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Affirmative Action Transparency Strangled In Committee

Updated: Apr 13

Legislators missed a golden opportunity yesterday to establish transparency in public universities in Arkansas. From the Associated Press:

A proposal to require public universities in Arkansas to disclose if they use race or ethnicity when considering applicants has failed to advance out of a House committee following concerns the move is unnecessary. Members of the State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday voted 8-5 in favor of the bill, which needed 11 votes to advance out of committee. Republican Rep. Justin Gonzales of Okolona says his bill would increase transparency. Democratic Rep. John Walker of Little Rock says the change is unneeded and adversely targets minorities. Supporters say they aren’t aware of public institutions in the state using race, ethnicity or other demographics for enrollment.

The bill, contrary to Walker’s claims at the hearing, doesn’t “adversely target” minorities. It merely requires public universities to disclose what, if any, favorable/unfavorable treatment they give to applicants based characteristics such as gender, religion and the color of one’s skin. As Rep. Justin Gonzales, the sponsor of the bill, said at the hearing:

Our public colleges, universities, and graduate schools are not required to disclose the methods they use if and when they treat people unequally. This is a problem, in that educational administrators are by and large unaccountable for the civil rights decisions they make, even though they oversee organizations funded by taxpayers. In order to make sure that our public institutions are fully compliant with with the guidelines for preferential admissions and preferential treatment, this bill does what we should already have been doing: it requires public institutions to disclose the methods they use if those methods involve unequal treatment.

Local governments, public schools and universities are already required to annually disclose to the Bureau of Legislative Audit (BLA) how they spend taxpayer dollars. This bill would merely place a similar disclosure requirement on public universities regarding possible affirmative  action policies. You can read the bill here. Today was just another example of the sad fact that while some legislators may campaign on openness and transparency in government, when it comes time to vote, they show they aren’t serious. P.S.: The only Republican present at the hearing to vote against the bill was Rep. Kelley Linck. Rep. Charlotte Douglas, a Republican, didn’t vote even though she was present at the hearing. All Democrats attending the committee voted against the bill.

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