September 14, 2010

Affirmative Action for Italian-Americans

From the New York Times, by Lisa W. Foderaro:
Of all the universities and colleges that offer protections for minorities, CUNY [City University of New York] appears to be the only one that has declared Italian-Americans an official affirmative action category in employment, promising special efforts to recruit, hire and promote them, according to national higher-education groups.

The declaration, made in 1976 and reaffirmed in later years, came after pressure from Italian-American legislators in Albany responding to complaints of bias from the faculty and staff. The lawmakers also created a research institute at the university to counsel students of Italian heritage and study “the Italian-American experience.”

Yet ever since, a group of Italian-American professors and staff members at the institute and at CUNY have been making the case that the university has failed them.

They have produced a paper mountain of manifestos, research studies and lawsuits, and exposed a deep vein of grievance in an ethnic group that has risen to prominence in fields like politics, law and medicine. Some of the dissidents have lamented that Italian-Americans are still stereotyped in popular culture as mobsters or muscle-bound buffoons; others have described an unsympathetic Italian-American administrator as an “Uncle Tony” — the equivalent of an Uncle Tom. 

What could be more surprising than to find out that giving out affirmative action preferences only generates more demands for more affirmative action preferences?

Back in 2003, I wrote:
If the government started giving out goodies to people born on Wednesdays, within a year we'd see pressure groups with names like The Children of Woe lobbying for continuation of Wednesdayians' privileges. PBS would be running Wednesday Pride documentaries during Wednesday History Month about famous Wednesdaytarians like Jimmy Carter, Bruce Lee, and Rosie O'Donnell. 

In illustration of my point, Foderaro continues:
Though CUNY vigorously denies the allegations, the critics have met with some success: Outside arbiters have largely upheld claims that Italian-Americans are underrepresented in university jobs. In a written opinion, the civil rights lawyer and federal judge Constance Baker Motley, who oversaw a settlement in 1994, called the group’s lack of progress “unconscionable given the existence of an affirmative action commitment.”

Still, for some who work in higher education, the notion of protections for Italian-Americans — at a university where 70 percent of the 262,000 full-time students are black, Latino or Asian — has prompted some head-scratching.

“In the diversity of the community that is New York City, it seems particularly unusual that Italian-Americans would be considered disadvantaged,” said Ada Meloy, general counsel of the American Council on Education. “After all, in New York we had an Italian-American governor, and we may have another one coming up.”
Having a black President, however, well, that's different! 

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 had succeeded in many spheres and seemed to be well represented on the staffs of other New York-area colleges, but had long been mistreated at CUNY. 

I wonder why ... 
“There have been so many cases of discrimination that I personally know of — from not getting hired to not getting promoted to not getting tenure,” said Dr. Scelsa, who is now president of the Italian American Museum in Manhattan. “It’s so clear that there’s been no serious attempt to increase our numbers.”

The latest skirmish centers on a lawsuit filed in July in United States District Court by Vincenzo Milione, a researcher at the institute, now known as the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute, in memory of the state senator who first held hearings on Italian-Americans at CUNY.

The suit says CUNY and the institute’s current director, Anthony J. Tamburri, retaliated against Dr. Milione, cutting his staff and rescinding a prestigious job title, after Dr. Milione, in 2006, made a presentation to Italian-American state lawmakers. 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.

The government does not allow hiring quotas for the groups it designates. But as a benchmark, employers must develop estimates of the groups’ availability in the labor pool.

Yet even agreeing on how many Italian-Americans are in that pool has proved hard for the university and its critics. Indeed, the 1994 settlement called for the appointment of an expert panel to help sort out the matter. One thorny issue was whether to include people who report Italian ancestry secondarily on the long form of the census — for example, a woman who lists herself first as Irish, then Italian.

The expert panel finally determined in 2006 that half of them should be counted.
A Solomonic decision well worth the 12 years it took to emerge.
Today, CUNY says, Italian-Americans make up 8.4 percent of the qualified candidates in the available labor pool; Dr. Milione has called that estimate low. ...

Others see the tortured history of Italian-Americans at the university as a case study in an old bit of wisdom: No good deed goes unpunished.

