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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Connerly controversy continues

    Over the last few weeks, there’s been lots of talk about the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative, a proposed ballot question that would eliminate racial preferences and affirmative action programs in the state of Arizona. It’s been called “”a red herring,”” “”a thinly veiled attempt to institutionalize racism in Arizona,”” “”statewide racism”” and a law that will leave UA students “”the victims at the end of the day.”” This very newspaper even claimed, in a moment of hyperbole, that if the controversial measure passes, “”the UA will be forced to spend an untold number of dollars on restructuring its entire educational system.””

    The concept behind the initiative is clear. The operative language in the proposed amendment simply reads: “”The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.”” But the consequences of those words are not clear. And although the debate over the initiative hosted Monday by a coalition of UA student groups was a balanced and civil way to start talking about the proposal, it’s time to figure out exactly what it may mean.

    Although a December policy brief by the Goldwater Institute, which supports the initiative, identifies about 20 programs at Arizona’s public universities that could be affected by the law, nobody seems exactly sure what its effects would be. Student leaders have said that the law could “”alter not only admissions and hiring processes at the UA, but also programs such as tutoring, mentoring, outreach, recruitment and counseling,”” and that programs like “”the Women’s Resource Center may be eradicated or forced to find a different source of funding.”” UA administrators have said it might affect “”cultural centers, minority scholarship funding and other diversity-related programs.””

    Sounds scary – but despite all the anxiety over affirmative action, nobody’s totally sure. And the apocalyptic predictions seem harsh considering the experiences of other universities in states where similar measures have become law. Three other states (California, Washington and Michigan) have passed identical ballot proposals over the last several years. Although bans on racial preferences are in place in all three, their public universities – leading schools like UCLA and the University of Michigan – still have diversity programs and resource centers arguably broader and more detailed than our own.

    Plus, the measure may not even make it to the ballot at all, if other states are any indication. Earlier this month, Oklahoma State Question 737, which would have appended a similar amendment banning racial preferences to the Oklahoma state constitution, was scuttled by its own advocates, who failed to gather enough signatures to be listed on the ballot. Oklahoma was one of five states, along with Arizona, targeted in a wider Super Tuesday push to eliminate affirmative action.

    Monday’s debate was a commendable way to open dialogue on the question of racial preferences at Arizona’s public universities. But as the campus community continues its discussion, it ought to focus on the real effects and consequences of the proposal, rather than the polarized arguments of advocates from either side. Only then can our campus claim to make a truly informed decision on racial preferences at the polls.

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