UI complies with federal affirmative action policy

By Sarah Small

In Thursday’s edition of The Daily Illini, the article “UI complies with federal affirmative action policy” reported that William B. Allen, a professor at Michigan State University, was in favor of affirmative action and Michael Eric Dyson, a professor at Georgetown University, spoke against the policy. Allen spoke against the policy and Dyson spoke in favor of it. The Daily Illini regrets this error.

The following is the story as it appeared in print that day.

As a student at the University 30 years ago, Esther Patt was part of the Chancellor Search Committee. The committee reviewed a female candidate who was highly qualified for the job.

As the group discussed her qualifications as the new chancellor, one individual asked who would perform the entertaining responsibilities typically reserved for the chancellor’s wife if the committee accepted the female candidate.

“I was floored,” said Patt, the current president of the Champaign County chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Last week, the University hosted a debate between two guest professors on the issue of affirmative action. Dr. William B. Allen, a professor at Michigan State University, spoke in favor of affirmative action, while Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, a professor at Georgetown University, spoke against the policy.

Dyson said providing opportunities for those who have been historically “excluded” is not something an organization should be forced to do. Rather, he said, the organization should provide equal access on their own.

“Affirmative action is not a ceiling, it’s a basement,” Dyson said at the debate.

The University practices affirmative action as per the employment requirements and regulations set forth by the U.S. Department of Labor, a policy that contrasts with Dyson’s opinion.

However, they also have the moral obligation to represent a diverse group of employees, said Dr. Larine Cowan, assistant chancellor and director at the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access.

“A diverse faculty and staff enables students to become apprentices for global citizenship and global leadership,” Cowan said.

Because of the University’s size, the federal government requires the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access to file affirmative action plans. The government also frequently requests detailed reviews of the University’s employee records to ensure they are abiding with federal policy.

Because the University has been in compliance with federal requirements regarding hiring, they are not required to meet specific federal quotas. Instead, it sets goals for itself to ensure that the practice of equal representation in hiring continues, Cowan said.

She added that these goals analyze areas of underrepresentation amongst University employees and strive to recruit potential employees who meet the qualifications for available positions.

“My office has focused on assisting the campus in developing and applying sound pre-search procedures to advance hiring diverse faculty and staff,” Cowan said.

To recruit instructors and encourage a diverse faculty, the University continuously sends out information about available jobs to various public caucuses which ensure that people traditionally underrepresented in the workforce remain informed.

Chime Asonye, student trustee, said the University’s commitment to diversity and equal opportunities began between the late 1800s and the early 1900s.

Cowan said the most drastic changes came in the late 1960s when the University implemented a policy that encouraged the hiring of underrepresented workers in the civil service system. These workers included secretaries, building service workers, cooks, police officers and other service personnel.

The policy was extended to faculty members in the early 1970s, Cowan said. These are people who must have degrees to be qualified for their positions, including professors and assistant professors.

The equal representation policies are up for review annually by the federal government and University administrators to continue the development of plans and goals which will increase representation.

“We need people to be constantly reminded that we’re not totally there yet,” Asonye said, “We are coming from a background where we are committed to excellence, but we want to take it to the next level.”