Affirmative distractions

It was just another day at Capitol Hill when our hungry public representatives did what they wanted under the political guise of “doing what’s right.” Last week Rep. Curtis Oda introduced a new resolution to amend the Utah Constitution and end preferential treatment, or what might be better known as “affirmative action.” It’s a legal attack on an already tired front in a long-standing political debate.

UVU could take a hit if this proposal is passed. Philip Clegg, Assistant Dean of Student Life, said that until the wording of the bill is determined and then examined it’s hard to say exactly what impact UVU students will feel, but the most obvious would be scholarships awarded to students belonging to a minority group. The number of those scholarships would be limited as the tax-drawn funds that UVU receives for those scholarships would decrease or dissolve entirely. That’s bad news for the downtrodden but good for the Type-A personalities.

Of course private scholarships, which vastly outnumber public scholarships in this classification, would remain unaffected. The requirements of a private scholarship are determined by the individual donating the funds, which is fair; private funds should be distributed by the benefactor’s desire and not dictated by some legislative mandate. Public funds, the ones staring down the barrel of the legislative gun, are a completely different matter.

Affirmative action leans heavily on equal rights for support. However, the special treatment given to one due to race, sex, or social class seems like it hasn’t evened the scales, but instead tipped them in favor of the browbeaten. There are several scholarships for students that belong to minority groups.

These ethnically and gender based scholarships sting like a backhanded compliment. Instead of awarding the student for academic excellence, they are based on circumstance. The check might as well read, “We didn’t think you’d make it, so congratulations.” This affirmative action idea perpetuates the backwards thinking that provoked the preferential treatment in the beginning.

Without this preferential treatment, merit would be relied on more than circumstance. But awards based on merit aren’t unfair. Instead of singling out someone for race, gender, or otherwise and awarding them; the student should be treated with real human dignity and recognized for actual achievement. That’s more rewarding than receiving an academic handout for one’s background or belief.

It’s argued that this bill, if passed, will just set society back to where it was. What a slap in the face of society and an insult to the collective intelligence. There’s no problem in removing the training wheels that affirmative action provided. The only problem with this bill is that it’s yet another addition to a list of laws that’s already too long. It’s another politician pushing for votes to further a political career.

Preferential treatment is as unnecessary as the law proposed to eradicate it. Political activist Ward Connerly of California visited Utah to lobby in favor of the bill saying that a similar ban in his home state has had no negative repercussions. This is the twenty-first century and the times have changed; it’s time to heed the call and continue moving forward.

Alex Sousa is studying journalism in UVU’s communication department. He’s serving as the managing editor at the UVU Review as well as the editor of the music blog on uvureview.com. He’s had experience working as a freelance writer and also as a copy writer at a marketing agency. Currently he’s working as the Editor-in-chief of the Utah Tech Magazine, an interactive, digital publication. He’s a Utah native who’s traveled around the world; having lived in Mexico, backpacked through Europe, studied in the Middle East and—for a time—been stranded in the Ukraine. He can be found on Facebook and he’s available on Twitter @TwoFistedSousa or by email at aljosousa@gmail.com.

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