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April 18, 1975 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1975-04-18

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Page Twelve ,


E-riday, Rpril 18, IV in

Page Twelve THE MICHIGAN DAILY 1-reday, April 15, I'9I~





. . ..



Faith Co






ction ?

Recent actions by the University call into question the good
faith commitment of the University to implement affirmative action
in general and the GEO-University affirmative action agreement in
What are the University's affirmative action obligations? The
U.S. Health, Education, and Welfare Department's 1972 Higher Edu-
cation Guidelines on Executive Order 11246 state:
AFFIRMATIVE ACTION requires the contractor to do more than
ensure employment neutrality with regard to race, color, religion, sex,
and national origin. As the phrase implies, affirmative action requires
the employer to make additional efforts to recruit, employ, and promote
qualified members of groups formerly excluded, even if that exclusion
cannot be traced to particular discriminatory actions on the part of the
employer. The premise of the affirmative action concept of the Execu-
tive Order is that unless positive action is undertaken to overcome the
effects of systemic institutional forms of exclusion and discrimination, a
benign neutrality in employment practices will tend to perpetuate the
status quo ante indefinitely.
Affirmative Action Requires
Active Recruitment
The GEO-U Memorandum of Understanding on Affirmative
Action (see box) calls for the establishment of an affirmative action
program for Graduate Student Assistants (GSA's) based on relevant
HEW guidelines. HEW guidelines call for active recruiting to over-
come underrepresentation of minorities and women. Recruitment is
a key feature of a good faith affirmative action effort. Only with
active recruiting policies can progress be made toward ending insti-
tutionalized discriminatory patterns and bringing full integration.
On March 31, the University Administration sent a memoran-
dum to its Advisory Committee stating that the University was not
required to improve the recruitment of minorities and women into
the graduate student pool as part of its contractual obligation to
GEO. We maintain that this "interpretation" of the GEO contract
is in fact a contract violation, a violation which we will fight.
The University maintains that it has general, legal obliga-
tions to recruit minorities and women-but not contractual recruit-
ment obligations to GEO. The weaknesses in the University's general
implementation of affirmative action principles, as illustrated in the
case of Jewel Cobb, are well known. The University has for years
been under a legal obligation to establish affirmative action for
GSA's and has failed to do so. The GEO-UM affirmative action
agreement was aimed at correcting this failure.
The University appears to be attempting to cut away from the
GEO affirmative action agreement at both ends and leave nothing
in the middle but data gathering. On the one hand, the U says the
obligation to step up recruiting of women and minorities is not part
of our agreement. On the other hand, it now seems that the Univer-
sity Administration thru President Fleming wants to circumvent
the language of the GEO-U Memorandum which states that "to
meet the goals and timetables, departments and units are expected
to hire appropriately qualified members of underutilized groups."
An Excuse for Inaction
The University Record of April 7 was largely devoted to a
Special Report on Affirmative Action. The focus was on a December,
1974, H.E.W. memo by Peter E. Holmes, director of the Office of
Civil Rights of H.E.W. The Holmes memo says: "Colleges and uni-
versities are entitled to select the most qualified candidate, without
regard to race, sex, or ethnicity, for any position." The memo has
been sharply criticized by others in the Federal Government, in par-
ticular the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, for its primary emphasis
on avoiding so-called reverse discrimination.
President Fleming offers the following interpretation of this
conservative H.E.W. memorandum: ". . . the federal government
states unequivocally, for the first time, that universities are 'to
select the most qualified candidates' for an open position.. ." Flem-
ing quotes the memo out of context and distorts it in two ways:
1. The Holmes memo says universities and colleges "are entitled to"
hire the "most qualified," whereas Fleming asserts they "are to".
2. The Holmes memo is the interpretation of the particular white male
currently in charge of H.E.W.'s Office of Civil Rights; it is not the
unequivocal stance of "the federal government".
Furthermore, Fleming implies that previous affirmative action
guidelines involve hiring unqualified persons, although the 1972
H.E.W. Guidelines state explicitly that . . .
The affirmative action concept does not require that a university employ
or promote any persons who are unqualified.
Fleming's endorsement of the Holmes memo, let alone his distortion
of it, is an indication of bad faith. It shows that the University in-

