Affirmative Action FAQs

What is Affirmative Action?

Affirmative action is defined as “the practice of improving the educational and job opportunities of members of groups that have not been treated fairly in the past because of their race, sex, etc.” Affirmative action programs began following the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
(Merriam Webster)

Does ACES participate in affirmative action?

ACES is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer and thus is committed to ensuring that its programs and employment opportunities are available to all citizens without regard to race, sex, religion, color, national origin, age, disability, protected veteran status, genetic information, or any other classification protected by applicable law. This commitment includes involving citizens in needs assessment and the implementation of these programs.

Do county offices contribute to affirmative action?

Every Extension office is required to develop and implement an Affirmative Action Plan. The plan serves as a guide for actions in program implementation and ensuring equal access to programming opportunities. The plan is based on the principle of ensuring balanced participation in the system’s planning structure, program delivery actions, and ultimately in program participation. County Extension Coordinators are required to provide an annual report describing affirmative action efforts and successes.

Where is the Affirmative Action Plan housed?

The plan is included in each county’s active Civil Rights file. The Civil Rights file should contain

  • A copy or a summary of pertinent laws and ACES and university policies.
  • The current county affirmative action plan.
  • A file of the documented efforts labeled “All Reasonable Efforts.”
  • Any other documentation of civil rights information such as meeting minutes where civil rights items were discussed, list of complaints, and copies of civil rights information sent to staff.

What is included in the Affirmative Action Plan?

Each plan has three main sections: situational statement, affirmative action goals, and specific strategies for accomplishing the goals. The situation statement includes county demographics, special target audiences, languages spoken in the county, and information about the diversity of staff and volunteers (bilingual speakers, composition of advisory groups and programming committees, and a list of groups and organizations that help us reach targeted audiences.)

The affirmative action goals are proactive (affirmative) actions planned to ensure broad participation by county residents.

Action strategies should be as specific as possible and should include those efforts the county staff intends to initiate during the program year.

What are affirmative action procedures?

Affirmative action procedures are those actions that encourage participation from underrepresented groups. These actions will be a normal part of day-to-day program planning and delivery. While staff may adapt procedures to fit their needs, all staff must:

  1. Ensure that advisory councils are representative of all segments of the population of the community or county. Grassroots plan of work meetings should also be representative of all segments of the population of the county.
  2. Seek assistance of underrepresented groups in helping to increase their involvement.
  3. Select meeting places and times which encourage rather than inhibit participation from underrepresented groups.
  4. Announce meetings, activities, events, etc., in a manner that reaches all segments of the population.

What are “all reasonable efforts?”

“All reasonable efforts” consist of a series of approaches that are required of Extension staff to solicit participation of the underrepresented group. These are used in addition to affirmative action procedures, and are required when programs do not meet balanced participation requirements. Some situations that call for “all reasonable efforts” include the following: (a) an Extension sponsored or assisted group that does not reflect the racial composition of the target community, (b) advisory or decision-making groups that do not reflect the composition of the potential audience, and (c) program participation in which certain groups are consistently underrepresented.

Written records of letters, phone calls, and visits will be used as documentation that “all reasonable efforts” are being implemented. A file of the documented efforts labeled “All Reasonable Efforts” will be kept in the office. The steps in “all reasonable efforts” must be repeated and documented until balanced participation is met and maintained.

How do we document affirmative action compliance?

The following records are required in each county to document Affirmative Action compliance:

  1. Membership of councils with race, ethnicity and gender designated
  2. Program participation by race, ethnicity and gender
    1. Meeting rosters for public trainings and activities
    2. Summary contact data from ACES
  3. Evidence that all mailings and news releases contain the nondiscrimination statement
  4. Dated and signed statements from Extension sponsored groups acknowledging the leader’s understanding that their membership is open to all (can be done as a group or individually).
  5. Nondiscriminatory membership statement is present in all by-laws.
  6. Evidence that newsletters include the procedure for filing a complaint at least annually.
  7. A copy of mailing lists with race, ethnicity and gender designated

I’m not a County Extension Coordinator. Do I have a role in implementing affirmative action?

Yes. If you are an agent—regional, county, urban, or rural—or an agent assistant or educator, your role is to make every effort to ensure you have balanced participation throughout the program cycle (planning and delivery, as well as program participation). You must maintain files listing your program advisory and planning committees in addition to volunteer lists and program participant sign-in sheets. If you work with volunteers, you are responsible for ensuring that they understand that discrimination is not allowed.

If you are an administrative support assistant, your role is to help ensure that the office is an open and inviting place for everyone. You are also responsible for helping maintain the Civil Rights file: add copies of mailings, news releases, and other pertinent information as it is received.

No matter what position you hold in the organization, you should conduct work, clubs, committees and programs without regard to race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, sexual orientation or national origin.

What if someone believes they’ve been discriminated against?

Any employee who believes they have been discriminated against may seek resolution through a variety of paths. Discrimination may be reported to the supervisor. To initiate a complaint contact:

ACES Business Office
(334) 844-1326

AAMU affiliated employees
AAMU Resources Office
(256) 372-5836

AU affiliated employees
AU Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity
(334) 844-4145

Employee or clientele complaints involving any Research or Extension sponsored program or activity may be directed to:

USDA
Director Office of Civil Rights
Room 326-W Whitten Bldg.
14th & Independence Ave. SW
Washington, DC 20250-9410
(202) 720-5964