Bill Aims to Take Race Out of Hiring

United States


Omaha World-Herald ( Nebraska)

January 24, 2008

By Matthew Hansen

LINCOLN — Opponents of affirmative action who seek a statewide ban on the practice may have found a second way to place the controversial issue before Nebraska voters this year.

State Sen. Mark Christensen of Imperial introduced a proposal Wednesday that, if passed by voters, would amend the state constitution to bar public agencies such as the University of Nebraska from considering race, ethnicity and gender in hiring, enrollment and scholarship decisions.

The proposed amendment means the issue could go to voters even if a petition drive backed by California businessman Ward Connerly fails to collect enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot. Ten percent of the state’s registered voters must sign the Connerly petition to place the question on the ballot.

Christensen’s proposed amendment (LR 233CA) would go on the ballot if 30 lawmakers vote for it.

Public colleges can now consider race, ethnicity or gender as one factor — but not the only factor — when doling out scholarship money and admitting students, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled.

Connerly and Marc Schniederjans, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln management professor who is helping to lead the petition drive, say such decisions should be made without any consideration of race or gender.

They say affirmative action is unfair to whites and demeans minority students because it doesn’t allow everyone to compete on an even playing field.

UN officials — including Schniederjans’ boss, UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman, and the Board of Regents — came out strongly against the petition drive last week.  They said it could harm the university’s efforts to attract top minority professors and make it harder to enroll low-income students.

The officials also expressed concern that the proposal could ban current outreach efforts that focus on Latino business owners in Omaha and American Indian students in western Nebraska.





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