Affirmative Action Axed
April 3, 2004 10:33 AM
The university that touts diversity has just canned the office that ensures it.
SF State’s President Robert Corrigan in the opening days of spring break announced the closure of the 20-employee Office of Human Relations (OHR), due to budget cuts.
Two of the three programs — Human Relations and Affirmative Action and Employment Equity Program (AAEEP) — that operate within the OHR will be cut and their duties reassigned to other departments. The third, the Disability Programs and Resources Center (DPRC), will remain intact and merge with Student Services.
Joe Torres, director of the AAEEP, will lose his job.
“My position has been eliminated and I will have to leave the university,” Torres said in an e-mail on Wednesday, March 25, that was forwarded to Xpress.
Dean of Human Relations and psychology professor Kenneth Monteiro, whom Torres reports to, will lose his deanship and return to his faculty position. Monteiro was unavailable for comment.
The rest of the staff in the human relations and affirmative action programs will be given other positions on campus, said Christina Holmes, interim director of the Office of Public Affairs.
While Holmes characterized the cut as “draconian,” she stressed that SF State is experiencing a financial crisis.
“The university is facing an $11 (million) to $14 million budget reduction for the 2004-2005 fiscal year,” Holmes said. “Every division within the university will be taking painful cuts.”
The fiscal year begins July 1.
By cutting this office the university will save $402,013 – the OHR’s annual budget. This will compensate for between 2.9 percent and 3.7 percent of the university’s budget reduction.
Responsibilities of the OHR are to ensure SF State complies with state and federal regulations on equity and discrimination, provide conflict resolution consulting services and help create educational programs on diversity, according to its Web site.
The AAEEP ensures campus work environments are free from discriminatory discrimination and promotes diversity through specific actions, according to its Web site.
The office will close on June 30, Holmes said.
Corrigan's decision to close the OHR shocked and outraged some.
“Fundamentally, the president's decision is a clear statement on the importance of Affirmative Action and Equal Employment Opportunity at this university,” Torres said.
“His actions say we can't afford it ... It's not a basic value of this university ... that its programs have little or no priority and people won't question or challenge his judgement (sic) on the elimination because he's in the midst of a budget crisis.”
The duties of the OHR, including Affirmative Action, will be reassigned to other departments in the university, Holmes said.
“Issues of affirmative action, discrimination and sexual harassment will be parceled out to other SFSU offices,” said Mary Grant, chief steward of SF State’s chapter of California School Employee Association (CSEA).
Torres questioned the president’s decision, saying Corrigan cut the office to appease critics.
“Other than the generic budgetary rationale that has been given to us, the President has not give us any specific reasons as to why OHR was chosen for complete elimination,” Torres said.
“I can only assume that we were politically (vulnerable) and made 'sacrificial lambs' to appease critics of Corrigan's administration during this budget crisis,” Torres said. “The fact that Ken (Monteiro) and I have aggressively pushed for diversity in various areas at this university for the past 6 years did not endear us to some in the administration as well as some in the faculty.”
Corrigan was unavailable for comment on the OHR closure.
Some contest that the OHR was not fulfilling its stated mission.
“While I agree that OHR does an exceptional job of arranging forums, staff experiences on issues of discrimination and sexual harassment have not been good,” Grant said.
“CSEA has been extremely disappointed by the failure of this office to seriously investigate charges of discrimination by staff, faculty and administrators against CSEA-represented employees.”
After several years experience in dealing with the AAEEP office, Grant said the employee association issued a vote of no confidence and now utilizes services elsewhere.
“CSEA will do whatever we can to support its closure, and we welcome the fresh air as well as the opportunity to adjudicate our issues in other venues,” Grant said.
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