Getting a college degree is more essential to success than ever before. Yet Arizona voters will see a proposition in November that questions if we should allow minorities access to programs designed to help them earn a diploma to help them succeed.
Proposition 107, also known as the “affirmative action proposition,” could end those programs, if passed.
However, the notion that affirmative action exists in Arizona is a misconception, according to Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix.
“What we do have are equal opportunity programs,” she said. “They are programs that allow people to succeed. Affirmative action is not legal in Arizona.”
Admitting a student of color to a university, with a greater consideration of ethnic background than academic qualifications, would be affirmative action. This is not allowed in Arizona.
“You get admitted [to universities] based on your merit,” Sinema said.
ASU has several programs that could be affected with the passage of this proposition, including Native American Summer Institute, ASU Summer Bridge and Women in Engineering and Science (WISE).
“The key drawback is to higher education,” Sinema said. “This amendment, if passed, would prohibit state funding to serve populations that are normally under populated on a college campus.”
According to The State Press, Proposition 107 could possibly dismantle ASU Summer Bridge, a successful transition tool for some freshmen. The program targets people in demographics where college attendance is uncommon.
A similar program in California was gutted after the passage of Proposition 209, which ended the state’s affirmative action programs. In 1997, then-California Gov. Pete Wilson decided that the California Summer Science and Technology Academy offered preferential treatment to minorities and women when the program’s stated purpose was to engage high school students who showed potential in math, science, and technology in university classes and activities.
“In the departments of science, math and engineering, women make up less than 25 percent of the population,” Sinema said. “WISE is a program that encourages more women to go into these fields. If Proposition 107 passes, we will lose all state funding to operate WISE.”
Proposition 107’s text is innocuous and innocent: “This state shall not grant preferential treatment to or discriminate against any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.”
While most people would support this statement as is, it would drastically change the makeup of ASU.
“ASU would look more like it did before we had these programs,” Sinema said. “Previous (University) presidents instituted these programs because they realized we were missing out on a key group that could be a part of Arizona’s economy.”
By putting certain groups of people at odds with attending a university, we put ourselves at odds with our state’s economy. These groups of people contain the next generation of entrepreneurs, doctors, teachers and legislators — all of which are imperative to the success of our state.
We must vote down Proposition 107 if we really do stand for justice and equality. It is important to give everyone a fair chance, even if that means providing certain programs to level the playing field.