Use of affirmative action is outdated

By By Zack Oakey and By Zack Oakey

By Zack Oakey

Somewhere near the top of the list of contradictory, old and still-active policies on university and government books8212;such as the Civilian Conservation Corps of 1933, aimed at ending Great Depression unemployment or Connecticut’s Temporary State Housing Rent Commission of 1942, aimed at controlling WWII rent prices8212;sits the U policy for hiring faculty: affirmative action.

U administrators and lawmakers share a mutual dilemma in that they have little incentive to end it, despite the terms “temporary” or “merely corrective” that accompanied the policy when it was first conceived.

Before the passage of affirmative action legislation in the late ’60s with President Lyndon B. Johnson and then in the ’70s with President Richard Nixon, then-Sen. Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota assured the United States that the final draft of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would make it illegal to carry out inequitable laws such as affirmative action by not “requir(ing) an employer to achieve any kind of racial balance in his work force.”He said subsection 703(j) under Title VII of the act states this point “expressly.”

Its exact words declare that nothing requires employers to “grant preferential treatment to any individual or group on account of any imbalance” with respect to number of employees in such groups “in comparison with the total number or percentage of persons of such race, color, religion (and) sex.”

Furthermore, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution expressly prohibits states from denying “to any person within its jurisdiction…equal protection.” That includes non-minority and minority individuals and groups.

The U Division of Human Resources states on its website its commitment to “removing barriers…from underrepresented groups” and these laws and their claimed “temporary” nature are completely ignored as they have been nationally.

Thom Loveridge, director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action and associate vice president for Human Relations, admitted a legal difficulty and a conflict of philosophies when he said, “affirmative action is saying do what you can to increase diversity but (equal opportunity is) not going to give you the (legal) tools to do that.”

Again and again, he repeated the letter and the spirit of the CRA of 1964, protecting equality of opportunity and not of resulting racial outcomes, yet in an example that demonstrated the conflict between the two ideas, he said the university “ought to factor in a (faculty) applicant’s diverse character” when given two applicants of what he called “equal qualification.”

He further posed the option of selectively advertising the position in, say, “the Asian Journal of Engineers.” Both techniques violate the spirit and letter of the CRA of 1964, and yet this is the very document that the U’s HR department references as its racial policy for faculty selection.

Remembering for a moment the director’s example, where he assumes that the U can get away with selectively giving the scarce resource of information more to one group and less to another, calling an applicant’s race his or her “diverse character” while also awkwardly expecting that there can be two individuals of “equal qualification,” there still stands the understudied idea that U administrators are able to play society’s arbiter of equality, its troubleshooter and big brother.

In the famous Supreme Court case Regents of the University of California v. Bakke case in 1978, Justice Lewis Powell expressed his concern about how anyone could equitably administer affirmative action only to certain groups “whose societal injury is thought to exceed some arbitrary level of tolerability.”

The suddenly fashionable “diversity” rationale is one response to this difficulty. It is also one way of changing the subject. Users of the term “diversity” in racial discourse assume that diverse student bodies absolutely must be diverse along racial dimensions, further assuming that the color of one’s flesh is necessary for creating a unique personality.

Loveridge said that the U would have achieved a diverse faculty without his office, but he added that it would have taken longer to develop without it.

National data about the advancement of blacks in the ’40s and ’50s and of Latinos in the late ’90s contradict this assumption. In fact, as Stanford University professor Thomas Sowell demonstrates, more black families lifted themselves out of poverty in the 10 years preceding the CRA of 1964 than in the 10 years after, in which period preferential policies such as affirmative action were introduced.

This is not the only case in which it can be shown, even internationally, that whole groups of people lifted themselves out of dire poverty into high places such as university faculty positions without any outside assistance, not the least of which include the Chinese in Malaysia, the Tamils in Sri Lanka, the Irish in New England or the Japanese and the Swedes in Utah. Diversity, in other words, is spontaneous and requires little or no assistance from public institutions and will sustain itself. Evidence of this fact8212;even while affirmative action was being conceived in the minds of politicians and administrators8212;was neither asked for nor given.

As for the temporary nature of OEO/AA: If an organization is charged with an impossible and ambiguous goal with no solid guidelines that goes unchallenged and unreported, as the racial composition of U students and faculty is, that organization will exist forever. Loveridge described what the U would have to look like in order to justify abolishing the OEO/AA. He said there continues to be issues and the U’s employees would need an adequate representation of all applying minorities in all departments.

This sounds more like banging nails in a coffin than any description of how to end a temporary program that must, by definition, accompany it. Holding up as anomalous racial disparities in occupations because of all sorts of non-discriminatory reasons, while accepting as a norm something that has never been seen in the world further ensures the immortality of a program or office.

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Zack Oakley