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Italian Bias at CUNY

Italian-Americans Are Not Seeing Hiring Improvement at CUNY

By N.R. Miraglia
The Digest, Associate Editor

The news has been saturated lately with cases of discrimination and bias, with different groups wondering when their share of the American dream will come their way. But an unlikely group in an unlikely city is raising the claim this time, and they are starting to get some attention.

The City University of New York (CUNY), located in New York City and home to the John Jay School of Criminal Justice, is the site of what has become a lively debate about the merits and effectiveness of affirmative action. Along with the debate has come a federal lawsuit. The complainants in the action? New York State’s largest ethnic group – Italian-Americans. The problem is hardly new: in 1976 the college declared Italian-Americans to be an official affirmative action group. This called for special practices in regards to hiring and promoting. In 2005, the college paid $1M to settle a discrimination lawsuit. However, hiring rates for Italian-Americans at the college have remained stagnant.

A researcher at the college’s John D. Calandra Italian American Institute, Vincenzo Milione, has filed suit in the United States District Court claiming that Italian-Americans are discriminated against because of their heritage. However, it is a fellow Italian-American that is purportedly conducting the discrimination. The Italian-American version of an “Uncle Tom,” known affectionately as “Uncle Tony,” is none other than the director of the Institute, Anthony Tamburri. Tamburri retaliated against Milione’s lawsuit by cutting Milione’s staff after he claimed that Italian-American staffing levels remained stagnant since 1976 while those of traditional minority groups grew. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled that Milione’s suit has merit.

The numbers themselves can be confusing. For one thing, many people identify themselves as being Italian and another ethnicity at the same time. The college claims that this inflates the numbers of Italian-Americans at the school and hence makes the hiring and promotion numbers appear lower than they actually are. The school claims that the number of actual Italian-Americans in the available labor pool is 8.4%. Milione claims that the estimate is low.

New York State recently had an Italian-American governor, and that situation will be repeated soon with the likely election of Andrew Cuomo. And the world’s most famous mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, is a proud Italian-American. But in the tiny corner of the city that houses CUNY, it appears that the battle will rage on as Italian-Americans strive to win out against the bias they claim is apparent.

For more information, please see:

The New York Times, “Unlikely Group Charges Bias at University,” 14 Sep. 2010.

Clarion, “HEO Lawsuit Nets $1 Million,” Vol. 34, No. 5, May 2005.