Affirmative Action

The University of Denver's Affirmative Action Plan serves all students, staff, and faculty. This webpage provides an overview of affirmative action and how it affects the University of Denver's employment process.

Familiarize yourself with DU's Affirmative Action Policy

Read More

The University of Denver Affirmative Action Plan is available for review by appointment.

Office Hours: Monday - Friday between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM.

Please contact us at for more information.

What is Affirmative Action?

Affirmative Action is an active effort to improve employment or educational opportunities for underrepresented communities such as veterans, persons of color, persons with disabilities, and women. Affirmative Action has been in effect since 1961 when President John F. Kennedy signed an executive order requiring federally-funded employers to “Take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed . . . without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin.” 

Affirmative action began as a government remedy to the effects of long-standing discrimination against these individuals and has consisted of policies, programs, and procedures that provide equal opportunity to these protected groups in job hiring, admission to institutions of higher education, the awarding of government contracts, and other social and civil benefits. Its primary goal is to ensure employers create a level playing field—that no qualified person is disadvantaged or treated unfairly during the hiring or promotion process because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, or protected veteran status.

As a recipient of federal funds, receiving more than $50,000 of government contracts a year, the University of Denver must comply with Affirmative Action requirements and develop an Affirmative Action Plan and program in place. The Affirmative Action Officer implements the plan with various campus partners, to track and report on the affirmative action goals. 

The Affirmative Action Plan is designed to comply with applicable federal laws and regulations. 

  • Executive Order 11246

    Executive Order 11246 prohibits federal contractors from discriminating in employment decisions on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, color, religion, or national origin. It also requires covered contractors to take affirmation action (as detailed in their “Affirmative Action Plan”) to ensure equal opportunity is provided in all aspects of employment.

  • The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, section 503

    The Rehabilitation Act of 1973section 503, requires federal contractors to ensure nondiscrimination in employment on the basis of disability and take affirmative action (as detailed in their “Affirmative Action Plan”) to hire, retain, and promote Individuals with Disabilities (IWDs).


    Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA) requires federal contractors to ensure nondiscrimination in employment on the basis of Protected Veteran (PV) status and take affirmation action (as detailed in their “Affirmative Action Plan”) to employ and advance in employment Disabled Veterans, Active Duty or Wartime Campaign Badge Veterans, Armed Forces Service Medal Veterans, and Recently Separated Veterans (those discharged from the Service in the past three years).

Mary Reed

Report a Concern

Click Here

Affirmative Action at DU

Behind the Scenes Work

The Affirmative Action Plan applies to all employees at the University of Denver including employees at satellite locations. 

The Office of Equal Employment Opportunity is responsible for the investigation and disposition of discrimination complaints. The EEO Administrator is responsible for the annual review and update of all policies and procedures related to Affirmative Action, and the design and delivery of educational materials and training to the University of Denver community on matters relating to Affirmative Action and Equal Employment Opportunity. See Staff Hiring Guidelines and Guidelines for Interview Questions materials.  

Good Faith Efforts Require Everyone's Help

The University of Denver's Affirmative Action compliance is overseen by the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Compliance Contract Programs. This federal office evaluates the university's good faith efforts to advance the goals of Affirmative Action. These good faith efforts require that all members of the University community understand and adhere to DU's hiring, promotion, and pay practices. The Equal Employment Opportunity Administrator welcomes all inquiries and invitations to consult regarding these practices.


Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are Affirmative Action goals required?

    While placement goals are important, the demonstration of a good faith effort to achieve those goals is more important. Executive Order 11246 requires all federal contractors to make good faith efforts to meet affirmative action goals, and those federal contractors that employ 50 or more employees and receive $50,000 or more in federal funds, must have a written affirmative action plan for women and minorities. Goals and timetables are part of the requirements of an affirmative action plan for women and minorities. Goals are voluntary measures of progress in hiring women and minorities that an employer such as the University has established for its workforce to correct underutilization. Although specific goals are not required for veterans and persons with disabilities, the Department of Labor does establish utilization goals for these two categories of employees. 

