15 October 2010

Expanded Coverage: Prop. 107

Because I have had a few very good comments on my 2010 Proposition Recommendations, I have decided to expound a little on one of the more controversial ones: Prop. 107 (relating to affirmative action programs).

Proposition 107 is the so-called "anti-discrimination" constitutional amendment for the State of Arizona and its cities, towns, universities, community colleges, and other governmental entities. It basically says that in issues of public employment, public education, and public contracting, no one can be given preferential treatment on the basis of sex, race, color, ethnicity, or national origin.

The Confusion: My commenters have been interested in knowing whether or not Prop. 107 would hurt programs like WISE (Women in Science and Engineering), Upward Bound (giving scholarships to first-generation college students), or foundations that provide grants to (among other things) women for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathmatics) professional fields.

What I Found Out: I referenced a few different sources in trying to answer this question of exactly how programs would be affected. One was the AZCentral.com FactCheck section, which attempts to answer whether statements made about candidates or about these propositions are true or false (or somewhere in between). I also found a couple news articles about the implementation of very similar laws passed in California, Michigan, and Washington. What I found out was that only programs which are state-run or state-sponsored could (not necessarily would) be affected. Privately funded groups, like a foundation that provides scholarships to only women, only Hispanics, or only Chinese students (as examples) would NOT be affected by Prop. 107's implementation.

A program like Upward Bound, which gives grants and scholarships to first-generation college students without basing the application process or the decision-making process on race, color, national origin, or sex would also not likely be affected by this amendment. Because first-generation college students could include white male English students just as much as it could include black female Mexican students, the program is not in violation of anything.

Programs like WISE at ASU and UA exist in California, Washington, and Michigan and provide money for women (or minority groups) going into certain fields in order to promote continued diversity within those fields. In all three other states, their WISE-equivalent programs were not overly affected by the passage of the similar anti-preferential treatment laws. Those that might have been terminated by the law usually just expanded their applications processes to include both males and females, or all races instead of just one. WISE could still exist, and it could still actively target women, but if a male student applied to the program, he would need to be given equal consideration under the law. The other possibility is that programs like WISE, which is operated by the universities and state, could simply be privatized. That way, there would be no problem with the state sponsoring the preferential program.

Bottom Line: Voting yes on Prop. 107 DOES end preferential "quotas" in public hiring, education, and works to turn back the practice of reverse discrimination, which is becoming a factor in some aspects of state-sponsored programs. Now that many racial groups and both sexes are much, much more equal than they were 30 or 40 years ago, preferences for women are starting to hurt men, and preferences for minorities are beginning to hurt non-minorities (especially in Arizona, where Caucasians are no longer the majority race in the state). We might have a few kinks to work out if implementing the law raises problems that weren't foreseeable, but it's a good basis for making everyone truly equal in the state.

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