Proposal 2 may change admissions policies at the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus, but it won’t affect the school’s aggressive affirmative action hiring program.
University leaders say they will continue to set hiring goals for minorities and women and monitor whether those goals are met, despite the ballot measure’s ban on race and gender preferences in public education.
To back away from those programs, U-M officials maintain, would violate a presidential order that large institutions must have affirmative action policies if they receive federal money.
“If we wouldn’t do it, we would jeopardize our federal funding,” said Anthony Walesby, assistant provost and senior director of U-M’s Office of Institutional Equity. “It’s a requirement of the federal government and we meet that requirement.”
U-M’s stance—along with a Wednesday vote by Wayne State University Law School faculty to replace racial preferences in admissions with a list of favorable applicant characteristics—are a window into how universities plan to deal with the constitutional amendment approved by 58 percent of Michigan voters last month.
Some experts say the schools are justified: Proposal 2 contains a clause that allows certain programs to continue if eliminating them would mean the loss of federal funding.
Like U-M, UCLA sets hiring goals annually for women and minorities in each job group, documents progress toward meeting the goals and evaluates leaders on their diversity efforts.
Affirmative action opponents, however, question whether setting hiring goals exceeds the federal requirements and violates the controversial proposal that takes effect in Michigan on Dec. 22.
“If U-M continues to evaluate its affirmative action policy by setting hiring goals, it would violate Proposal 2,” said John Findley, a principal attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation, California-based firm that is against race- and gender-based preferences.
The firm has filed scores of lawsuits to enforce Proposition 209 in California. It has never challenged UCLA’s affirmative action policy because it was unaware of it, Findley said.
Now, Findley said, the group is looking into its legality.
U-M has hiring goals
U-M’s affirmative action policy is very precise.
Based on labor and census statistics, the Office of Institutional Equity each year determines how many women and minorities are available in the job market for campus job categories, from IT staff to boiler operators.
The staff compares those numbers to how many women and minorities are actually employed and identifies areas of under representation.
In those job categories, the staff develops placement goals. When a department head is ready to post a job, the human resource department reminds them of the goal, said Walesby, U-M’s assistant provost.
Department heads don’t and cannot give preferential treatment to women and minorities in hiring, he said. “In the end, we hire the most qualified person for the job without consideration of race or gender,” Walesby said.
Each year, Walesby’s office reports the results of the plan. Where goals have not been met, deans and department heads are advised to make continued efforts to recruit qualified minority and women candidates.
During performance reviews, deans are evaluated on how well they achieve diversity goals, according to the provost’s office.
Findley says goals could ultimately lead to preferences.
Feds set requirements
The debate over the legality of the university’s hiring practices centers around Executive Order 11246, issued by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965.
It requires government contractors with 50 or more employees and $50,000 or more in federal contracts to develop an affirmative action program to ensure equal employment opportunities.
The plan should help the contractor “identify and analyze potential problems in the participation and utilization of women and minorities in the contractor’s work force,” according to the Department of Labor, which suggests expanded efforts in outreach, recruiting and training.
U-M and UCLA leaders say their hiring goals are in direct response to the federal requirements. The U.S. Department of Labor did not respond to several requests for an interview.
UCLA’s Avila said the affirmative action goals show what the job market would look like if discrimination had never occurred. They encourage department heads to cast the widest net possible when hiring, she said.
Here’s a common example of hiring goals from U-M’s annual affirmative action report:
“Pharmacists—This job group had a placement goal for minorities of five last year, which has increased to six this year. There were 10 hiring opportunities and one minority candidate was hired. The percentage of minorities in the candidate pool (14.3 percent) and of minorities hired (10 percent) are less than the availability rate (23.7 percent). Continued efforts should be made to recruit qualified minorities for these positions.”