  • Who benefits from the University’s affirmative action policies and programs?

    All employees benefit from the University’s Affirmative Action policies and programs as they help to ensure a fair work environment for everyone. 

  • Is Affirmative action another name for quota?

    Affirmative action requires the establishment of goals where either minorities and women are represented at less than availability within an affirmative action job group. Affirmative Action regulations provide that goals serve as “targets reasonably attainable by means of applying every good faith effort to make all aspects of the entire affirmative action program work” and that goals “may not be rigid and inflexible quotas, which must be met.” Quotas have been imposed by judicial order, and only as a last resort to redress a pattern of blatant discrimination. 

  • Does Affirmative Action reward gender and race at the expense of merit?

    Affirmative action is intended to make sure that employers hire the most qualified people, including members of groups that previously have been subject to unlawful discrimination. The reality is that the best-qualified candidates don’t always get hired. A number of studies have shown that there continues to be a bias that favors men over women and non-minorities over minorities. Affirmative Action is intended to make us aware of these biases so we can try to afford equal opportunity to disadvantaged women and minorities. 

  • What is equal employment opportunity and how does this differ from affirmative action?

    Equal Employment Opportunity is giving everyone the same opportunity to be hired and thrive in an employment setting, while Affirmative Action is actively supporting those who have been consistently deprived of fair and equal treatment.

  • Is affirmative action reverse discrimination?

    No. Affirmative Action policies provide equal opportunity to those groups which have been systematically deprived of fair and equal treatment. Affirmative Action is not the source of discrimination, but the solution for eliminating the effects of discrimination.

Affirmative Action Terms

Reference: The University of Rhode Island

  • Adverse Impact

    Adverse impact may be found when a selection process for a particular job or group of jobs results in the selection of members of any racial, ethnic, or sex group at a lower rate than members of other groups may. The enforcement agencies will generally regard a selection rate for any group which is less than four-fifths (4/5) or eighty percent of the rate for the group with the highest selection rate as constituting evidence of adverse impact. Depending on the size of the sample and other factors, however, the enforcement agencies could measure adverse impact other than by the “80% rule”. In a particular case, of course, the final arbiter of the question would be the federal court.

  • Affected Class

    Affected Class is any group of employees or former employees who are members of a protected group that has suffered or that continues to suffer the effects of unlawful discrimination.

  • Affirmative Action

    Affirmative Action is a process in which employers identify problem areas in the employment of protected class members, set goals and take positive steps to ensure equal employment opportunities of a protected class where they are underrepresented in an organization in relation to their availability in the labor markets from which recruiting occurs.

  • Affirmative Action Plan

    The Affirmative Action Plan is the written document through which management assures that all persons have equal opportunities in recruitment, selection, appointment, promotion, training, discipline, and related employment areas. The plan is tailored to the employer’s workforce and the skills available in the labor force. It prescribes specific actions, goals, timetables, responsibilities and describes resources to meet identified needs. The plan is a comprehensive results-oriented program designed to achieve equal employment opportunity rather than merely to assure nondiscrimination.

  • Applicant Flow

    Applicant Flow is the number of applicants applying for a particular job over a given period of time, analyzed by protected class characteristics.

  • Applicant Pool

    The Applicant Pool is all candidates who have applied for a job, during the period the job was open, from whom a person is selected to fill the position.

  • Availability

    Availability is an estimate of the number of qualified candidates available for employment, from which it is expected to recruit to fill positions in a given job group. Availability estimates are derived from Census 2000 data, unemployment data, educational statistics, higher education demo-graphical data, and other relevant entities, and current promotion-eligible workforce demographics.

  • Availability Analysis

    Availability Analysis is an analysis that identifies the number of protected-class members available to work in the appropriate labor markets in given jobs.

  • Compliance

    Compliance is a situation in which an agency fully meets the requirements of laws, rules, and regulations and court cases that mandate nondiscrimination and affirmative action.