“The best of intentions are quickly mired in the potential for litigation and additional charges of discrimination,” said Andy Brantley, president of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources. “

Indeed.

50 comments:

jack strocchi said...

Speaking as an Italian-Australian all I can say is: where is Joey Gallo when you need him most?

jack strocchi said...

More generally, it beats me how any proud man from an ethnic group can reduce himself to a mendicant from the state in order to get promoted. As soon as you identify yourself as a "victim" you lose social-status, no matter how tough things are.

Who wants to be branded a loser?

Anonymous said...

Didn't Richard Lynn report last year that Sicilians have an IQ in the high 80s? Basically Italy south of Naples would be third world if the more Germanic half wasn't pulling the whole country.

Also goes that show that when this country becomes half minority, it won't necessarily go third world.

Anonymous said...

"Dr. Milione argued that Italian-American representation on the faculty and the staff had remained flat — between 5 percent and 6 percent"

Considering Italians are 14% of New York state and 20-25% of NYC this is really underrepresented

SFG said...

I always felt sorry for the Italians. Not smart enough to take up a quarter of Harvard, not stupid enough to suck welfare and get AA. And they've still got the Mafia stereotype.

Garland said...

I've always wondered how long it would be before whites were broken up into groups for the purposes of demanding government largesse. It's always happened a mite bit in the form of Italian Senators supporting Italian SCOTUS justices of the opposite party, or the left not wanting to fight Columbus Day in NYC, but basically whites have been so far too lumped together in the 40 years of the affirmative actions state for the issue to arise. The most obvious distinction is Jews vs white Gentiles; once you distinguish them you see how much less represented non-Jewish whites are in the supposedly-white power structure. But, just as whites will increasingly behave like minorities as they became one, it is probably only a matter of even less time before various non-wasp whites start behaving like non-wasp non-Jewish minorities.

Bantam said...

Not only Italian-Americans; it seems like another ethnicity has been wildly discriminated against at CUNY.

IHTG said...

Oh, wow, I have an Italian-American friend who went to CUNY. I'll never look at her the same way again.

And yes, of course, as America balkanizes, it's the Mediterranean whites who will "go tribal" first.

Anonymous said...

In this article one sees the tiniest hint of how a sane newsmedia would report on our debauched age. The sniff in the reporter's tone is unmistakable and her choice of ending quote is nothing short of contemptuous.

Of course this is because she thinks she's taking a shot at whites, rather than affirmative action.

Anonymous said...

What you need to figure out here is, who is the silent target of the Italian-Americans? My guess is that if you compiled a list of the faculty rolls as CUNY you'll find that it's not just a matter of Italians being underrepresented per se as you would other groups (perhaps one other group?) being humongously overrepresented.

On a separate note I have to say that growing up I couldn't even tell an Italian last name apart from any other, and certainly didn't associate any special stereotypes with I-As. (Hell, I didn't even know who they were.) But watching the Sopranos definitely did influence me. Weird.

Anonymous said...

All White Gentiles are massively underrepresented in Academia.

The fact that the Italians are smart enough to fight it a little should be commended.

Anonymous said...

"Didn't Richard Lynn report last year that Sicilians have an IQ in the high 80s?"

He was lying.

There haven't been any IQ tests given to Sicilians.

An IQ test is an intelligence test, and is therefore fundamentally different from the academic PISA test data Lynn wrongly attempted to convert into IQ scores.

Anonymous said...

The whole point of an IQ test is to try to measure innate intelligence.

In contrast, the point of an Academic test is partly to measure things like quality of schooling which are so often distinct from innate intelligence.

Anonymous said...

Also goes that show that when this country becomes half minority, it won't necessarily go third world.

It'll go Jersey Shore.

Anonymous said...

On a separate note I have to say that growing up I couldn't even tell an Italian last name apart from any other, and certainly didn't associate any special stereotypes with I-As.

You couldn't recognize Italian surnames?!?

Geoff said...

I scoff when I see "affirmative action" next to "equal opportunity." They are two totally different things. One of them kept me out of the University of Michigan, and the other one is common sense.

dearieme said...

You need a name for your strange system of racial privileges. It's doesn't keep the races separate, so it's not Apartheid. It is dystopian. How about Dyspartheid? Remember that that rhymes with "hate".

