Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
August 8, 1997

Affirmative Action tests new strategies

More help coming for those involved in searches, disputes

by Linda Charles

Affirmative Action staff hope to be more proactive this year. Departments seeking diverse pools of job applicants and employees and students with discrimination and disparate treatment disputes will find a different emphasis in the Affirmative Action Office.

"We recognize that this office exists as a compliance function, and while that is still our highest priority, we need to realize that people, as well as processes, are our business," said Carla Espinoza, assistant vice president of human resources and interim director of affirmative action. "We're testing some new strategies and techniques to be more helpful to departments when they conduct searches and make hiring decisions, and also to be more helpful to students and employees when they file complaints. These should ease the university's compliance burden."

Edna Young Clinton, formerly a personnel specialist in the Merit Employment Office, now is a program assistant in the Affirmative Action Office and will be available to help departments conduct diverse job searches.

"We need to distinguish between outreach and recruitment. To do affirmative action lawfully and successfully, the work needs to be done up front and early in the search process," Espinoza said. "The sooner departments contact Clinton, the better."

Clinton will advise department officials and search committees on how to secure diverse pools of candidates, write job advertisements and measure candidates' success potential. She also will maintain contacts with groups and universities that could yield leads on diverse pools of applicants, especially graduates of predominantly minority colleges and universities.

"Affirmative Action is fundamental to creating diversity," Clinton said. "I want to be instrumental in changing the perspective of Affirmative Action efforts as a hiring 'obstacle course.' Affirmative Action can be used as a positive management tool."

Among Clinton's first efforts will be setting up a Web page offering hiring guidelines and hints, Espinoza said.

Workplace complaints

Another person to contact early is Evie Myers, who has been appointed fact finder and mediator for student and employee complaints. Complaints run the gamut from workplace violence to sexual harassment to discrimination.

"My job is to get people to air their concerns early and to guide them through a system that listens," Myers said.

Myers will be responsible for early intervention, and dispute and complaint resolution, Espinoza said.

"Our goal is to get parties together as soon as possible to figure out what is going on and address it," Espinoza said. She added that early intervention often can keep an informal complaint from escalating into a formal complaint.

This year, the Affirmative Action Office has received 14 informal complaints and seven formal complaints, Espinoza said.

In informal complaints, the affected parties try to negotiate a resolution. Formal complaints are handled in a very structured manner and involve a fact-finding process, she added.

Espinoza said vacancies in the Affirmative Action Office allowed her the flexibility to create the two new positions. Espinoza will assess the success of the plan over the next year.

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