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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

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Archives show affirmative action debate continues despite more than two decades of time

By Derek Blalock          Posted: 11/19/12 7:35pm         

With the six-year-old statewide ban on affirmative action struck down by a federal appeals court last week, The State News dug into the archives to find that 24 years ago, East Lansing struggled to keep the city’s affirmative action plan moving forward.

In the November 28, 1988 edition of The State News, East Lansing was striding toward a more equal and diverse city government.

Nearly a quarter-century later, I am sure the work place and admissions for universities have become a little bit better for women and minorities, and more diverse but we continue to hear stories of women being discriminated against when being admitted to colleges.

E.L. affirmative action plan lagging
By Jenny Cromie
State News Staff Writer
The City of East Lansing’s affirmative action plan to hire more women and minority employees has fallen short of this year’s projected goal, officials said.

Despite falling short of this year’s hiring goal, City Manager Tom Dority said East Lansing is on the right track.

“We haven’t attained the goals that we had hoped to at this date, but we are definitely moving in the right direction,” he said.

City officials wanted to have the same ratio of women and minorities in the government that exists in Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties’ labor market.

City officials hope to attain an 11.8 percent minority and 39.2 percent female employment standard within five years of the implementation date.

Last October, 25 minorities and 80 females were part of the 335 full-time employees working in city departments, said Michael Benedict, city human resources director and city clerk.

As of July, 23 minorities and 83 females were included in the 344 full-time employees.

Those figures reflect an employee standard of 6.6 percent for minorities and 24.1 percent for women.

David Jordan, chairman of the human relations commission, agreed with Dority’s assessment of the plan’s results.

“The plan was a part and parcel of the state’s plan for affirmative action — we’re in the flow f the state program,” he said. “But we need to turn the corner on this.

“You have to be sensitive to affirmative action goals because as a society, we’re simply not yet color blind or gender blind,” Jordan said.

The plan started new hiring procedures, which include more involvement from the personnel department.

Before the plan was incepted, individual department heads received applications directly and screened potential employees.

Also, members of the personnel department sit in on individual interviews.

Benedict said the personnel department is taking more of a “watchdog” role in hiring and recruiting employees.

“The personnel department sits in on interviews to make sure the goal of affirmative action is kept high in people’s minds and also to make sure people don’t inadvertently violate civil rights laws,” he said.
Under the plan, the city also has placed more emphasis on employee training programs and recruitment at other area agencies and colleges.

But despite these efforts, there has not been an outstanding increase in the number of women and minorities in city government.

City Treasurer Connie Larkin, who began working for the city nine months go, said the city has done a good job in trying to hire more women and minorities.

“But I would like to think that I was hired more for my qualifications than my sex,” she said.

The decrease in minority employees can be attributed to other employers luring them away from East Lansing city government with promotional job offers, Benedict said.

Last week, three female East Lansing police officers were sworn into the department.

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