Anonymous said...

Judging by my "high school cafeteria" test, I think it will take a lot of generation for Italitians to see themselves as other than white. At my mulit-cultural high school they mixed witht he white kids at lunch. Popular Italian-Americans sat with the other popular kids, nerdy Italian Americans sat with nerdy kids, Band Italian Americans sat with the band kids. There was not Italian American cliche but NAMS sat together in their ethnic niches.

BamaGirl said...

They've probably just realized that the descendants of conquistadors are being counted as "hispanic" and thus riding the AA gravy train. Most Italian Americans are usually just as dark as these so-called "hispanics" so I can't really blame them for wanting a slice of the pie.

Anonymous said...

One thing one should bear in mind here is that this controversy is set in NYC.

Unless you've lived for some significant period of your life in NYC, you really won't be able to understand the level of preoccupation there is in NYC on ethnicity in all its strains. It is essentially the haven for those members of various ethnic groups who most powerfully desire to avoid assimilation. Members of ethnic groups who are, as individuals, open to assimilation, in greatly disproportionate numbers move elsewhere.

I can't think of a single other city in America in which ethnic infighting is so pervasive and aggressive.

If your model of how decisions get made at CUNY, is based on what you know of, say, UCLA or Harvard or Penn State or Iowa, then you are very much missing the real picture.

Without looking at the numbers, I can't say with any certainty that Italian-Americans are being discriminated against at CUNY, in favor of other better entrenched groups. But I know it would be completely naive to imagine that that isn't a very real possibility.

Dutch Boy said...

I suspect that white ethnics in general are under-represented in education and business (except political patronage jobs). Anyone have any numbers?

Anonymous said...

Italians should do everybody a favor and start claiming Hispanic heritage. We would have better qualified AA recipients. In fact, all whites should be claiming Hispanic, but Italians at least pass the sniff test better than others. Your great-grandpa was an Argentinian immigrant who reimmigrated back to Italy, Germany, England. Thus, your grandpa was Hispanic and so are you. Ridiculous? So's the racial spoils game.

"More generally, it beats me how any proud man from an ethnic group can reduce himself to a mendicant from the state in order to get promoted. As soon as you identify yourself as a "victim" you lose social-status, no matter how tough things are.

Who wants to be branded a loser?"

I wish you were more right, but there are plenty of folks who see gaming the system as par for the course. They justify it by assuming that others got there through knowing somebody or having special advantages. You are right to a degree, but honor is quickly fading.

-Mr. Hispanic

Marc B said...

"And yes, of course, as America balkanizes, it's the Mediterranean whites who will "go tribal" first."

We never weren't tribal. The only Northern European group in the US that have a similar sense of solidarity are unreconstructed Southern whites. Italians/Sicilians have never fully integrated into the Melting Pot. My people are a low social trust culture with one foot in the new world and the other in the old. It's not like the WASP elite that ruled until the late 20th century was looking to include us, but we understood, and there are no hard feelings. We're glad to be here, and understand every group takes care of it's own, or at least should.

But you don't have to worry about further Italo-American Balkanization. We may stick together, but we will always align with the Northern European founding stock when it hits the fan. There is no love between American Italians and the blacks, southern border invaders, or newcomers from the H1B and refugee zones.

ATBOTL said...

"More generally, it beats me how any proud man from an ethnic group can reduce himself to a mendicant from the state in order to get promoted. As soon as you identify yourself as a "victim" you lose social-status, no matter how tough things are."

Better to have a job through AA than not have a job.

Anonymous said...

Reply to anon at #3.

The flaw in your reasoning is this;
Even though Italians from the south may be a bit slower and thicker then those from the north, THEY ARE STILL ITALIANS.

Anonymous said...

"Didn't Richard Lynn report last year that Sicilians have an IQ in the high 80s?"

He was lying.





So you reject all of his other research? Look at Sicily. Look at the white underclass in New York. It all makes enough sense.

Anonymous said...

So you reject all of his other research? Look at Sicily. Look at the white underclass in New York. It all makes enough sense.

Southern Italian cities such as Naples do have that grimy, run-down Latin American city feel to them:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOj_N45SA_E

ATBOTL said...

