Is Arizona’s Ban on Equal Opportunity Having an Effect?

Following Arizona voters’ approval in 2010 of Proposition 107 — which placed a ban on equal opportunity programs in public higher education, employment, and contracting — state university officials are saying it is still too early to determine the law’s impact, according to reporting by Cronkite News.

Admissions officials at Arizona public undergraduate universities said that race, ethnicity, and gender were never considered in undergraduate student admissions, although schools are committed to a diverse student body that is a reflection of the state demographics. Others have said the schools have never been selective enough for race to make a difference.

However, for Arizona’s public law and medical schools race had been considered as one of many factors in creating a diverse class of students, in addition to factors such as academic performance, work experience, and socio-economic status.

One academic class has been admitted since the ban took effect, and both of the public law schools in Arizona have seen about a three percent drop in minority student enrollment, while the medical school’s minority student enrollment has remained the same. Meanwhile, overall undergraduate enrollment of minority students has increased slightly since Prop 107 went into effect.

Passed in November 2010 with 60 percent of the 1.6 million votes cast, Prop 107 was brought to Arizona by anti-equal opportunity activist Ward Connerly. Working with the state legislature, Connerly helped refer to the ballot an amendment to the state’s constitution to ban state programs that “grant preferential treatment to or discriminate against any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.”

To date, Arizona joins other states such as California, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Washington in codifying a ban one equal opportunity programs that permit preferential treatment.