  • Discrimination

    Discrimination occurs when individuals having a common characteristic such as age, ancestry, color, disability, national origin, race, religious creed, sex, sexual orientation, or veteran status are denied equal privilege or treatment.   

  • Disparate Effect or Disparate Impact

    Disparate Effect or Disparate Impact is the result of an employment policy, practice, or procedure that, in practical application, has less favorable consequences for a protected class than for the dominant group.

  • Disparate Treatment

    Disparate Treatment is employment practices such as the use of tests or educational requirements, fair and neutral on their face, which are applied or administered in an unfair manner. An example would be using an “old boy network” to hire for jobs even though the positions have been posted.

  • Diversity

    Diversity is a broad concept that values all people equally, regardless of their differences.

  • Equal Employment Opportunity

    Equal Employment Opportunity involves the right of persons to apply and be evaluated for employment opportunities without regard to race, color, religion, age, national origin, sex, disability, or Veteran status. It guarantees everyone the right to be considered solely on the basis of his or her ability to perform the duties of the job in question, with, or without reasonable accommodations as appropriate. Equal Employment Opportunity does not involve preferences.

  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

    Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal government agency mandated to enforce Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended. The Federal Commission on Equal Employment Opportunity has the power to bring suits, subpoena witnesses, issue guidelines that have the force of law, render decisions, provide legal assistance to complainants, etc., in regard to fair employment.

  • Ethnicity

    Ethnicity is a group classification in which members share a unique social and cultural heritage passed on from one generation to the next. Involves customs, language, religion, and other cultural factors.

  • Goals

    Goals are good faith, quantitative employment objectives which employers voluntarily set as the minimum progress they can make within a certain time period (usually one year) to correct the underutilization of protected classes in their workforce.

  • Good Faith Efforts

    Good Faith Efforts are broad, active effects to move affirmative action programs beyond the normal; the “extra mile,” pro-active and aggressive recruiting efforts.

  • Labor Market

    Labor market is a geographical area from which it is reasonable to expect to recruit employees or, in the case of a promotional appointment from within or from statewide employment, reemployment or transfer list, the office(s), position(s), position classification(s), employment, reemployment or transfer list from which the promotional appointment is or may be made.

  • Occupational category

    Occupational category is a set of job groups derived from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s EEO-6 categories. There are seven occupational categories consisting of job groups with similar sets of primary functions:

    • EEO 1 – Executive/Managerial
    • EEO 2 – Faculty
    • EEO 3 – Non-Instructional Professional
    • EEO 4 – Clerical
    • EEO 5 – Technical/Paraprofessional
    • EEO 6 – Skilled Craft Workers
    • EEO 7 – Service/Maintenance
  • Parity

    Parity is a condition achieved in an organization when the protected class composition of its work force is equal to that in the relevant available labor force.

  • Protected Classes

    Protected Classes are protected classes are composed of individuals identified for protection under equal employment laws and regulations. Many of the protected classes historically have been subjected to discrimination. By alphabetical order, Rhode Island protected classes in employment are: age, ancestry, color, criminal record, genetic information, learning disability, marital status, past or present history of mental disability, mental retardation, national origin, physical disability, prior protected activity, race, religious creed, sex, sexual orientation, workplace hazards to the reproductive system.

  • Race

    Race is a group of people related by common descent or heredity.

  • Under-utilization

    Under-utilization is a disparity between the employment of members of a racial, ethnic, or gender group in a job or job group and their availability. Under-utilization is determined by conducting an availability analysis.

  • Utilization Analysis

    Utilization Analysis is an analysis that identifies the number of protected-class members employed and the types of jobs they hold in the organization.

  • Workforce Analysis

    Workforce Analysis is, for Affirmative Action purposes, a listing of each job title as it appears in payroll records, are ranked from highest paid to lowest paid within each department.

