Attacks on affirmative action misdirected

Here we go again. Could I be so bold as to speculate that the attacks upon affirmative action are none other than crass, egotistical enumerations of a narrow-minded and selfish upper class whose fears of sharing the American dream may very well come to fr uition? Well, let me assure those would-be thespians who play the role of my cohort in the fight against inequality, but secretly share the beliefs of apartheid, that I have never, nor have those who walk by my side, sought the sympathy of another by wail ing like a child and wallowing in self pity.

In the Sept. 6, 1996 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education, we are treated with manifestations recounting when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit said one cannot use race as a basis for laying off a white teacher. The Board of Education of Piscataway, New Jersey decided to lay off a white teacher instead of an equally qualified African American teacher in the interest of diversity, considering the African American teacher was the only one in the school's business department.

On the following page in the same edition of the Chronicle, there is an article that talks about how the three Arizona universities (NAU, UA, and ASU) have "watered down" there affirmative action programs in an attempt to call less scrutiny to them by the Arizona Board of Regents. Recall that the new president of the board, John F. Munger, at one time called for a review of all such programs to assess their usefulness. When the assessments were presented at the board's August meeting in Flagstaff certifyi ng the effectiveness of these programs and their compliance with federal guidelines, Mr. Munger was not impressed and reiterated his quest to end all such programs.

Although Mr. Munger supports so-called "college outreach" programs, he believes that affirmative action programs are bastions for racial preference and a mechanism for reverse discrimination. Although there may be minor changes to some programs, all three universities vowed to continue their respective affirmative action efforts in an effort to assist women and minorities to obtain a complete education.

It might prove beneficial to survey the recent offensive visited upon affirmative action. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit struck down an affirmative action plan at a Texas law school. This ruling effects Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Th e ruling in the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affects Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and the Virgin Islands.

In California, the University of California Board of Regents eliminated all affirmative action programs for admissions. Tack on the California Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI) and California has waged an all-out war on affirmative action. Assuming the actio n by the UC Board of Regents or the CCRI are challenged in court, as most expect they will be, the resultant court battle will most likely end up in federal court - the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affecting Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, N evada, Oregon, Washington, California and Guam.

In all, there are fifteen states that have, or will, call into scrutiny some type of affirmative action plan, potentially rendering it no longer viable. This is a war of attrition - calculated, precise and well planned. I do not believe the war to be mal icious. I do not believe that racist, redneck fatcats are conducting planned, surgical annihilation of programs that assist people of color or women.

I do believe that some people have become indifferent and intolerant. The days of worldwide, American dominance over so-called third-world people are no longer. Some see their economic and autonomous strongholds as crumbling. The fortitude of people of co lor has become a force to be reckoned with at the expense and chagrin of the displaced American worker. Jobs are decreasing and global competition is increasing. The easy target are those who seek and need assistance, those who come from another country, and those are considered just plain different.

I say these attacks are misdirected, the attackers misguided. I say affirmative action is the change that will bring about the resources we all need to become a global leader. Affirmative action is positive change for all of us. A better educated populace , well-rounded and insightful CEOs, diverse politicos, and a nation that utilizes the wealth of its many inhabitants can only succeed. Affirmative action is a tool - a tool that leads to positive change.

David H. Benton is a third-year law student, member of the ASUA President's cabinet and Arizona Student Association board member. His column, 'Another Perspective,' appears Tuesdays.