WSU panel discusses affirmative action

Posted on January 31, 2011
By Jesus Lopez Jr.

OGDEN — Although progress has been made in overcoming racism in America, corrective actions such as affirmative action are still needed

A six-person panel of students and faculty examined the pros and cons of affirmative action during a panel discussion on Monday at noon in the Shepherd Union Wildcat Theater at Weber State University.

Utah state lawmakers have tried to repeal affirmative action measures. During the 2010 legislative session, H.J.R. 24 called for an end to affirmative action policies, while a similar bill is expected to be introduced in the 2011 session.

Panelists had no time limits for their comments as they discussed affirmative action pertaining to education, workplace diversity and athletics. Video clips from the news media and popular culture illustrated the discussion.

The panel agreed that hiring practices and society have improved, and although institutionalized racism, such as Jim Crow laws, has been repealed, cultural discrimination remains.

“We still struggle to recognize our tossed salad of a population in the United States,” history professor Kathryn MacKay said.

Overall, the panel agreed there is still a need for diversity and the benefits of affirmative action policies, believing that without them, opportunities for minorities would not continue.

“This is a cycle that keeps going on, and to think it doesn’t is ridiculous,” student Senator Lonnie Wishom said.

Although the panel was mostly favorable to affirmative action, they did not shy away from touchy questions, such as should Weber State University have admission policies to reflect the racial demographics of the area.

The panelists believed instead of requiring the school to require diversity in its admission policies, the school and other such institutions need to look at the way they present themselves to the community.

“What that is telling us is that we are not reaching out to the population as we really should,” economics professor John Mbaku said. “Take the opportunity to ask ourselves why certain groups in the community are not coming to Weber State.”

Student Sen. Amber Mendoza said students do not have enough people to look up to. Poverty and parents without higher education keep many students from going to college.

“They don’t see an example,” Mendoza said. “They don’t see a role model.”

The benefits for affirmative action were most evident in hiring practices.

The panel agreed that only the best candidates should be hired, but the hiring pool should be opened up to include a diverse talent base.

Barry Gomberg, WSU’s executive director of equal opportunity/affirmative action, said Weber State does not require that minorities get preferential treatment for jobs.

“We don’t have any mandates to meet any quota,” Gomberg said.

A recent example of affirmative action rules discussed by the panel is the Rooney Rule, which requires National Football League teams to interview black coaches when openings exist for top coaching jobs.

Since implemented, some of the best teams in the NFL have been led by black head coaches, but the panelists felt such a policy is still needed.

The need remains also for affirmative action, whether in Title IX or recruiting employees, the panelists said. The benefits may not be immediate, but in the end, they will lead to a country where affirmative action is not needed, panelists said.

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