Are Italian-Americans a Protected Class?

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The City University of New York (CUNY) thinks that Italian-Americans are a protected class and as such, deserving of affirmative action, according to a NY Times article published earlier this week. CUNY is the only university that has awarded Italian-Americans this classification and has promised special efforts to recruit, hire and promote them. This past June, members of the Italian-American group issued a “blistering report [on discrimination] the size of a phone book. In July, one employee filed a federal discrimination lawsuit, and some state lawmakers are pushing for hearings this fall into what they see as blatant ethnic bias.”

The declaration that Italian-Americans are a protected class was made in 1976 after pressure from Italian-American legislators in Albany, who were responding to complaints of bias from the faculty and staff. CUNY has denied any discrimination towards Italian-Americans or any other protected class, but outside arbiters have largely upheld claims that Italian-Americans are underrepresented in university jobs, basing their conclusions in part on facts such as the percentage of Italian-Americans on staff and faculty at the university — constant at 5-6% over the past three decades. In contrast, the numbers of blacks, Latinos and Asians has climbed over that same time.

Some are skeptical of the claims, especially with Italian-Americans being the largest ethnic group in New York. Italian-Americans also include a New York state governor and two US Supreme Court justices. Should Italian-Americans be a protected class, or is this just another effort of a group to exploit past discrimination to gain an advantage over others?

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