Leveling The Playing Field

Wall Street Journal, June 16, 2006

Talk about back wages due: A federal judge in Phoenix this month said that Northern Arizona University owes $1.4 million to a group of professors who have been pursuing justice through the courts since 1995. The 40 teachers, all white men, argued that they were discriminated against when the public university gave raises to minority and female faculty members in the early 1990s but not to white males. Not only that—the plaintiffs said in a Title VII civil-rights suit—the salary bumps resulted in some favored faculty members earning more than white men in comparable positions.

The lawsuit and its outcome are yet another striking illustration of the perils of affirmative action, with its often contorted logic of redress and blame and its tendency to commit exactly the sort of discrimination that it was designed to prevent.

The university may persuade U.S. District Court judge Robert Broomfield to lower the bill for what is effectively back pay to the professors. But the school is also facing a claim for the plaintiffs’ legal expenses. Their attorney, Jess Lorona, tells us that, with more than a decade of litigating on both sides totted up, the cost to Arizona taxpayers could soar to $2.5 million.

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As Andrew Kleinfeld, a judge on the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, wrote in his 2002 opinion lambasting Mr. Hughes: “The scheme here was straightforward: Minorities are gold, women are silver, white men are bronze. . . [E]veryone in America knows that the Constitution prohibits the government from treating some people better than others because they are of a preferred sex or ethnicity.” Well, at least they now know in Arizona.

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