The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights said yesterday that "affirmative action" programs in employment and college admissions should include "numerically based remedies."

However, in a report issued on the eve of arguments before the Supreme Court on a controversial "reverse discrimination" case, the commission carefully sidestepped the word "quota" in setting up such programs, and warned that efforts to end discrimination are being hamstrung by semantic arguments.

"We're ready to crusade for affirmative action programs," commission chairman Arthur Flemming told a news conference.

"And we think it's very unfortunate to have affirmative action slowed down by sematic arguments over goals, quotas, timetables and numbers."

These are some of the key issues raised in the case of Allan Bakke, a white student denied admission to medical school at the University of California at Davis. Bakke has charged that he would have been admitted had it not been for a special admissions program for minority students.

The commission, an independent agency, didn't deal directly with the Bakke case in its 12-page report, but it attempted to set out arguments to support preference for women and blacks.

Noting that most such programs have been in operation "less than a decade," the commission said more time is needed to erase the effects of past discrimination. "The justification for affirmative action to secure equal access to the job lies in the need to overcome the effects of past discrimination by the employers, unions, colleges and universities who are asked to undetake such action," it declared.

This can be done, the commission argued, by using flexible timetables and goals rather than rigid quotas.