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Looking at Diversity Policies

KSMU is bringing you a month-long series called Diversity Dialogues as part of Black History Month. This week, we examine diversity policies, like affirmative action. KSMU's Emily Nash reports on different kinds of diversity policies in the Ozarks.

There are several different kinds of diversity policies.

These policies are meant to promote diversity and equality in work and educational environments.

Affirmative Action is one of these policies.

It was established as a civil rights program in 1965.

John Black is the General Counsel at Missouri State and Jana Estergard is the Equal Opportunity Officer for Missouri State.

They explain what Affirmative Action is and why it's in place.

"Affirmative Action is a program that was imposed not by congress, but by act of the President of the United States, President Johnson, to require people that did business with the federal government to adopt certain policies and rules. And those rules, involve non-discrimination and equal opportunity.

And the concept was, that people would look at their work force, and examine whether or not their work force employed in various capacities people based on the percentages of women and minorities that would be expected just from a statistical review."

"Affirmative Action starts far before that hiring position. An effective Affirmative Action program really needs to start to even start to conceive of filling of a position. You need to factor in things such as, is the job description written broadly enough to include women and minorities. Have you placed ads in location and gauged in active recruitment endeavors that women and minorities are qualified for that particular job would apply for your job. How is the search committee conducting the interviews and what kinds of questions are you asking."

"Affirmative Actions does not require a particular hiring decision in any particular case. The primary rule is still qualification of the applicants for the position. So, if a person is better qualified, it doesn't really matter what their race or sex would be. The best qualified person is entitled to the job. All Affirmative Action requires, is that the employer be aware of whether or not the population is reflected in its work force, and take steps to advertise those positions so that everyone can be aware that the job is open and can apply."

"The primary disadvantage that I would see is the fact that it is misunderstood. And has been misunderstood. There is still a large number of people in the United states, who believe it is a quota system and it is somehow being unfair to a group of people, white males specifically. That's probably the most regrettable situation about Affirmative Action."

Nadia Kamazi, a sophomore at Missouri State says seeing minorities in high positions, affected her decision to attend the university.

"When you look at schools you want to go to, you want to be more comfortable, so if the university you go to, not only are you going to be a minority but you really are among everybody, the faculty, the professors, the deans, everybody that you see, the faces in high power, are all of one race, it's a little bit threatening."

There are three diversity policies that federally contracted institutions have.

Jana Estergard explains the difference between non-discrimination diversity policies, Equal Opportunity Statements, and Affirmative Action policies.

"Diversity really encompasses the broad spectrum of...of who we are as humans in terms of our personal traits, our intellectual traits and such; color, race, gender ethnicity, but also those things that make us unique unto ourselves. Equal Opportunity however, is really what I would suggest to being the core concept uniting or unifying diversity and affirmative action. Equal opportunity is typically a body of either state laws, federal laws policies...that as a state institution, ensure that people have an equal opportunity to participate without needing to worry about their non-merit factors such as you know your sex, your age, things like that. So, it really is an equalizing type of facet but it is not a proactive approach necessarily like affirmative action is."

Larry Maddox is the president of the Springfield NAACP chapter.

He says Affirmative Action programs helped women overcome discrimination, and will hopefully do the same for ethnic minorities.

"The government definition of minority lists all of your ethnic groups as well as women. With Affirmative Action being in place, women had an opportunity to progress to CEO's and presidents of companies, where as when you look at the African American, Hispanic population, we are still somewhat lagging a great distance."

Join us next Wednesday as we conclude our month long series, Diversity Dialogs.

We'll look at how people embrace diversity in the Ozarks.

I'm Emily Nash for KSMU News.