In Support of Affirmative Action
We write in support of affirmative action as a legal policy with a specific history. On October 26th, the Cardinal Conservatives sponsored an “affirmative action bake sale” to protest affirmative action because it supposedly “perpetuates racism,” according to the group’s founder who was quoted in The Argus (“Political Bake Sal Sparks Debate,” Oct. 29, 2010). This claim is one of the most common responses to Affirmative Action. As such, it is part of a broad political backlash that misrepresents the intent behind and the historical development of the policy.
The first federal articulation of Affirmative action came about through Presidential Executive Order 11246 in 1964, which made it the policy of the Government of the United States to provide equal opportunity in federal employment for all qualified persons, to prohibit discrimination in employment because of “race, creed, color, or national origin,” and “to promote the full realization of equal employment opportunity through a positive, continuing program in each executive department and agency.”
The purpose of the directive was to ameliorate nearly two centuries of exclusion of U.S. domestic racial minorities who had endured the legacies of genocide, settler colonialism, enslavement, and racial apartheid prior to the Voting Rights act of 1965. The second articulation was issued in Executive Order 11375 in 1976, which added sex to other prohibited forms of discrimination in the federal government in an effort to address the long legacy of gender discrimination.
The federal government subsequently passed several other laws prohibiting discrimination, including the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which prohibits discrimination in terms and conditions of employment among persons between the ages of 40 and 65 (it was later amended to raise the protected age from 65 to 70); Title IX of The 1976 Higher Education Amendments, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex or blindness; The Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which requires employers to take affirmative action to recruit, hire, and advance in employment qualified handicapped individuals; The Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974, which requires affirmative action for qualified disabled veterans and veterans from the Vietnam era; and The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which provides disabled people access to employment, public service, transportation, and telecommunication.
It is our understanding that Wesleyan University is committed to equal opportunity and affirmative action in keeping with federal legislation and local laws that prohibit discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, and veteran status. Wesleyan, therefore, makes concerted efforts to recruit, employ, and promote qualified members of minority groups, women, handicapped individuals and disabled veterans, and Vietnam-era veterans who qualify for the positions for which they are being considered, as is the case for all other candidates who do not fall under the groups covered by the laws.
Additionally, and importantly, Wesleyan University has a stated commitment to prevent discrimination on the basis of marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression as part of a broader commitment to equal opportunity and to the promotion of a diverse campus and workforce. The University, therefore, has both an institutional responsibility to seek out the most talented people and a social obligation to further the goal of achieving equality of opportunity.
These institutional commitments have been misconstrued as a system of “racial preferences” (or worse, a “racial quota” system). We support open and honest discussion and debate about such matters, but we oppose as mere race baiting any and all efforts to scapegoat people of color among the students, faculty, staff, and administration on this campus and to undermine the University’s commitment to equal opportunity and diversity.