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By Zach Thomas
Arizona Daily Wildcat
February 4, 1998

Affirmative Action law clears hurdle

PHOENIX - A hotly-contested proposal that would stamp out affirmative action in state-funded programs could slice some UA minority student services and university recruitment policies if it becomes a law, university officials said yesterday.

The bill, which narrowly passed a Republican-dominated Senate committee in a party-line vote yesterday, would put a referendum on the November ballot to let voters decide whether state-funded programs can take into account race, sex, color, ethnicity or n ational origin.

University of Arizona President Peter Likins said specific consequences of what he called a "sweeping" proposal remained unclear, but an impact on the UA is inevitable.

"It would seem to prohibit encouraging the diversity of applicant pools," Likins said, adding that UA recruiters often target minorities as candidates to be students or employees.

"You make a concerted effort to reach out for the minorities," Likins said. "We go to regions in the state where people are less likely to apply."

After the recruitment stage, however, minorities are subjected to the same application process as everyone else, said Likins, who spoke against the proposal before the Senate Government Reform Committee yesterday morning.

Carol Thompson, who heads the UA's Office of Minority Student Services, said she was still trying to assess the proposal's possible impact.

"If you look purely at the words and you look at the eligibility requirements for minority student services, there definitely would be some impact," Thompson said.

Students must be a member of a minority group or receive need-based financial aid to utilize resources at the Minority Student Services office.

According to Thompson, 87 percent of freshmen minority students participate in at least one program through her office.

"It would be a major impact not to be able to provide specific academic services to these students," she said. "We are all trying to get a good assessment of that as we do not want to do a disservice to the students."

The possible effects on the Office of Minority Student Services do not hold for minority student resource centers, like the Native American Student Center, which any student may utilize regardless of minority status.

"We will not be affected, because we are open to any student," said Salomon Baldenegro, the UA assistant dean of Hispanic student affairs.

Baldenegro said the proposal could also affect some private minority scholarships and fee waivers that receive matching funds from the UA. Those matching funds could be cut off, although the private money would remain unaffected.

Likins agreed and said, "My understanding is this legislation would not impact the use of private moneys."

The UA Attorneys' Office is also looking into the bill's possible impact, and interim General Counsel Tom Thompson, who is heading up the inquiry, said the investigation was just beginning and spoke only in generalities.

"The university has a number of federally mandated affirmative action programs that probably wouldn't be affected," he said. "There are a number of retention-based programs that would be affected that would affect our ability to maintain and promote diver sity on campus."

He added that some programs designed to aid minority students in academic trouble also might be cut.

"That would be a detriment to the university," Thompson said.

Proposed by Sen. Scott Bundgaard, R-Glendale, the anti-affirmative-action bill is similar to highly publicized legislation passed in California last year that was sparked by established quota systems for both student enrollment and employee hiring in the state's university system.

Arizona, however, does not have a system like California's old one.

"The university has never had quotas or set-asides," Thompson said. "We're not like California. We didn't get too far out of line, so we don't have too much to change."

Likins took a stance similar to Thompson's.

"What they're trying to do is take issue with something we don't do," Likins said of SCR 1005, which he called an "uninformed strategy."

"It's a solution in search of a problem," he quipped, adding that the UA does not consider minority status either in accepting student or hiring employees.

"We make decisions by looking at the talents of individuals," he said.

Debate in the 2 1/2-hour-long committee hearing yesterday was intense, with some speakers alleging that the proposal was racist.

Shortly after noon, four Republican members of the Senate Government Reform committee voted for the bill while the three Democrats weighed in against the measure. Sen. Marc Spitzer, R-Phoenix, who earlier said he opposed the bill, was absent from yesterda y's hearing.

The bill, which has 37 co-sponsors, now faces a full Senate vote. Bundgaard could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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