Mar 292004
 
Authors: Christiana Nelson

On Friday afternoon, the state Senate narrowly voted down

legislation that would have banned racial preferences in public

college admissions and government hiring in Colorado.

Sen. Ed Jones proposed the bill, citing his personal experience

with racism while growing up as an African American in segregated

Mississippi.

“Put simply, affirmative action is a legally sanctioned form of

racial discrimination and every form of discrimination has its

victims,” Jones, R-El Paso County, wrote in an e-mail.

The bill was defeated with an 18-17 vote when Republican Sen.

Lewis Entz of Hooper, Colo., voted with Democrats.

“It didn’t surprise me at all that Sen. Entz opposed the bill,”

said Sen. Paula Sandoval, D-Denver. “It’s an issue that I don’t

think should have been party line, but we owe him a debt of

gratitude to vote his convictions.”

Entz opposed the bill to represent his constituency, which

includes a large number of Hispanic citizens.

Sen. Peggy Reeves, D-Larimer, said the debate on racial

preferences lasted longer than an hour and was “one of the best

debates we’ve had all session.”

Yet, at the end of the debate Reeves remained opposed to the

bill.

“The bill assumes that everyone is seen as equal, everyone is

treated equitably and that there is no racial preference in the

U.S. or in Colorado,” Reeves said. “I feel we aren’t there

yet.”

Presently, the Colorado Commission on Higher Education permits

race as one consideration, among many, when admitting students to

public colleges and universities.

In an interview on Feb. 12, Provost/Academic Vice President

Peter Nicholls said diversity is important on the CSU campus. On

Monday, university spokesman Tom Milligan said the university

supports Nicholls’ comments.

“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

(racial background), but we take a holistic look at the students

and what that student is going to be able to contribute,” Nicholls

said.

Jones argued that his bill would have been a step toward ending

the discrimination caused by the use of racial preference in higher

education admissions.

“Affirmative action inherently assumes that minorities are

incapable of achieving without a handout from government. This is

just plain wrong and marginalizes capable minorities everywhere,”

Jones wrote.

Yet, as a college professor at Metropolitan State College, Sen.

Bob Hagedorn said the bill’s passage would have hurt diversity in

higher education.

“I don’t believe America is as colorblind yet as the proponents

of the bill would suggest,” said Hagedorn, D-Aurora. “A lot of

deserving Latinos and minorities would be potentially closed out

from getting a college education at the college of their

choice.”

Despite the bill’s death on the Senate floor, Jones said he

still plans to pursue a ban on racial preferences in the

future.

“Unfortunately, some of my colleagues in the Colorado Senate

believe that continued racial discrimination can somehow mend

racial problems in America,” Jones wrote. “The road ahead is indeed

not an easy one; I believe, however, that this is only a temporary

defeat.”

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