Affirmative Action and Civil Rights
Read Chapter 13, ACES Policy Manual.
Watch this narrated PowerPoint.
Affirmation of ACES Commitment to Civil Rights (October 2015)
What is Affirmative Action?
Affirmative action is defined by Merriam-Webster 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 began after the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
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, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, or disability. This commitment includes involving citizens in needs assessment and the implementation of these programs.
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. A guide and a template for your county affirmative action plan can be found here.
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, the 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, the 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 “all reasonable efforts?”
All reasonable efforts consist of a series of approaches that are required to solicit the 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. The following are examples of situations that call for all reasonable efforts.
- An Extension sponsored or assisted group that does not reflect the racial composition of the target community,
- Advisory or decision-making groups that do not reflect the composition of the potential audience, and
- 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 the list maintained.
How do we document affirmative action compliance?
The following records are required in each county to document affirmative action compliance.
- Membership of councils with race, ethnicity, and gender designated.
- Program participation by race, ethnicity, and gender.
- Meeting rosters for public training and activities.
- Summary contact data from ACES.
- Evidence that all mailings and news releases contain the nondiscrimination statement.
- 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).
- Nondiscriminatory membership statement is present in all by-laws.
- Evidence that newsletters include the procedure for filing a complaint at least annually.
- 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.
If you are a specialist, your role is to develop new or modify existing educational materials and curriculum that meet the needs of underrepresented audiences. You are responsible for working with those who deliver the programs to ensure that content is appropriate for the specific audiences.
No matter what position you hold in the organization, you should conduct work, club and committee meetings, 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 the ACES Business Office, or AAMU affiliated employees may contact the AAMU Resources Office at (256)372-5836; or AU affiliated employees may contact the AU Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity at (334) 844-4794 or the AU Human Resources Department at (334) 844-4145.
Employee or clientele complaints involving any Research or Extension sponsored program or activity may be directed to the USDA, Director Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W Whitten Bldg., 14th & Independence Ave. SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 (202)720-5964.