Frequently Asked Questions about Adding Sexual

Orientation to the Missouri State Nondiscrimination Policy

 

An earlier version of this FAQ is available.

Why is adding „sexual orientationš to the Nondiscrimination Policy being brought up again?

 There have been new developments. In October, 2003, the University of Missouri, the largest and most prestigious public institution of higher education in the state, joined Washington University, St. Louis University, Drury University, Central Missouri State University, and Truman State University in having such a clause.  This past summer, the world‚s largest private employer, Wal-Mart, adopted a sexual orientation nondiscrimination policy. A long time holdout against such policies, Cracker Barrel Restaurants, did a complete about face.  The current discussion is simply a sign that Missouri State is increasingly visible as an out-of-step institution that is loudly sending by inaction three message: (1) it doesn‚t care about sexually different students and employees; (2)its Central Administration may be hostile to these individuals; (3) key administrators don‚t care what staff, students and faculty think about this issue.

 Why should the staff, faculty, and students have any say in whether Missouri State has a sexual orientation clause?

At the heart of good universities is shared governance.  Missouri State affirms, if it does not practice, shared governance where staff, students, and faculty not only have a say, but have influence over decision-making.  In the case of sexual orientation, the Central Administration of our school, with huge influence over the Board of Governors, doesn‚t practice what it preaches.  They‚ve repeatedly ignored and vetoed without public discussion the resolutions of the staff, student, and faculty governing bodies. This has the bad effect of destroying the balance of power which the Administration itself says ought to exist.  Success on this front may continue to encourage arrogant administrative abuse of power on other issues such as health benefits and salary increases.

 Why does Missouri State need to add a sexual orientation clause to its Nondiscrimination Policy?

 In a nutshell, for two reasons: (1) there is discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation which is not prevented by University policy; (2) the University is falling increasingly out of step with the leading educational institutions in the United States and with this nation‚s businesses.

 Is there discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation at Missouri State?

 Yes.  Actual discrimination has been documented on this campus.  Several cases of sexual orientation discrimination have been identified in recent years.  More, we know, would have come to light if people weren‚t afraid to come forward.

 Equally important, conditions are ripe for discrimination.  Surveys taken at Missouri State, as well as other universities, demonstrate that a minority of people in such institutions are strongly prejudiced against gay people.  It is only reasonable to believe that these individuals would discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation if it is not specifically forbidden.  Strong resistance to making the Nondiscrimination Policy more specific may signal these individuals that they have permission to behave in unfairly discriminatory ways. 

Remember, this isn‚t a debate over mere words.  Real people are being hurt by discrimination.

 Is Missouri State hurting itself by failing to adopt a sexual orientation clause?

 Yes.  It may be unfair, but most of us, like U.S. News, rank universities.  Missouri State wants to rise in these formal and informal rankings, and many of us work very hard to make this happen.  Does Missouri State rank with the major universities or does it fit with the mediocre universities?  With respect to sexual orientation clauses, Missouri State clearly looks backward and is isolated from the best schools in the country.

 As already stated, the leading universities of Missouri have sexual orientation clauses.  To broaden the picture, every school in the Big Ten has a sexual orientation clause, as do 9 out of the schools in the Big 12 and every Ivy League school.  All member institutions of the prestigious Association of American Universities have such a policy.  All but 14 of 88 Public Doctoral/Research universities have such a policy and so do 44 out of 48 Private, Not for Profit Doctoral/Research universities.  America‚s largest systems of higher education have such policies, including the City University of New York, the State University of New York, the University of Texas, the University of California, and the California State University system.  These schools are top rank and huge in student and employee numbers.  Granted, not all schools have such policies, but you are known by the company you keep.  Does Missouri State want to be classified with Harvard, the University of Chicago, and Stanford, or does it want to be lumped with Harding College, Missouri Southern, and Vatterott College.  Adopting a sexual orientation clause won‚t rank Missouri State with Yale or Stanford.  But adoption of the sexual orientation clause will be one stroke out of the backwater and into the mainstream.

