As I’ve had occasion to quote many times, when both Presidents Kennedy and Johnson issued executive orders implementing affirmative action in the federal government (10925 and 11246), what they required was admirably principled and pristinely clear: agencies were to take affirmative action to ensure that
applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin. [Emphasis added]
Now, moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, Gov. Chester Culver of Iowa has issued a new state executive order requiring “diversity.” It is considerably less principled, and considerably less clear.
Read the whole thing here, since I’m not going to discuss all of it.
In the second “WHEREAS” clause at the beginning, the order declares that
a “diverse workforce” includes employees with differences in age, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion, or disability.
It then goes on to require all state agencies and departments to achieve and maintain such a work force by such measures as
- “developing a recruitment and retention plan that includes a timetable and achievement milestones”
- submitting a “Diversity Plan to the Diversity Council”
- “outlin[ing] the steps taken by the agency to increase diversity in the department by recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce”
- “outlin[ing] the steps taken by the agency to train employees on diversity-related issues”
- “outlin[ing] how the agency intends to increase diversity among its staff in the next year…”
- “describ[ing] any other efforts undertaken by the agency during the reporting period to encourage workplace diversity and celebrate diversity….”
- provid[ing] “[d]iversity training … for all state employees making hiring and promotion decisions within their respective agency…”
- etc., etc., etc.
To ensure that these (and other) actions are done, the state Dept. of Administrative Services
shall annually monitor the application of the screening methods used by state agencies, assess their impact on employee groups in the selection process and counsel departments with regard to selection processes that pose barriers to any applicant group. Where systems and methods to gather such selection data are inadequate, efforts to improve them shall be made.
It is revealing that the DAS, in monitoring compliance with the order, will not be concerned with determining whether there is any discrimination against individuals on the basis of their race, religion, creed, sexual orientation, etc. Apparently in Iowa only groups, not individuals, have rights. But let us set aside my usual concern with race discrimination since the governor’s order raises a number of other interesting questions, based on its requirement that the state of Iowa’s work force must contain an adequate diversity of people with, well, diverse creeds, religions, and sexual orientations. (Iowa officials: please refer to the numbers below in your responses):
- Will “all state employees making hiring and promotion decisions” ask prospective employees about their “sexual orientation”?
- Will they be given training in how to detect the “sexual orientation” of applicants who are reluctant to answer?
- Will all applicants be required to state their religion and their degree of active participation in churches, synagogues, mosques, etc.?
- How specific must this religious information be? For example, if “Baptist” or “Lutheran” is sufficient, then Southern Baptists or Missouri Synod Lutherans could be substantially under- or over-represented.
- Has Governor Culver received an opinion from the Attorney General’s office indicating that the state has the authority to hire, not hire, transfer, promote, etc., state employees on the basis of their religion?
- What is a “creed”? Will the Dept. of Administrative Services be preparing a list of creeds present in Iowa that must be represented? Is political ideology a creed? If so, what will be done about University of Iowa History Dept. discussed here?
- Without information of the sort mentioned above, wouldn’t agency “selection data” be guaranteed to be “inadequate”?
- Must every subdivision of every state agency, department, or office have a sufficient diversity of creeds, religions, etc., or will such adequate diversity be measured only in the aggregate numbers of the overall agency, department, or office?
- What are the acceptable parameters, if any, of under- or over-representation? That is, how many Jews in the law school or medical school, how many Asians in math and engineering, how many women in nursing are too many?
Finally, I wonder whether there are plans to increase the budget of the Attorney General’s office in order to staff the defense of the race, religion, sexual orientation, etc., discrimination suits that will inevitably be filed if all provisions of this order are taken seriously.
I asked, in No. 9 above, about “the acceptable parameters, if any, of under- or over-representation,” but I should have preceded that with a more general question: What does the Governor believe is the relationship (if any) between the “diversity” he mandates and the demographic, cultural, and religious make-up of Iowa? That is, should the “groups” about which he is so concerned be “represented” in the state work force in proportion to their numbers in the state?
I ask this, in part, because the most recent census data from Iowa reveals that, as of 2002, only 2.1% of Iowa’s population is “Black or African-American” and only 1.3% is “Asian,” a category that comprises seven different national origins (Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and “Other Asian”).
Thus, in addition to the question implied by my No. 4 above — in order for their to be sufficient Asian diversity, must state offices contain every variety of Asian, or are Asians so fungible that any Asians will do? — the No. 9 problem of over-representation of certain groups would appear to be as serious as the more familiar under-representation. That is, if substantially more than 1.3% of the employees of, say, some engineering program are Asian, would that be a problem that would need to be corrected by future hiring decisions?