In the presentation, Dr. Milione argued that Italian-American representation on the faculty and the staff had remained flat — between 5 percent and 6 percent — over three decades, while that of groups like blacks, Latinos and Asians had climbed.
"Did affirmative action work at CUNY?" he asked in a recent interview. "Yes. But it did not work for Italian-Americans." The New York office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that his suit had merit.
CUNY officials said that Dr. Tamburri would not comment, but they defended the university's record. As of last fall, they said, Italian-Americans represented about 7 percent of the full-time instructional staff of 11,000, up from 5.8 percent in 1981. While the increase was modest, it occurred while the proportion of white employees fell sharply, to 54 percent from 74 percent, as the university strove to hire blacks and Latinos.
"Were CUNY not proactively engaging in affirmative action for Italian-Americans, one would expect to see Italian-American representation in CUNY fall at the same rate as that of whites," Jennifer S. Rubain, university dean for recruitment and diversity, said in a statement. "That has not happened."
Like other research universities that receive federal money, CUNY must extend affirmative action hiring protections to a variety of government-designated groups, including blacks and Latinos. University officials say the Department of Labor reviews its progress periodically, but not its efforts for Italian-Americans, because those are voluntary.
Obviously, there's no anti-Italian bias. This is a standard case of mandatory affirmative action for minorities causing an overall drop in white employees. (And Italians are actually faring better than others, as their numbers have increased slightly in spite of that, thanks to voluntary efforts by CUNY.) But instead of faulting the unjust quota policy that passes European-Americans over for jobs, Milione et al. are trying to blame CUNY for the fact that Italians aren't one of the "government-designated groups" who receive affirmative action. A commenter on the NY Times website injects some sanity into the discussion:
I don't see how Italian Americans can qualify for affirmative action programs since Italians are white. Perhaps a claim of reverse discrimination would be more appropriate here.
Indeed. Yet in the article, one of the plaintiffs insists that the problem is specific to CUNY by noting the following:
Joseph V. Scelsa, who was one of the institute's first directors and led the legal fight that resulted in the settlement, said Italian-Americans seemed to be well represented on the staffs of other New York-area colleges, but had long been mistreated at CUNY.
For those unfamiliar, CUNY is New York's public university system, with 70% minority enrollment, and another commenter, himself a CUNY academic, provides a more likely explanation for the observed disparity:
I'm a first-generation Italian-American, a CUNY graduate, and a CUNY faculty member. Italian-Americans may be under-represented at CUNY because, on average, as students, they can afford to go elsewhere and, as adult professionals, they may choose jobs that pay much more and that have more prestige among their upwardly-mobile peers.
So Italian-Americans are doing fine at more prestigious universities without affirmative action, and steering clear of CUNY by choice. Conclusion: Milione and his gang should crawl back into the hole they crawled out of...or at least get a clue and take a page from the New Haven firefighters' playbook.