Thursday, October 26, 2006

Vote NO on Proposal 2

I received a newsletter from State Senator Deb Cherry that's a great resource tool for anyone seeking information on the five ballot proposals we'll be voting on in November. She also makes the information available online [pdf file] for anyone who's interested. I'll try to post information on all five proposals between now and then if I get time, but I did want to mention Proposal 2 today. Here's the official ballot proposal language with the pros and cons from Sen. Cherry's newletter:
A PROPOSAL TO AMEND THE STATE CONSTITUTION TO BAN AFFIRMATIVE ACTION PROGRAMS THAT GIVE PREFERENTIAL TREATMENT TO GROUPS OR INDIVIDUALS BASED ON THEIR RACE, GENDER, COLOR, ETHNICITY OR NATIONAL ORIGIN FOR PUBLIC EMPLOYMENT, EDUCATION OR CONTRACTING PURPOSES

The proposed constitutional amendment would:

Ban public institutions from using affirmative action programs that give preferential treatment to groups or individuals based on their race, gender, color, ethnicity or national origin for public employment, education or contracting purposes. Public institutions affected by the proposal include state government, local governments, public colleges and universities, community colleges and school districts.

Prohibit public institutions from discriminating against groups or individuals due to their gender, ethnicity, race, color or national origin. (A separate provision of the state constitution already prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin.)

People Voting YES Argue That:
It is needed so that applicants for public employment, contracts and higher education opportunities would be judged on their individual merit, not on their race or gender. This is the pathway to a colorblind society where everyone competes on a level playing field. Affirmative action programs would not be banned in all circumstances because socio-economic and geographic factors would still be considered when determining public hiring and admission procedures.

People Voting NO Argue That:
This changes our Constitution to outlaw affirmative action for women and minorities in Michigan. This would result in fewer opportunities for women and minorities and would roll back many of the gains that they have achieved. Affirmative action programs attempt to address the unfair disadvantage that minorities and women face in our society. This proposal would ban programs and policies that increase diversity in our public workplaces and educational institutions, which benefit all people in our state.
I can't believe Michigan is even voting on something like this. I'd like to say we live in a society where the playing field is level, but we don't - and the hateful ads being pushed by the Republican Party in Tennesse are proof of that. They wouldn't be spending the money to air those ads if they thought race didn't matter.

The Republicans have also elevated cronyism to new levels, which kind of puts a damper on the theory that "applicants for public employment, contracts and higher education opportunities would be judged on their individual merit." Donations, connections and favors mean more to them than education, experience and competence.

Besides the issues of race and ethnicity, Zack @ Pohlitics points to this article in the Detroit News that says Proposal 2 would hurt women:
The proposal, a deftly written constitutional amendment that sounds as if Thomas Jefferson himself might have conceived it, will wipe out many outreach programs for women and minorities. It could also wipe out programs to recruit men for women-dominated fields like nursing. [...]
I can't tell you how to vote - I'm voting NO - but I ask you to consider this information from the Metro Times:
Imagine an affirmative action program that could really affect the racial divide. We rebuilt Europe after World War II, didn't we? How about a program on par with the Marshall Plan?

The cost, of course, would be enormous, maybe something like $100 billion over a span of 30 years. That kind of investment could benefit millions who otherwise wouldn't go to college, land good jobs and buy homes. Hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs might be able to realize their business plans. That kind of spending could create a middle class of a kind never seen before. New suburbs would have to sprout up to accommodate all that buying power.

But as Dave Chappelle might say, oh, snap! — we did have a program just like that. It was called the GI Bill. No one called it an affirmative action program, but as a practical matter it was; it's just that the beneficiaries were disproportionately white and male.
The GI Bill was unpopular and almost failed to pass according to the US Department of Veteran's Affairs website:
The Servicemembers' Readjustment Act of 1944—commonly known as the GI Bill of Rights—nearly stalled in Congress as members of the House and Senate debated provisions of the controversial bill.

Some shunned the idea of paying unemployed veterans $20 a week because they thought it diminished their incentive to look for work. Others questioned the concept of sending battle-hardened veterans to colleges and universities, a privilege then reserved for the rich.
Of course, the bill did pass, and millions of veterans have gone to college, bought homes, landed good jobs and enjoyed a larger share of the American Dream because of the program. We've always moved ahead as a nation to help each other and there's no reason to stop now. Vote NO on Proposal 2.

4 comments:

Zack Pohl said...

Wow, I honestly never considered the link between the GI Bill and affirmative action. Michigan State (and many American universities) owes a lot of its early growth to the passage of the GI Bill.

This is just a gut feeling, but it seems like there has been a noticeable uptick in Proposal 2 opposition in the media and on the streets lately. I've seen TONS of "NO on 2" signs all over southeast Michigan, but not one "Yes on 2" sign. Dunno if that means anything, but hopefully people are starting to see the light. Hell, if the Detroit Freakin' News opposes it, you know this proposal is bad news.

Steve Sutton said...

If the only things I knew about Proposal 2 were that it “sounds as if Thomas Jefferson himself might have conceived it” and that The Detroit News opposed it, I would side with the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence.

Fortunately, I know some facts that further my support. Contrary to the claims in Laura Berman’s column, outreach programs wouldn’t be wiped out. The University of California still maintains programs that assist minorities and women. For example, the goal of UC’s Louis Stokes California Alliance for Minority Participation is to significantly increase the number of degrees granted to underrepresented minority students in science, engineering, and mathematics. In addition, UC’s Society of Women Engineers conducts programs such as Girl Scout Day to expose the world of engineering to K - 12 grade girls.

Feel free to check UC’s site for confirmation on both facts:

CAMP: http://www.camp.uci.edu/overview.html

SWE: http://www.seas.ucla.edu/swe/special.html

California proves that affirmative action does not have to be a zero sum game. Some of us believe in equal treatment. That’s why we don’t favor trying to fix discrimination with discrimination.

Kathy said...

Steve, kudos to UC for reaching out to minorities, but their efforts are purely voluntary. What kind of programs do the other public universities in California have? Sadly, we live in a world where given a choice too many colleges and public employers would choose to exclude minorities.

Steve Sutton said...

California’s public university system consists of the University of California and California State University. UC has 10 campuses and CSU has 23. CSU outreach programs are listed at http://www.calstate.edu/AR/outreach.shtml

I’m not sure what the reference to voluntary is about. Any university that receives federal funds is required to meet guidelines specified in the Education Acts of 1972 (which includes the well-known Title IX guidelines). These outreach programs help UC and CSU meet the guidelines. Likewise, Michigan universities will still be required to meet those guidelines. Proposal 2 states:

“This section does not prohibit action that must be taken to establish or maintain eligibility for any federal program, if ineligibility would result in a loss of federal funds to the state.”

California proves that affirmative action programs don’t have to grant preferential treatment.