Neb. Officials Reviewing Affirmative Action Ban

AP, November 7, 2008

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Nebraska’s educational institutions, cities and counties are beginning to scour their programs to see if they violate a ban on race- and gender-based affirmative action approved this week by voters.

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At the University of Nebraska, administrators are expected to review a wide range of programs and policies aimed at boosting diversity—including a math camp for high school girls, Native American Day, the recruitment of foreign students and a law college policy that uses race as a factor in deciding which students to admit.

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The Nebraska constitutional amendment prohibits public agencies from giving preferential treatment on the basis of race, sex or ethnicity when hiring and performing such tasks as awarding contracts and granting scholarships.

The ban passed with almost 58 percent of the vote. {snip}

The League of Nebraska Municipalities is reviewing how the amendment might affect hundreds of local governments across the state, Executive Director Lynn Rex said. Some federal grants, such as those for affordable housing, are tied to affirmative action, she said.

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Milliken and other university officials are concerned that Nebraska’s status as one of a handful of states to pass an affirmative action ban could project a cold image, hindering recruitment efforts. Similar measures were previously approved in California, Michigan and Washington.

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“Affirmative action is something often done on the front end of the hiring process to make sure you have a job description that doesn’t limit candidates, and that you have a recruitment process,” Soto said. “Ninety percent of affirmative action has nothing to do with . . . using race or gender to make a hiring decision. It’s to provide open access to opportunities.”

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But the Election Day victory for Connerly and his supporters in Nebraska is being challenged.

Opponents of the ban have filed a lawsuit arguing that petition signatures needed to put the issue on the ballot were gathered using a “pattern of fraud and illegality.” If successful, the lawsuit could invalidate the results of Tuesday’s vote.

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