Sicilians get picked on a lot around here, but many 100% Sicilians I have met are very Northern European looking, with blond hair, blue eyes and narrow skulls(as opposed to round skulls of most southern Italians). They are probably less swarthy on average than people from Calabria and Pulia. This stuff about Sicilians being part black or more Arab than other people from far Southern Europe is just a myth from what I can tell. I wonder how many people who talk about Sicilians in the internet actually have met one in real life.

Tony T. said...

Southern Italians, which are most of the Italians in America, aren't known for their brain power. There is truth in stereotypes. However they do well economically. Lots of them own construction businesses, auto repair shops, and pizza/delis. And lets not forget the mafia brings in millions, which is spread around the community. They do like to start beefs more than other whites, but their neighborhoods are safe because the mob wouldn't have it any other way.

patrick said...

It is BS that Sicilians are part black or mostly Arab- and I get tired of hearing it. But being of Sicilian descent, I also find it annoying when Internet warriors try to "defend" us by making us out to be Nordic.
In spite of all the different invaders on the island, the majority of Sicilians (with the possible exception of people from a few towns) look distinctly Southern European, and Sicilians have more Greek ancestry than Norman or anything else.

I don't think I-As need affirmative action. I would be embarrassed to accept it, as would my relatives and I suspect most other I-As. Italian-Americans have higher average income and levels of education than the American average, and suspect the I-A averages are higher than for many white ethnic groups (like Irish and Scots-Irish).

adsfasdfasdf said...

Come to think of it, why not? CUNY could be run by the Sopranos. It's a total joke.

It should be renamed FUNY.

Anonymous said...

Italian-Americans have higher incomes because they're concentrated in East Coast metros, which have higher wages.

I like and respect Italians, but the United States was rather fortunate to get most of the German immigrants while the overwhelming majority of Italian immigrants went to Argentina and Brazil.

Abe Fauxman said...

Anonymous said...

All White Gentiles are massively underrepresented in Academia.


What a bigoted groundless assertion!

You may check and see how massively diverse CUNY is.
You can't deny a couple White Gentiles have managed to sneak in.

ATBOTL said...

I just read that Sicily received heavy immigration from Northern Italy in the Middle Ages when it was more the most prosperous part of Italy and that there are still villages there where Lombard dialects are spoken. I doubt there is a big IQ difference between parts of Italy. Why is Sweden so much richer than Russia? I don't think intelligence is the biggest cause for every regional difference in wealth.

Anonymous said...

You whining morons, "underrepresented" and "overrepresented" are bullshit terms. You think Italians are being cheated because Jews outnumber them at CUNY? They are "underrepresented" because they aren't up to par and probably because affirmative action for NAMs is blocking out mediocre white admissions.

Truth said...

"I scoff when I see "affirmative action" next to "equal opportunity."

They want the white person from Staten Island to have innate benefits over the white person from North Dakota, how is that "equal opportunity?"

Truth said...

"Italians should do everybody a favor and start claiming Hispanic heritage."

Now how, exactly, would they do that when they have zero ties to Spain?

Truth said...

"The flaw in your reasoning is this;
Even though Italians from the south may be a bit slower and thicker then those from the north, THEY ARE STILL ITALIANS."

Yes, and Frank Bruno is STILL A BRIT.

Anonymous said...

"are very Northern European looking, with blond hair, blue eyes and narrow skulls(as opposed to round skulls of most southern Italians)."

Please stop posting here. You are lowering the quality of discussion.

eh said...

Eliminate the nice salaries, job security, and very cushy pensions at these public institutions -- make them comparable with the private sector, e.g. SS or IRAs or 401ks -- and this would be less of a problem. It's pursuit of taxpayer provided spoils, nothing more. If the jobs were less desirable, these ethnic hustlers would not be yapping so much.

Anonymous said...

"Now how, exactly, would they do that when they have zero ties to Spain?"

Truth, do you bother to read a whole post before commenting on it, or are you so brilliant you only need to read the first sentence? It's called civil disobedience, your people invented it, scratch that, used it, in the 60's.

Mr. Hispanic

Dutch Boy said...

Truth said...
"Italians should do everybody a favor and start claiming Hispanic heritage."

