By Hanh Quach
Arizona Daily Wildcat
TEMPE Ÿ An open forum held Thursday night titled "Affirmative Action: Is change in the Air?" allowed citizens from around the state to discuss the tide of affirmative action with lawmakers, including Arizona Board of Regents President-Elect John Munger.
The forum was presented by the Arizona State University Campus Environment Team.
Roughly 80 people met at the ASU College of Law to ask how changes in affirmative action policy would affect school systems and what groups would be affected. Present to answer questions were Munger, state Rep. Scott Bundgaard, political consultant Alfredo Gutierrez and state Sen. Sandra Kennedy.
"The purpose of affirmative action was to guarantee equality and stamp out discrimination. Preferences and quotas are not consistent with Title VI, 1964," Munger told the group.
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964 under President Lyndon Johnson's administration. The bill prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, color, or national origin by education programs receiving federal funds.
"When we start giving money to programs for one person at the expense of another, someone's getting hurt," Munger said.
At the University of Arizona, race-based financial aid stands at 3 percent, Munger said. Although this number is small, Munger said he questions, "Does that mean a little discrimination is OK?" Munger also said the UA bases graduate assistantships on race.
Munger and Gutierrez debated on whether white professors set aside a number of assistant positions to be fulfilled by minorities.
"Fire the white guy," was Gutierrez's solution.
"This is a socioeconomic problem, not a race problem. We are now more of a divided country than we ever were," Munger said. "If we are a society that accentuates race, we've got a problem," he said.
Rhonda Wilson, ASUA Minority Action Council director, said that doing away with race-based scholarships may send the wrong message to students.
"The university is committed to minority recruitment and retention. If they get rid of minority scholarships, 3 percent of the total, then what message does that send?" she asked.
UA junior Nikki Raymond told Munger, "You don't know what it feels like to be discriminated against everyday. You won't know what it feels like until you go to a predominantly black university."
"The day this country does away with discrimination, is the day we don't need affirmative action," Gutierrez said.
"I'd like to see that we have learned from our history and from our past mistakes," said Bryan Edens, an ASU international finance freshman. "Let's not turn this into a racial debate, because it's not strictly race, it's more of a socioeconomic problem."
Socioeconomics deals with the level of income, education level, and areas where students live. Edens said it is hard to break free from certain socioeconomic groups.
Edens said though he agrees with Munger's ideas, "I don't agree with the way he was presenting himself as a white-upper class man," he said adding that many comments made by Munger caused an obvious tension in the room.
ASU communications junior, Dana Schode said many in the audience were being racist by stereotyping Munger based on his age and race.
A point all four government figures agreed upon was that affirmative action in Arizona needed to be revised.
"Affirmative action is just 30 years young. Rather than do away with it, we should repair it in some way and make it better," Kennedy said.
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