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New Strategies Needed to Challenge Anti-Affirmative Action
From: Hispanic Engineer and Information Technology, June/July 1998

A recent Los Angeles Times article about a major municipal public works project reported that the number of contracts awarded to minorities and women has already exceeded the goals set for the project. Basking in the glow of this success, and in an obvious reference to the repeal of set-aside programs for minorities and women on California state projects, one public official was inspired to comment triumphantly, "We don't need a law to tell us to do the right thing."

Having just interviewed Richard Tapia for the article published in this issue, I was reminded of Dr. Tapia's concern that indeed the law can prevent us from doing the right thing. For Dr. Tapia, and others concerned with increasing the number of women and minorities in science and technology, the newest challenge is creating programs to accomplish that goal and still keep within the limits of the law.

In the meantime, we must live with the aftermath of the ban on affirmative action policies in some states. In California, we must live with the reality that three University of California campuses are already reporting drops of up to 45 percent in the number of Latinos and African Americans admitted for the coming academic year. According to UC Davis, admissions for Latinos at that campus declined 20 percent. UC San Diego is reporting a decline of 31 percent for Latino admissions. The numbers for UCLA and UC Berkeley are expected to decline by as much as 50 percent to 70 percent for both groups. These numbers are even more significant because the number of minority applicants to these campuses actually increased.
"The only answer is to reaffirm our commitment to our youth."

In the face of such dire numbers, the only answer is to reaffirm our commitment to our youth. And it is reassuring to know that our students can still depend on the outreach efforts of organizations like the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, the Mexican American Engineers and Scientists, and the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science. In today's political environment, these groups form a critical lifeline to aspiring students and professionals in science and technology. For more than 20 years, they have brought hope and achievement to our communities. But their biggest challenges lie ahead, challenges that will require new strategies and stronger working alliances. We applaud the steps they have taken in this direction, as we remind them that every step toward that goal brings our community closer to its goals. More than ever, we need their strong leadership.

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