 In addition, our graduates will enter a world dominated by organizations which have sexual orientation clauses.  Locally, City Utilities and the News-Leader have such clauses.  Nationally, we hope that some of our students might work for Fortune 100 corporations, 92 of which have sexual orientation clauses.  From Wal-Mart, the world‚s largest employer to Lockheed Martin, the world‚s largest defense contractor, organizational culture is not wishy-washy about sexual orientation.  Big business knows that sexual orientation discrimination is bad for business and they don‚t want employees to come from the boondocks where people don‚t know that.  Uncle Sam is sending the same message.  From the United States Civil Service to the United States Secret Service to the largest state government employers, sexual orientation discrimination is forbidden.  Missouri State students shouldn‚t have that strike against them.  The Administration‚s stubbornly held position feeds into every unflattering stereotype about the Ozarks--that we are a bunch of hicks who don‚t know any better.  Missouri State graduates should not have that strike against them. Moreover, our students will not profit from years of training at Missouri State in a culture which says in so many words that discrimination against gays is ok.

 Is there a need to have a specific mention of sexual orientation?

 Such a clause gives all of us greater protection against discrimination.  Equally important, adding the clause would be proof to prospective students and employees that Missouri State is, like other leading institutions of higher education, taking the right steps against discrimination.  Finally, adoption of this clause would fix what makes our present Nondiscrimination Policy useless in preventing discrimination.  

 Doesn‚t the present „all inclusiveš Policy prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation?

 No.  The present Policy says that Missouri State „emphasizes the dignity and equality common to all persons and adheres to a strict nondiscrimination policy regarding the treatment of individual faculty, staff, and students. In accord with federal law and applicable Missouri statutes, the University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, age, disability, or veteran status in employment or in any program or activity offered or sponsored by the University. In addition, the University does not discriminate on any basis not related to the applicable educational requirements for students or the applicable job requirements for employees."

Among the fundamental problems with this policy are that it obscures the very nature of a university and ignores a simple and obvious fact. 

Like all universities, a basic function of Missouri State is to discriminate among people for admission, hiring, grades, and promotions.  Such discrimination is necessary to bring the best students, faculty, and staff to the University and to reward good performance.  Without such discrimination, Missouri State would fall through the floor of mediocrity and establish the lowest possible standard for performance.

A minority of people at Missouri State bring to the process of engaging in necessary discrimination the idea that „being a heterosexualš is a requirement for a job or for admission.  These people have every right to believe and say that homosexuality is a sin or a sickness and ought to be a crime.  They often belong to organizations which proclaim that homosexuals are unfit to teach and declare that homosexuality is a choice which is contagious in a student body.  Present Missouri State policy, intentionally or unintentionally encourages this minority who must make discriminatory judgments to read into their decisions the view that „being a homosexualš is a disqualification related to educational requirements or job requirements. 

Adding the two words „sexual orientationš would close this wide-open door to discrimination.

Aren‚t gay and lesbian people already protected from discrimination under the Constitution and through laws and court rulings?

 No federal or Missouri State laws make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.  The courts have ruled that, absent such laws, sexual orientation discrimination can be practiced.

 Nor is there some general legal doctrine which protects gay people against discrimination.  This is amply demonstrated by the fact that every accredited law school in the United States, under a requirement of the American Association of Law Schools, has a sexual orientation clause in its nondiscrimination clause.  Law professors and law school deans aren‚t dumb.  If the law already provided protection for sexual minorities, law school accreditation would not require sexual orientation nondiscrimination clauses.  

Shouldn‚t Missouri State wait for state and federal laws to change before including sexual orientation?

 No.  There is no requirement which says that federal or state governments have to adopt sexual orientation protection before cities, counties, universities or businesses can give such protection.  Currently in Missouri, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Columbia have sexual orientation nondiscrimination clauses.  As noted above, so do the leading universities in this state.  Such a pattern is repeated throughout the United States.

