WASHINGTON — The National Endowment for the Humanities agreed Wednesday to set goals for recruiting women and minority members, but its director said that women and blacks already hold most of its jobs.
"We will comply with the law because we must," acting Chairman John Agresto said. "But faithfulness to the principle that no one should be judged on the basis of race or sex compels us to say that we view this occurrence as nothing short of tragic."
The "law" he refered to was a congressional order last month directing the agency to set sex- and race-based hiring goals and file them with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The endowment, an independent federal agency with 245 employees, administers a $132-million program supporting research, scholarship, education and other areas of the humanities.
Since 1984, the endowment, along with the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department, have resisted complying with executive orders directing government agencies to submit annual minority hiring goals and timetables with the EEOC.
In its submission to the commission Wednesday, the endowment said it intends to hire only seven employees this year.
Agresto bitterly criticized the congressional directive, saying that the most under-represented group in his agency is white males, who represent only 40% of its payroll, compared to their 60% share of the entire work force.
He said that all five of the endowment's divisions are headed by women. "This agency, in almost every category, is overrepresented with women and black women," he said.
But, he acknowledged that it is "under-represented" by EEOC standards in the number of Asian, Indian, Latino and black males on its professional and clerical payrolls.
Agresto said he had threatened to resign because of the congressional order but decided not to leave because it would "do damage to the endowment."