The hot topic of affirmative action hit Eastern’s campus lastThursday as students, teachers and area professionals informed thestudent population and local residents about the intricacies of thelaw.
Dr. Finnie, EWU African American Studies Professor, was amongthe speakers. Finnie introduced the topic of affirmative action andgave a brief background and astounding present day examplesincluding the Michigan Law School suit.
The suit involves two white students who applyed for admissioninto the law school, but were denied acceptance. The students areclaiming minorities who apply to the school receive unfairpreferences.
Finnie also discussed the 20-point system for minorityadmittance. This system gives students points for some of thefollowing: being a minority, family members who had gone to theschool before and low income.
Three students followed Finnie and gave personnal accounts ofaffirmative action in their own lives. From being disrespected andstunned by a Washington State Senator, as Armando Munguiadiscovered, to the role of ‘devil’s advocate’ played by BryanRyerse, the testimonials hit home with the audience.
Armando Munguia, ASEWU Legislative Liaison, gave first handtestimonial of his experiences with Washington State Senate memberswho have no grasp of present day affirmative action. “A senatorcame up to me, shook my hand and said it was the first time he hadever shaken the hand of a Mexican,” Munguia said.
Munguia focused on the race aspect reflecting how “there’salways a minority corner,” he said.
Munguia gave two examples dealing with this reflection. Thisfirst involves separation at basketball games for the variousnationalities on campus. For example, the AUAP students tend to sitnext to each other. This same situation applies to the averagelunch room. People will sit in their comfort zones.
He also spoke to how employers don’t focus on qualificationsanymore, now with the help of affirmative action they look at thewhole picture. They take a look at a person’s background andpersonality to develop an understanding of the potentialemployee.
Munguia ended his portion of the talk by stating, “affirmativeaction will hurt people, but it will also help.”
But while Munguia is fully for affirmative action,Communications major Bryan Ryerse played the ‘devil’s advocate’ forthe opposing arguments of affirmative action.
Even though Ryerse spoke against affirmative action he isactually for it. Ryerse spoke on ethnic and racial diversity, the”lost PR battle” and the myth that affirmative action stayed in the50’s and 60’s.
EWU Government major Jose Montoya took the stage to spread hisown experiences with affirmative action.
Montoya offered some insight into the political frame ofaffirmative action and gave some advice about organizations that”have really messed up ideas.” Along with some books that offerworthwhile information about affirmative action such as a “ClosingThe American Mind.”
The final speaker for the evening was Vince Lemus, an EqualOpportunity Employer, who spoke of his experiences over the pastdecade in the job market. For the past 20 years, Lemus has helpedminorities find job placements as well as performed workshops aboutaffirmative action.
Lemus more specifically spoke on demographics and an inside lookat the job market offered because of affirmative action.
He conducted a demonstration with five volunteers from theaudience to show the inner workings of affirmative action. Thevolunteers included a white man, a deaf white woman, a white woman,and two black males.
The volunteers were placed in front of obstacles on the groundwhere they had to pick up pieces of paper that representedobstacles for their minority. Some of these included being deaf,female, and a black male.
During the demonstration, the white male didn’t have to pick upanything because he had no barriers. The other volunteers picked uptheir signs and had to walk at an even pace and pick up theirdifferent pieces of paper at the different obstacles. The whitemale was always two-steps ahead of the other volunteers.
This proved that white males in the world are always ahead. Onceaffirmative action came into play, the barriers were eliminated andeveryone was fighting amongst themselves to be recognized. Thisbrought about competition in the volunteers.
“Minorities and women are given special considerations inemployment, education, and contracting decisions,” Lemus said,”affirmative action is not to give a leg up but to eliminate thediscrimination of the fore fathers.”
According to Dr. Finnie “women are the greatest beneficiaries ofaffirmative action.”
As the meeting came to an end, the seats that were once filledto capacity began to thin, and a few brave individuals faced themicrophone to ask the panel of students, professionals and teachersquestions about what they just learned.
“We have all inherited a mess that we are not responsible for,but what do we do to make it better,” Dr. Finnie exclaimed. “Iappreciate Romeal for taking action to get this done.”
Romeal Watson and Margaret Warren, both EWU students, were themasterminds behind this event.
“We began to really sit down and plan this event around thebeginning of April, but we’ve been wanting to get it up and runningfor a while,” Warren said.