The latest FDNY Entrance Exam, given this past January will almost certainly face lawsuits.
The Civil Service Merit System (CSMS) came about as a remedy for government corruption in the form of nepotism and cronyism in public employment.
The CSMS required a single hiring standard for most Civil Service jobs. Since its inception, government has been doing its best to erode the CSMS and the independence of the Municipal workforce. They’ve supported appointments to various high ranking positions, provisional hiring’s outside the CSMS and the much maligned “One in three rule,” where the City can pick one from among the three candidates next in line to fill any given position.
Over the past three decades the City has found some unlikely allies. Black groups have complained that the written portion of the exam “discriminated against blacks,” while women’s groups have argued that the physical exam creates an undue barrier to women. Both of these arguments are based on the specious view that “disparate impact equals discrimination.”
For years the City of New York has done its best to accommodate those complaints – watering down the written and drastically changing the physical portion of the exam, to no avail.
Now, with this most recent exam, they may have cynically found a way around the CSMS for good.
The latest written exam had over 190 questions, many more than half were “judgment questions,” such as “A bowl of chili falls on the floor, who should pick it up?” Many had multiple “correct” answers, some having three and in one case all four answers as “correct.” In short, the City gave a written exam that was, in effect, no test at all.
Combined with a Pass/Fail physical the city has now made entrance into the FDNY a virtual lottery system while cynically maintaining the pretense of the standardized testing mandated by the Civil Service Merit System.
Who does this help?
It certainly does NOT help competent and competitive blacks who don’t need a dumbed-down test to compete, in fact, it places them in the same boat as any competent candidate, on par with the least competent due to a non-test.
It does NOT help competitive women who could pass a real physical and do the job. In fact, it puts them on par with those women who could not compete on a real physical exam.
It DOES help marginal and incompetent candidates greatly! Women who could not compete on a job-related physical and those minorities AND whites who could not pass a real written exam now have the same shot as those who could.
So it certainly does not help/benefit the city or its residents either, as it fails to deliver the best candidates for the job...but it sure does make counting by race and gender a lot easier and that seems to be all that counts right now.