In an effort to foster diversity in Madison’s government committees, the Affirmative Action Commission works to review all departments funded by the city for compliance with the affirmative action guidelines the city has outlined.
The commission is comprised of volunteers brought together to advise the mayor on decisions relating to diversity issues, recommending steps that can be taken to implement affirmative action.
Commission members direct complaints to appropriate agencies and contact departments to either ask them if there are ways they can include more minorities on their staff or to complement them on their initiatives to promote diversity.
Committee chair Eric Schulenburg said the commission receives reports from the affirmative action director and then makes recommendations to various departments that support the purpose of the affirmative action division, whose existence shows that Madison believes affirmative action is a goal worth pursuing.
Committee member Joseph Clausius said he joined the commission because he saw it as a way to be more involved in city government and give back to the city.
“We encourage departments to include minorities on staff, and most of the city is in compliance,” Clausius said, referring to the guidelines for affirmative action set forth by the city.
Clausius also said he hopes the commission can serve as a source of education for students to protect minorities.
Committee member Mary Lin says the fundamental purpose of the committee is for the city to hire more people of color.
“Affirmative action is so important to make sure every citizen in Madison has an equal opportunity. I’m very proud that the city of Madison is one of the best in the nation for affirmative action,” she said.
“I hope someday there is no need for the commission,” said commission member Shavani Sridharan. “It will be when there is no discrepancy in pay, discrepancy in promotions or lack of managerial representation in city departments, so that we can say that anything the majority does, the minority does too.”
Sridharan said he represents the city’s East Asian/Indian population and that every minority group is represented — seniors, Chinese, African Americans, East Asians, whites and Latinos.
Sridharan also said that he is proud of the summer internship sponsored by the commission, which allows minority students in high school and college to work in various city departments.
“The idea is to teach and train and give them self-confidence and a sense of accomplishment,” Sridharan said.