In a discussion yesterday on the effects of affirmative action programs in the workplace, two scholars made a case against the contention that such programs breed prejudice and job dissatisfaction.
Alison Konrad, a business professor at Temple University, and Marylee Taylor, an associate sociology professor at Pennsylvania State University, discussed their research on the practical results of the use of affirmative action in employment.
According to Taylor and Konrad”s findings, there is a widely held misconception that affirmative action refers to racial preferences and quotas. They said this is usually not the case.
“People don”t understand affirmative action. Most people think it refers to preference programs,” Konrad said.
Instead, she explained, affirmative action in the workplace usually involves a number of complex initiatives designed to assess and rectify discrimination. This includes efforts to ensure women and minorities are encouraged to participate and are well trained.
Konrad said this differs from university admissions, which often use a preference system. The admissions policy at the University of Michigan is an example of this, and uses race as one of many factors in admissions. The hearing before the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on Oct. 23 will address the legality of such a preference system.
The main criticisms of affirmative action addressed and denied by the two professors were that it causes feelings of resentment by both its beneficiaries and their co-workers.
Opponents argue, Taylor said, that “affirmative action has had detrimental effects that may outweigh the positive” and that women and minorities can be “tainted by the stigma of incompetence” by the very process that seeks to help them.
These claims, according to Konrad”s and Taylor”s research, are unfounded.
In Taylor”s study, women and minorities were asked questions about their satisfaction with their jobs and lives. She found no evidence that subjects in workplaces using affirmative action are less satisfied than those in other workplaces.
Similarly, her survey of white men showed no disproportionate discrimination in businesses where affirmative action is used.
These results led Taylor to conclude that affirmative action causes no “boomerang effect,” or detriment to minorities.
LSA freshman Mike Lusard, who attended the event for his affirmative action class, said the professors were informative. But Lusard expressed disappointment that the speakers did not address the effects of affirmative action on college campuses.
“We focus more on education in class,” he said.
The discussion was sponsored by the University”s women”s studies program. It was the fourth in a series focusing on the relationship of affirmative action and the women”s movement, which continues Oct. 26.