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What will Arizona look like in a world without affirmative action?

The dust has settled and the verdict is clear. Though wavering in their support for medical Mary Jane, Arizonans were emphatic in their support of the Civil Rights Amendment. Indeed, according to exit polls, 99.9% of “yes” voters attributed their support to THIS VERY BLOGGER’S endorsement. Fancy that!

But really, how will things change now that state can no longer mandate racism in university admission, government employment, and the awarding of contracts?

Will we see riots in the streets induced by confusing ballot language, or a domino-like collapse of whole university departments, as certain prop 107 detractors predicted before the vote? Unlikely. The latter prediction in particular, in addition to general doomsaying about the fate of minorities in the state post-prop 107 appear  to be grounded more in apocalyptic Miss Cleo predictions (Lebron James going to the Wizards?!) elicited during a drunk dial rather than in the facts of the matter.

Jeff Milem, the associate Dean of the College of Education, has predicted that undergraduate enrollment in the state will not see a shift of the likes California experienced after its own civil rights amendment in 1996, however, simply because Arizona’s universities already have virtually open admission anyway.

The real impact, Milem continues, will be felt in the more competitive graduate programs, where many departments currently use funds from the UA Foundation, a nonprofit corporation, to fund fellowships targeted towards minority students.

The first argument, while true in part, elides the patterns we’ve seen in the UA’s enrollment strategy over the past few years. We’ve done a decent amount of analysis on this front, and what’s clear is that the notoriously opaque “Enrollment Management” office has in recent years been making a concerted effort to increase Hispanic enrollment as a percentage of freshmen enrollment, for once the university reaches that magic 25% marker, the Title V billz start pouring in.

Without any reference to institutional support or improved graduation/retention rates, however, artificially increasing the enrollment of a particular minority group amounts to little more than exploitation. And this gets us to the point of the post!

The callously exploitative tendencies administrators exhibit towards minority students in enrollment are symptomatic; the attitude towards superficial “diversity” metrics nourished by long-standing affirmative action programs are the proximate cause. Programs that define diversity solely based on accidents of birth (race, gender, etc) simultaneously encourage people, administrators or otherwise, to fit students into convenient statistical boxes. One’s character, talents, ability, and personality all become secondary to the fact that he or she belongs to a particular demographic.

Vishal Ganesan blogs at the Desert Lamp. He is a member of the Student Free Press Association.

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