site met her criteria, but she had not wanted to appear to support his viewpoints. Jill now wondered if she had made the right decision and what, if any, would be the effects of that decision.

The Resolution

Bob thought about the situation for awhile, and decided that he didn't want to just let it go. He knew from his research that Jill was a member of several organizations whose rules clearly forbid her to do what she did. So he decided to contact one of the organizations and told them what had happened.

He didn't exactly want to get Jill into trouble, and certainly wasn't interested in revenge, and by this point it wasn't even that he wanted her award for his site. However, Bob did hope that if someone in one of the organizations spoke to Jill about the problem, that perhaps she would realize what she did was wrong. He hoped that she would not hurt anyone else's feelings or her own reputation again in the future.

Now we enter into this fictional tale Daniel of Great Awards Association. When Daniel contacted Jill, she already knew that she had behaved badly. She explained the whole situation to Daniel, including her own mixed feelings about her decision.

Daniel advised her to make a change in her criteria so she wouldn't have to face such a situation again. Jill added "No political or religious based sites may apply" to her disqualification page. It was the first time Jill had done anything truly unethical, and she sent Bob an apology by e-mail. He accepted the apology and there were no further problems or bad feelings. Each of them felt like the outcome was a good one.

In the fictional story of Bob and Jill, there was obviously discrimination; but in cases where someone claims discrimination and there isn't any, people can be badly hurt. An award giver may leave a situation with a badly damaged reputation, or an award seeker may end up labeled as a problem applicant. One should never claim discrimination unless they are sure that their site was disqualified for a reason that was not specifically listed in the award program's criteria.

Discrimination can be very difficult to determine. In fact, unless the award program owner admits to you that discrimination was the reason, you might never really know. After all, how many of us have applied for an award we were sure we would get, and then missed out? Did we misread the criteria, or was it that our interpretations of their criteria were different from the award givers' definitions?

Sometimes, even if you suspect something is out of line, you may be better off if you just let it go, rather than risk hurting people with false allegations; not to mention the possible damage to your own reputation.

This article has discussed discrimination as a disqualification of a site for reasons not included in the criteria. But what if another award seeker with a political site, Cheryl, visits Jill's program, reads the criteria and feels that Jill's rule against political sites is in itself discrimination? Is Cheryl really facing discrimination?

Most ethics organizations agree that award refusal on the basis of religion, race, creed, or national organization, etc. is unethical, but if an award giver chooses not to evaluate any site with strong religious or political purposes and posts that clearly in the program, is that unethical? The majority view is that it is not discrimination as long as the restriction is clearly stated within the program. The same goes for any program that chooses not to award any other particular type of site.

For example: An awards program would be discriminating if it stated it would not award sites by African Americans; while if another awards program stated it would not review sites on the politically charged subjects of Black or White Power (generally beginning in the 1960s) it would not be discriminating.

I can hear the questions now, though. What about a site that only awards women, or only men? What about sites that only award Christian sites, or my own atheist-only award? Are these sites discriminating? Some would say yes, some would say no.

Most would say no, as long as the requirement is clearly stated in the criteria, because in these cases, people are awarding only sites they want to award and not condemning anything else. After all, I doubt anyone would shout "Discrimination!" at a web site that only awarded pet-related sites. A great deal of the reaction of the award seeker to the criteria at an award program is the manner in which it is written.

There are no federal laws that cover discrimination in awards programs. What we have instead are ethics organizations that are set up to govern themselves, such as APEX and CEM/CEMA. The members strive to keep award giving ethical and fair. Many award givers are not members of these organizations, and in the end it is up to the individual program owners to make the awards community an ethical place; a place where award givers and award seekers can feel that they will always be treated fairly and ethically.

Discrimination doesn't just hurt the award seeker; it can also do irreparable damage to the award giver's reputation and to their feelings about themselves. By working together and trusting each other, we can help to make the awards community a truly ethical and discrimination free place.
About the Author
Jon Caldwell has been reviewing websites for due recognition and awards. Most multi-awarded websites can be checked out at http://www.awardsweb.net/awardsweb_cat/awardswebcat.php
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