Feb 162004
 
Authors: Christiana Nelson

A bill to be introduced into the Colorado General Assembly this

week proposes the elimination of racial preferences in higher

education admissions. public hiring and contracting in city

governments.

Sen. Ed Jones, one of two African American senators in

Colorado’s legislature, believes that affirmative action hurts the

citizens it claims to assist.

“Affirmative action is all about race – that’s racism,” Sen.

Jones said. “I believe it is time to move forward and end this

source of racial tension.”

While Colorado holds race-neutral policies, the Colorado

Commission on Higher Education allows public higher education

intuitions to consider race as one of numerous admissions

factors.

“One of the biggest ironies of affirmative action is the fact

that it is a true insult to minorities,” said Sen. Jones,

R-Colorado Springs. “To assert that a brown or black child cannot

succeed unless the government establishes ‘special criteria’ to

assist them is an outrage.”

James White, the interim assistant director of Black Student

Services, believes that affirmative action is a necessary component

of higher education admissions.

“I think that affirmative action is definitely necessary for the

time being,” White said. “There is no other system in place to

level the playing field for jobs or admission to schools.”

However, he also said the admission of students into higher

education should not be based upon a single factor.

“I don’t believe that it’s right to say that just because this

person is black they are accepted,” White said. “I think diversity

adds to the university, so even if people happen to be a minority,

they should get in on other factors as well.”

Economics professor Steven Shulman supports the initiative and

believes that the new legislation could increase minority success

rates in higher education.

“Racial preference hurts the very people it is meant to help by

putting them in academic environments where they cannot compete,”

Shulman said. “Affirmative action does not create more

opportunities for ethnic minorities to attend college, but it does

increase the presence of non-Asian minorities at more selective

institutions.”

Shulman argues that graduation rates may increase if students

are enrolled in a university equivalent to their educational

ability level.

Jones agreed that minority students who are prepared to attend

state universities can do so without having race factor into

admissions.

“As long as we maintain racial labels, we continue to promote

racial divisions,” Jones said. “The majority of minority students

at our institutions of higher education are qualified to be there,

without the assistance of affirmative action.”

But White maintains that minority labels are important to

universities, and if the university compiles minority statistics

they should also use them as a factor for university

admissions.

“The university is going to track (minorities) by those things

anyway,” White said. “There are a whole slew of classifications

like that once minorities are accepted into Colorado State.”

While the university will not comment on the legislation during

its drafting stage, Provost/Academic Vice President Peter Nicholls

said diversity is an important element at CSU.

“We do value diversity to our student body, diversity to our

faculty body,” Nicholls said. “As we look at students we look at

many, many things that they could bring to the institution, we are

not attaching any points to that, but we take a holistic look at

the students and what that student is going to be able to

contribute.”

Tom Milligan, assistant vice president for University Relations,

said that regardless of the anticipated legislation’s outcome, the

university will maintain a dedication to diversity.

“The institutional commitment to diversity is real and

longstanding,” Milligan said. “Depending on what the laws are, of

course, we’ll comply, but our commitment to diversity won’t change.

It is something that we care about.”

After growing up in Mississippi during the 1940s and 1950s,

Jones said he hopes the bill to eliminate racial preferences will

help America move beyond racism.

“I believe that it is time for our nation to end racial

divisions,” Sen. Jones said. “I believe that affirmative action is

a major roadblock on the road to racial harmony. I defend my

legislation on principle; it reflects Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s

dream of every person being judged on ‘the content of their

character’ rather than ‘the color of their skin.'”

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