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Updated 10:00 AM March 14, 2005




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Coleman: Affirmative action synonymous with progress

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President Mary Sue Coleman said affirmative action not only is needed to promote women and minorities, but to ensure Michigan and the country can compete in a global market.
(Photo by Paul Jaronski, U-M Photo Services)

"I realize that we are facing great challenges as a nation. We are facing global competition,'' Coleman told a crowd March 11 at U-M-Dearborn campus. "We have to look for talent everywhere. Women don't go into science unless they receive encouragement and that has to start in high school and grade school or they will not be able to catch up."

Coleman and several prominent women leaders in Michigan spoke during an event sponsored by the Michigan Women's Summit 2005: Challenges to Equity, the kick-off of a statewide public education campaign on the benefits of affirmative action and outreach programs for women.

Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon, Western Michigan University President Judith I. Bailey and Lansing Community College President Paula Cunningham also participated in the panel discussion via satellite.

The group addressed the negative effects of a proposed amendment to the state Constitution seeking to end affirmative and its impact on higher education.

In her remarks, Coleman countered the myth that affirmative action jeopardizes quality.

"We don't give up one inch of quality,'' she said.

"I don't view that [affirmative action] as preferential treatment. It's simply removing the barriers to allow you to perform, and it pays off for everyone."

Coleman warned that passage of the amendment could undermine efforts statewide to promote women.

"My role here is to let everyone know about the unintentional consequences (of the amendment) and to let everyone know of the benefits that have accrued from affirmative action," Coleman said.

She held up the University's ADVANCE project, saying that since 2001 the hiring of tenure-track women in science and engineering at U-M has increased from 20 to almost 40 percent.

"We got the best women," Coleman said. "We've made a lot of progress but we have a lot to do."

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