Monday: State question on affirmative action detailed
BY WAYNE GREENE World Senior Writer
Sunday, October 21, 2012
10/21/12 at 3:14 PM
A proposal before state voters Nov. 6 bills itself as ending affirmative action programs in broad categories of state and local government activities, but opponents say it would do little, except paint the state in a bad light.
State Question 759 expressly prohibits affirmative action programs in employment, education and contracting.
The measure allows exceptions for court-mandated affirmative action, situations where affirmative action is a requirement to qualify for federal funding and when “gender is a bona fide qualification.”
While 115 state agencies had affirmative action programs on file in the last count by the state Office of Personnel Management, it is unclear how much impact SQ 759 would actually have.
State higher education officials, for example, say they are unaware of any programs that would be affected by the proposal’s passage.
Ben Hardcastle, spokesman for the state Regents for Higher Education, said no financial aid programs administered by the state regents, including the Oklahoma Promise program, have any affirmative action component.
Spokesmen for the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University said they were unaware of any of their programs that would be affected by the proposal’s passage.
State Rep. T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, led debate for the proposal when the state House considered it in 2011.
“We want to send a message in Oklahoma that everybody is playing on a level playing field,” Shannon said in a recent interview. “Those of us in a minority category don’t have to have a separate set of standards in order to compete.”
Shannon, who will be the speaker of the House next year, has mixed racial heritage — black and Chickasaw Indian — but said he doesn’t think he has ever benefitted from an affirmative action program.
He has, however, found himself in situations where people assumed his accomplishments were the results of affirmative action.
“Frankly, it’s insulting,” Shannon said. “I know that many other minorities feel the same way.”
SQ 759 doesn’t apply to private-sector programs or federal mandates, and it doesn’t eliminate programs that seek to raise opportunities for people on the basis of socioeconomic factors instead of racial or gender standards, Shannon said.
Read more in Monday's Tulsa World.