Maintain opportunity for all; vote “no” on Prop. 107 - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Maintain opportunity for all; vote “no” on Prop. 107

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Posted: Thursday, October 28, 2010 3:22 pm | Updated: 7:26 am, Fri Oct 29, 2010.

In a world of equality, a world in which discrimination no longer exists, preferences based on race and gender would be unnecessary and offensive. But we live in a world that is not yet equal. The decision to completely ignore what makes us unique will only serve to pronounce our differences and widen the opportunity gap. For this reason, we and 98 fellow Arizona law students stand against Proposition 107.

A yes vote for Prop 107 is a vote for inequality and regression. The deceptively titled “Arizona Civil Rights Initiative” proposes a step backward for women and minorities across the state. Proponents of the measure — many of whom are out-of-state interest groups — have clouded the debate with words like “civil rights,” “quotas,” and “reverse discrimination.” This confusing language provides a false promise of justice, which undoubtedly has contributed to the initiative’s mischaracterization in the media.

If passed, Prop 107 would have a devastating impact on public education. The proposition would undo decades of progress and eliminate dozens of university programs that encourage capable but under-represented students to apply to school, stay in school, and thrive.

The measure’s greatest proponent, California businessman Ward Connerly, has traveled across the country, lobbying to eliminate equal opportunity programs. Voters in California, Michigan, Nebraska and Washington have already fallen victim to Connerly’s multi-million dollar effort. According to the Arizona Secretary of State, Connerly’s California interest group has contributed $75,000 to ensure the measure passes — more than twice as much as all major Arizona contributors combined.

In an effort to confuse voters, Prop 107 supporters have falsely alleged that our university admissions departments use quotas to fill classes. Quotas are not used, and are unconstitutional.

If Prop 107 passes, it will damage Arizona legal education by substantially changing the admissions process. As law students from Arizona’s public institutions, we were admitted after a comprehensive review process that assessed each applicant as an individual. Each student admitted possesses the necessary qualifications to attend law school; the question admissions committees face is how to choose between the thousands of qualified applicants. The admissions process takes into account a range of factors in each applicant’s background, including race or ethnicity and gender as well as socio-economic status, personal achievement, public service, area of legal interest, and other dimensions of an individual’s identity.  This process creates a diverse student body that seeks to reflect the population that we will serve after graduation. As students at public institutions, we have an even greater interest in service to our communities, which is enhanced by diversity in our training.

As Arizona law students, we are better prepared for our careers thanks to the diversity of our peers. Being part of a diverse law school body is part of the necessary training for a lawyer. Exposure to viewpoints different from our own is crucial to our understanding of the law and its impacts. Our classmates have worked in various careers, traveled to and lived in foreign countries, speak languages that we do not, have different racial backgrounds, and grew up in neighborhoods very different from our own. If our admissions process completely disregarded our unique characteristics, what would be left — especially for applicants for whom these characteristics have been defining factors in their interest in law?

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, an Arizonan, has written that “access to legal education…must be inclusive of talented and qualified individuals of every race and ethnicity, so that all members of our heterogeneous society may participate in the educational institutions that provide the training and education necessary to succeed in America.”

Maintain opportunity for all; vote “no” on Prop. 107.

Meaghan Kramer and Priyanka Sundareshan are third year students at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law.

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