Memorandum of Understanding:;
The University and the Union agree to hold a spe-
cial conference by April 1, 1975, for the purpose of dis-
cussing the inclusion of Graduate Student Assistants in
an affirmative action program which meets relevant HEW
Thereafter the Universtiy, on a department or unit
basis, will conduct a utilization analysis and determine
whether or not there are deficiencies. For this purpose the
availability pool for an employing department or unit is
defined as those graduate students within the department )
or unit, or from those departments or units from which
graduate student assistants are normally selected, as the
case may be, meeting the eligibility requirements for em-
ployment in this bargaining unit during the term for which
the analysis is made. Where a deficiency exists, goals and
timetables will be established and determination off defi-
ciencies, a special conference will be held to review the
The University will make a good faith effort to
meet the goals and timetables. It is understood that a goal
is not a quota, thot each department or unit is responsible
for determining qualifications for any particular position
and that to meet the goals and timetables, each deport-
ment or unit is expected to hire appropriately qualified
members of underutilized groups.
The University will monitor this program and per-
iodically meet in special conferences with the Union to
review progress and to discuss identified problem areas
The parties to this memorandum, through their
mutual cooperation, will make a good faith effort to com-
plete the analysis and implement this program consistent
with relevant HEW Guidelines by September 1, 1975.
tends to ignore the spirit of its affirmative action obligations to in-
crease the employment of minorities and women, using the guise
that white males are more qualified.
Although Dr. Nellie Varner's opinion is ignored in the lead
article of the issue on affirmative action, elsewhere in the Record
Varner, director of U-M affirmative action programs, states that
reverse discrimination is a "myth" and "simply a means of scape-
goating on the part of the white male." Yet the Record sees fit to
reprint the entire Holmes memo and characterize it as a response
to "fears by many within higher education that affirmative action
leads to 'reverse discrimination' . . ." Good faith affirmative action
requires the establishment of new hiring and recruiting policies
and attitudes. There can be no affirmative action unless the univer-
sity administration fights those in the university community who
oppose affirmative action in principle and who have the manage-
ment authority in departments and units to sabotage new programs.
An All-Fronts Attack
On Affirmative Action
The Administration appears to be engaged in a general cam-
paign of encouraging these conservative elements. In the same week
that the Special Report on "Affirmative Action" appeared in the
Record, there was a Special Report in Diagonalia, the publication
of the Literary College. The Diagonalia Report featured an extract
from a work by Stephen Cahn entitled The Eclipse of Excellence.
The thrust of the article was to criticize any movements aimed at
democratizing the University. Cahn advocates the continuation of
the present decision-making structures in the universities and, by
implication, of the present race, sex, and class-biased determina-
tions of qualifications and excellence. As an indication of the Ad-
ministration's values and attitudes, the Diagonalia article must be
seen as part of a University assault on affirmative action.
Maintaining the Status Quo
What does Fleming's call for hiring only the "most qualified"
mean in practice? It means, of course, a continuation of the status
quo of discriminatory practices and patterns in hiring. Clearly,
white male dominated departments believe they hire the "most
qualified" candidates now, so why change anything? As far as the
GEO-U agreement is concerned, the Administration first attempted
to omit recruitment as part of the new affirmative action program.
Now it wants to undercut affirmative action hiring even from the
existing pool by giving departments and units the green light for
continuing their old hiring practices.

"Most Qualified" versus
"Appropriately Qualified"
Fleming's remarks in the Record are especially questionable
when one recalls the bargaining history behind the GEO-U agree-
ment on affirmative action. The University first said it had no in-
tention of having affirmative action included in the GEO contract.
When presure built up against the U, it proposed language from the
December 1974 Holmes memo, i.e. departments and units were to
hire the "most qualified" applicants. Further, the U sought to base
our affirmative action program on relevant H.E.W. guidelines "and
interpretative memoranda." GEO refused to go along with either of
these University proposals for language, seeing in them attempts to
prevent any meaningful affirmative action. Due to the support from
other members of the University community, particularly the Blak
United Front, Mecha and East Wind, GEO was able to eliminate
this restrictive language. Now, however, Fleming apparently wants
to bind us to an interpretation of affirmative action that was spe-
cifically repudiated at the bargaining table.
The language of the GEO agreement to hire "appropriately
qualified" members of underutilized groups has a sound practical
and legal basis. Subjective and discriminatory criteria have often
been used to exclude qualified minorities and women. H.E.W.'s
Guidelines state that affirmative action means "that any standards
or criteria which have had the effect of excluding women and min-
orities be eliminated, unless the contractor can demonstrate that
such criteria are conditions of successful performance in the parti-
cular position involved." The onus is on the employer to prove the
validity of "standards" being used in hiring.
The H.E.W. Guidelines call for the use of hiring and promo-
tion "standards and criteria (which) are valid predictors of job
performance including whether they are relevant to the duties of
the particular position in question." The lead Record article of
April 7 cites the Office of Federal Contract Compliance's Revised
Order No. 4 to which the University is subject. The Record fails to
note that this order says that affirmative action programs should
include, among, other elements: "Consideration of minorities and
women not currently in the workforce having requisite skills who
can be recruited through affirmative action measures." Thus th#
order states an obligation to hire those with requisite skills not the
so-called "most qualified".
Graduate students at the University of Michigan are being
trained for professional jobs in teaching and research. It is GEO's
belief that most graduate students are "appropriately qualified" for
appointment as graduate student assistants. In a memorandum to
the University, GEO recommended the following approach to hiring
"A GSA position must be considered a job, and not a reward for aca-
demic excellence. All criteria used in making appointments of GSA's
will be published and made available to potential applicants.... To en-
sure that good faith affirmative action efforts take place, separate files
on women and minorities must be kept and appropriately qualified mem-
bers of these underutilized groups hired to meet the goals and time-
Criteria used to exclude minorities and women must be eliminated
and members of these underrepresented groups appointed in pro-
portion to their share in the graduate student population. An ac-
tive recruitment policy must be carried out to see that the share
of these underrepresented groups in the graduate student popula-
tion 'is increased in proportion to their share in the general popu-
If the University had followed through on its 1970 commit-
ments to the BAM strike, at least one of the groups presently un-
derrepresented on campus would be closer to the goal of equitable
representation. At this very moment, however, the University has
shown no willingness to make clear and firm its obligations to pro-
vide any graduate minorities adequate funding for the 1975-76
academic year. Such an act of bad faith sets in motion the by-now
familiar cycle:
1. Minorities are discouraged from applying or, if here, from
2. the already deficient pool drops to an even lower level;
3. the restricted pools provide a further excuse to deny em-
ployment opportunities as GSA's;
4. lack of teaching and research experience limits employ-
ment potential after graduation, thus permitting colleges
and universities to use the effects of discrimination as cri-
teria for further discrimination.
At the heart of the University's attack on affirmative action
is the conflict within itself stemming from its irrational fears of
equality. In these days only the most rabid of sexists and racists
would openly deny to women and minorities the opportunity for
access or even "advancement." But neither access nor advance-
ment is at issue any longer: The only genuine issue before the Uni-
versity at this time is the question of its ability to face squarely
and humanely the necessity of moving towards equity.






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