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April 23, 2014

Local NAACP head says New York could be next

By Jessica Reynolds Staff writer
The Daily Star

---- — Oneonta NAACP President Lee Fisher said he would not be surprised if New York issued a law similar to the Supreme Court’s Tuesday decision to uphold a ban of affirmative action in Michigan public programs, including university admissions.

“Nothing really shocks me anymore with our Congress,” Fisher said. “It’s a shame that a law like that had to be implemented to begin with because people were not following the law or being fair ... With the elimination of affirmative action, there will still be problems because discrimination is still out there.”

Fisher said there are many reasons why a student might not do well in school and if colleges only select students that are on top, poor students from a low socioeconomic status won’t have a chance. Regina Betts, Oneonta NAACP vice president, said the purpose of affirmative action is to try to give persons of color a leg up to compensate for unfairness in their earlier schooling, where opportunity is often few and far between. 

“They have to have an equal chance,” Betts said. “This is a great loss. The Supreme Court making this decision is almost the same as Governor Wallace standing in front of the University of Alabama saying ‘Segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.’”

Betts said she does not think a similar ban will be passed in New York because the state has a strong NAACP and a long history of New Yorkers fighting for equal rights. She added that California, which also upheld the state’s decision to ban affirmative action, has already seen a decrease in college enrollment of black and Hispanic students.

Local college officials said Tuesday that the decision will not affect their admissions processes.

A statement from the State University of New York system stated that, while academic preparation is the primary factor for admission, there are many other aspects of a student’s background that are taken into consideration when evaluating applications, including community service, musical or artistic ability, athletics, family history and financial circumstances. 

SUNY Delhi’s president, Candace S. Vancko, said the college is one of the most diverse campuses in the SUNY system.

“We believe it creates a great learning environment and helps prepare students to live in a society that is becoming increasingly culturally diverse,” Vancko said.

SUNY Cobleskill’s president, Debra H. Thatcher, echoed this sentiment, saying that the college believes the current policy of affirmative action helps create a campus environment that prepares students to work in the global society. 

Margaret L. Drugovich, Hartwick College’s president, said the school has always placed a “premium on the fair and equal treatment of applicants to the college.”

“We will continue this tradition in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action,” Drugovich said.

SUNY Oneonta’s director of communications, Hal Legg, said the college firmly believes that diversity is an asset within the community.

“We consider diversity as one factor among several during the the admissions process, within the parameters set forth under law,” Legg said. “Today’s ruling won’t change that.”