Highlights of Affirmative Action History


  • March 6, 1961 | Executive Order 10925 makes the first reference to “affirmative action”

    On March 6, 1961, President John F. Kennedy issued Executive Order 10925, which creates the Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity and mandates that projects financed with federal funds “take affirmative action” to ensure that hiring and employment practices are free of racial bias. This executive order is intended to affirm the government's commitment to equal opportunity for all qualified persons, and to take positive action to strengthen efforts to realize true equal opportunity for all.

  • Sept. 24, 1965 | Executive Order 11246 enforces affirmative action for the first time

    On September 24, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued Executive Order 11246, prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, and national origin by those organizations receiving federal contracts and subcontracts. In 1967, President Johnson amended the order to include sex on the list of attributes.

    Executive Order 11246 also requires federal contractors to take affirmative action to promote the full realization of equal opportunity for women and minorities. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), under the Department of Labor, monitors this requirement for all federal contractors, including all UC campuses, and has developed regulations to which these contractors must adhere. For federal contractors employing more than 50 people and having federal contracts totaling more than $50,000, compliance with these regulations includes disseminating and enforcing a nondiscrimination policy, establishing a written affirmative action plan and placement goals for women and minorities, and implementing action-oriented programs for accomplishing these goals. Besides, an official of the organization must be assigned responsibility for the implementation of equal employment opportunity and the affirmative action program.

  • June 28, 1978 | Regents of the University of California v. Bakke

    This landmark Supreme Court case imposed limitations on affirmative action to ensure that providing greater opportunities for minorities did not come at the expense of the rights of the majority—affirmative action was unfair if it led to reverse discrimination. The case involved the Univ. of California, Davis, Medical School, which had two separate admissions pools, one for standard applicants, and another for minority and economically disadvantaged students. The school reserved 16 of its 100 places for this latter group.

    Allan Bakke, a white applicant, was rejected twice even though there were minority applicants admitted with significantly lower scores than his. Bakke maintained that judging him on the basis of his race was a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court ruled that while race was a legitimate factor in school admissions, the use of such inflexible quotas as the medical school had set aside was not. The Supreme Court, however, was split 5–4 in its decision on the Bakke case and addressed only a minimal number of the many complex issues that had sprung up about affirmative action.

  • July 2, 1980 | Fullilove v. Klutznick

    While Bakke struck down strict quotas, in Fullilove the Supreme Court ruled that some modest quotas were perfectly constitutional. The Court upheld a federal law requiring that 15% of funds for public works be set aside for qualified minority contractors. The “narrowed focus and limited extent” of the affirmative action program did not violate the equal rights of non-minority contractors, according to the Court—there was no “allocation of federal funds according to inflexible percentages solely based on race or ethnicity.”

  • Feb. 25, 1987 | United States v. Paradise

    In July 1970, a federal court found that the State of Alabama Department of Public Safety systematically discriminated against blacks in hiring: “in the thirty-seven-year history of the patrol there has never been a black trooper.” The court ordered that the state reform its hiring practices to end “pervasive, systematic, and obstinate discriminatory exclusion of blacks.” A full 12 years and several lawsuits later, the department still had not promoted any blacks above entry level nor had they implemented a racially fair hiring system. In response, the court ordered specific racial quotas to correct the situation. For every white hired or promoted, one black would also be hired or promoted until at least 25% of the upper ranks of the department were composed of blacks. This use of numerical quotas was challenged. The Supreme Court, however, upheld the use of strict quotas in this case as one of the only means of combating the department’s overt and defiant racism.

  • Jan. 23, 1989 | City of Richmond v. Croson

    This case involved affirmative action programs at the state and local levels—a Richmond program setting aside 30% of city construction funds for black-owned firms was challenged. For the first time, affirmative action was judged as a “highly suspect tool.” The Supreme Court ruled that an “amorphous claim that there has been past discrimination in a particular industry cannot justify the use of an unyielding racial quota.” It maintained that affirmative action must be subject to “strict scrutiny” and is unconstitutional unless racial discrimination can be proven to be “widespread throughout a particular industry.” The Court maintained that “the purpose of strict scrutiny is to `smoke out’ illegitimate uses of race by assuring that the legislative body is pursuing a goal important enough to warrant use of a highly suspect tool. The test also ensures that the means chosen `fit’ this compelling goal so closely that there is little or no possibility that the motive for the classification was illegitimate racial prejudice or stereotype.”

