New Hampshire Ends Affirmative-Action Preferences at Colleges

Peter Schmidt, The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 4, 2012

Public colleges in New Hampshire are precluded from using affirmative-action preferences in hiring or admissions decisions under a new law that took effect on January 1 after being passed by the state’s legislature last year with relatively little public opposition.

The measure prohibits New Hampshire’s university system, community-college system, postsecondary education commission, and other state agencies from giving preferences in recruiting, hiring, promotion, or admission “based on race, sex, national origin, religion, or sexual orientation.”

Both chambers of the state’s legislature, which came to be dominated by conservative Republicans as a result of the 2010 elections, overwhelmingly passed the measure last spring. The measure went into law after Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, took no action on it.

In sharp contrast to other states that have experienced highly publicized battles over similar bills or ballot initiatives, New Hampshire passed its measure with little input from national advocacy groups on either side of the affirmative-action debate.

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Ward Connerly, who has helped lead campaigns on behalf of voter-passed bans on affirmative-action preferences in several states, on Tuesday said he and the advocacy group he founded, the American Civil Rights Institute, deliberately stayed out of the debate over the New Hampshire bill to avoid drawing national attention to it.

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Mr. Connerly, of the American Civil Rights Institute, said the passage of the New Hampshire measure is one of three recent developments signaling an increased willingness by state legislators to support the sorts of affirmative-action restrictions previously passed only through state referenda. Arizona lawmakers voted in 2009 to put on the 2010 ballot a ban on the use of affirmative-action preferences by public colleges and other state agencies, which voters passed. And Oklahoma lawmakers voted last year to put such a ban on the ballot this fall.

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