Now how, exactly, would they do that when they have zero ties to Spain?
Answer:"The 16th and 17th centuries are sometimes called "the Golden Age of Spain" (in Spanish, Siglo de Oro). As a result of the marriage politics of the Reyes Católicos, their Habsburg grandson Charles inherited the Castilian empire in America, the Aragonese Empire in the Mediterranean (including a large portion of modern Italy),..."

eh said...

Regarding feeding at the trough:

Manager, police pull in top pay - Town records show 52 above $100k

Town Manager Wayne P. Marquis, as the highest paid municipal worker in Danvers last year, earned nearly $20,000 more than the next person on the list and was paid far more than at least one mayor of a neighboring city with a larger population, an examination of payroll records found.

Marquis earned $173,932 last year, according to town records obtained by the Globe through a public information request.

Police Sergeant Paul Stone, the second-highest earner, made $154,881, including $29,936 for paid details and $25,172 in overtime.

Marquis earned nearly twice as much as the mayor of Peabody, a city of roughly 51,400 residents, compared with about 26,700 in Danvers, according to US Census data.


The story has one comment:

The next time Danvers screams there is no money in the budget, that we need to pass an override, remember these salaries. Also remember these people can retire young, with a full pension provided by you. The taxpayer.

Anonymous said...

TRUTH:

I don't even know what you are saying. Frank Bruno is NOT British. He is a black living in Britain. Nothing more.

Marc B said...

"And lets not forget the mafia brings in millions, which is spread around the community."

What decade are you living in? Most of the MAFIA went legit or semi-legit after the fallout from the in-fighting that occurred during the whack-crazy drug trade days of late 1970's. Any spreading around of money is done via business with paisan and relatives barely aware of the criminal enterprises operated by their goombah. The MAFIA isn't that big anymore, and have ceded much of the underworld to the much hungrier Russian mob.

lesley said...

"It is BS that Sicilians are part black or mostly Arab- and I get tired of hearing it. But being of Sicilian descent, I also find it annoying when Internet warriors try to "defend" us by making us out to be Nordic.
In spite of all the different invaders on the island, the majority of Sicilians (with the possible exception of people from a few towns) look distinctly Southern European, and Sicilians have more Greek ancestry than Norman or anything else."


Thanks for some sanity in the Euro-ethnic discussion. What you say makes sense from common-sense observation and history. I have seen perhaps more than few Sicilians who could be from anywhere in Europe, north, south, east or west, but there is a general "Sicilian" or southern Italian look, just like there is an "Irish" or "Czech" look (yes, there is.)
I recall that in Coon's book, one of the chief race-indicators in phenotype, and one that most people cannot put their finger on and don't consider--is that of "striations" in the musculature of the face. In other words, the number and "striations" of the muscle fibers that make up facial expressions. He uses an Italian, an Asian and a "Negro" (African Black) as examples. The Italian is quite the drama king/queen because the face makes so many expressions. Asians are more impassive not just because of facial flatness or their culture, but because their facial musculature is just smoother under the epidermis. African blacks have the smoothest facial musculature of all.

Truth said...

I don't even know what you are saying. Frank Bruno is NOT British. He is a black living in Britain. Nothing more."

No.

Frank Bruno was born and raised in Britain which makes him British... that is, if there is no distinction between a Southern Italian who's lineage is from Greece and Northern Africa, and a Northern Italian who's lineage is from Germany, right?

Tony T. said...

"What decade are you living in?"

That's the question I pose to you Marc. The mafia is still a huge enterprise on the east coast. You can't build a building in NYC without Italian mob involvement. They may not be bigger than US Steel any more, but their roots run deep and their tentacles stretch far.

patrick said...

Southern Italy was under Spanish rule for about 440 years (first it was under the House of Aragon from 1282-1492, then Spanish per se from 1492-1714). Spanish surnames and dialect words can still be found in Sicily.

Anonymous said...

The mafia is still a huge enterprise on the east coast. You can't build a building in NYC without Italian mob involvement.

Lol. Native NYer here. This hasn't been true for 15 years at least. The Mafia has been pushed out by Russians, Ukrainians, Eastern Europeans and Armenians.