  • March 18, 1996 | Hopwood v. University of Texas Law School

    Cheryl Hopwood and three other white law-school applicants at the University of Texas challenged the school’s affirmative action program, asserting that they were rejected because of unfair preferences toward less qualified minority applicants. As a result, the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals suspended the university’s affirmative action admissions program and ruled that the 1978 Bakke decision was invalid—while Bakke rejected racial quotas it maintained that race could serve as a factor in admissions. In addition to remedying past discrimination, Bakke maintained that the inclusion of minority students would create a diverse student body, and that was beneficial to the educational environment as a whole. Hopwood, however, rejected the legitimacy of diversity as a goal, asserting that “educational diversity is not recognized as a compelling state interest.” The Supreme Court allowed the ruling to stand. In 1997, the Texas Attorney General announced that all “Texas public universities [should] employ race-neutral criteria.”

    Note: June 23, 2003, Supreme Court ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger invalidates Hopwood.

  • Nov. 3, 1997 | Proposition 209 enacted in California

    A state ban on all forms of affirmative action was passed in California: “The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.” Proposed in 1996, the controversial ban had been delayed in the courts for almost a year before it went into effect.

  • Dec. 13, 2000 | University of Michigan’s undergrad affirmative action policy

    In Gratz v. Bollinger, a federal judge ruled that the use of race as a factor in admissions at the University of Michigan was constitutional. The gist of the university’s argument was as follows: just as preference is granted to children of alumni, scholarship athletes, and others groups for reasons deemed beneficial to the university, so too does the affirmative action program serve “a compelling interest” by providing educational benefits derived from a diverse student body.

  • June 23, 2003 | Supreme Court Upholds Affirmative Action in University Admissions

    In the most important affirmative action decision since the 1978 Bakke case, the Supreme Court (5–4) upholds the University of Michigan Law School’s policy, ruling that race can be one of many factors considered by colleges when selecting their students because it furthers “a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body.” The Supreme Court, however, ruled (6-3) that the more formulaic approach of the University of Michigan’s undergraduate admissions program, which uses a point system that rates students and awards additional points to minorities, had to be modified. The undergraduate program, unlike the law school’s, does not provide the “individualized consideration” of applicants deemed necessary in previous Supreme Court decisions on affirmative action. See Grutter v. Bollinger.

  • June 28, 2006 | Supreme Court Rules Against Considering Race to Integrate Schools

    In Parents v. Seattle and Meredith v. Jefferson, affirmative action suffers a setback when a bitterly divided court rules, 5–4, that programs in Seattle and Louisville, Ky., which tried to maintain diversity in schools by considering race when assigning students to schools, are unconstitutional.

  • June 24, 2013 | Court Orders University to Re-examine Affirmative Action Policy

    In Fisher v. the University of Texas, the court allows universities to continue considering race as a factor in admissions to achieve diversity, but it does tell them that they must prove that “available, workable race-neutral alternatives do not suffice” before considering race. The court ruled 7–1 to send the case back to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit for further review to determine if the school passed the test of “strict scrutiny,” the highest level of judicial review. The ruling is considered a compromise between the court’s conservative and liberal factions.

  • June 23, 2016 | Supreme Court Upholds Affirmative Action

    The Supreme Court votes in a 4–3 decision that affirmative action is legal under the equal protection clause and should be upheld in the case of Fisher v. the University of Texas at Austin. The case was brought to the courts after a white female, Abigail Fisher, was rejected from the school in 2008. She believed that UT-Austin's method of race consideration did not meet the standards previously set by the Supreme Court and challenged the use of affirmative action in higher education.