Regents look to affirmative action review

The Associated Press

A proposal that would require Arizona's three state universities to review their affirmative action programs and determine the programs' necessity will be addressed by the Board of Regents this week.

Regent John Munger, who has pushed for such an analysis, said his purpose is to find out ''where we stand.''

''It's my goal to see that people are treated on an equal basis and to eliminate discrimination based upon race to the largest extent possible,'' said Munger, who complained earlier this year that the universities' programs for minority students are discriminatory.

Board president Eddie Basha said the majority of board members support affirmative action. But when a board member feels strongly about an issue, it's appropriate to study and discuss it, Basha said.

If the board approves the studies tomorrow, the universities will look at each of their affirmative action programs to make sure they are in compliance with Board of Regents policies. The universities also will be required to determine whether each program is still necessary to carry out its original objective.

The studies and any recommendations for change are to be completed by June.

The regents also are expected to approve a statement during tomorrow's meeting in Tempe reaffirming the board's ''underlying and ongoing commitment to diversity both among the work force and among the student population.''

While some may view the proposed study of affirmative action programs as an attack on them, several regents said they might have just the opposite effect.

''It could go the other way. They (the universities) may not be doing as much as they could be,'' said regent Art Chapa, adding that the self-studies may reveal a bigger effort is needed.

Chapa said his major concern is that the board ought to be spending its time discussing other topics, such as undergraduate education, enrollment growth and tenure.

''I think there are a lot of issues that are more important that we need to be focusing on. It's unfortunate that he (Munger) has chosen this as a priority,'' Chapa said.

Regent Judy Gignac said the studies are likely to show that the affirmative action programs are in line with board policies and state and federal regulations. Gignac said she has no objection to a formal study of the issue.

''It's taking a close look at ourselves in the mirror,'' she said.

Munger said his goal is not necessarily to eliminate the programs but to open the successful ones to all students. He has said he objects to race-based financial aid.

The affirmative action debate was spurred in part by this summer's vote at the University of California to eliminate race as a factor in admission and hiring. Arizona's three universities do not consider race in admissions nor do they set minority hiring quotas.

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