 Do the University‚s grievance policies prevent discrimination?

 No.  Some people at Missouri State like to chant „Our policy works.š  This statement is repeated so often because there is no real proof for it.  Saying something over and over again does not make it true.  Moreover, as a practical matter, people who are applying for a job at Missouri State or students who are applying for admission don‚t really have access to the grievance processes.     

 Would inclusion of a sexual orientation clause in the Nondiscrimination Policy mean all sorts of other people would want to be included?

 No.  This argument is silly --it is so often repeated because it has no basis in fact.  There are nondiscrimination policies that contain many categories, including sexual orientation, and there are policies that contain sexual orientation and few or no other categories in addition to those required by law.  Some of the policies such as Hawaii‚s with many categories are required by state law to have each category listed.  The City University of New York‚s long policy is the result of state law and a very liberal political climate. .

 First, the addition of many categories after the inclusion of a sexual orientation clause just doesn‚t happen.  The history of policies containing a sexual orientation clause is that adding „sexual orientationš is simply not followed by the addition of many or any other categories.

 Second, logic does not compel the addition of many categories if a sexual orientation clause is added.  Like the categories of race, age, veteran status, or disability, people with minority sexual orientation have historically been discriminated against in systematic ways by institutions.  For example, in the 1950s, the University of Missouri had a regulation which mandated that homosexual students should be expelled.  Hundreds of American universities had such policies.  However, discrimination against auctioneers or labor union members does not have any such basis in institutional history.  Thus, such discrimination does not occupy the same logical place in the structure of discrimination as sexual orientation discrimination.

 Would adoption of a sexual orientation clause lead to further division among groups on campus?

 No.  There is absolutely no evidence to support this prediction.  Those who say this should be asked to support their statement with proof that after a group was named as a category for protection, that group was more isolated from other individuals and groups than before.  They won‚t be able to do that.  Do Missouri State people who can walk feel divided from disabled persons in wheelchairs?  Do those who have not served in the military feel divided from veterans?

Also, it isn't gay people who have created division in society.  Antigay people, perhaps like some of those who oppose adoption of a sexual orientation nondiscrimination clause, who have originally created the category of sexually variant and then stigmatized the people in that category.  Addition of the clause would simply undue the damage they've done, reducing division in our society.  No wonder they oppose it so vociferously. 

Finally, remember the clause would not say „gayš or „lesbian.š  Granted, gay people would be the chief beneficiary of the addition of a sexual orientation clause because they are the ones most frequently discriminated against.  But, the term „sexual orientationš covers heterosexuals too.  We would all have the same rights.  If straight people believethat gay supervisors have discriminated against them, they can file a grievance under the clause.

 Would inclusion of a sexual orientation clause prevent free expression or the free exercise of religion?

 No.  A sexual orientation clause is directed at the actions of the University and its officials.  Giving a low grade, not hiring someone, firing another, not promoting someone else are formal actions.  The right to say that men are inferior to women, that Asians are more intelligent than Caucasians, that veterans are unreliable, or that homosexuality is a sin are all protected.  Directly put, a sexual orientation clause does not impose a speech code.  Likewise, people are not required to give up their religious beliefs or the expression of those beliefs. 

 While the objection has been made that campus religious groups would be compelled to have homosexual leaders, this is simply contrary to fact.  Religious groups would, in fact, be helped in deciding who their officers should be.  If a sexual orientation clause were in place, more gay religious students would be „out,š and religious organizations would have a better idea of the qualifications for office of candidates for leadership posts.

 Would adoption of a sexual orientation clause cause donors to the University to withdraw their support?

 There is no evidence that this is the case.  Those who say this is likely to happen need to prove it. They will have to overcome the fact that most of the private and public universities with vast endowments which make ours look puny have sexual orientation clauses.  In addition, if the University should otherwise have a sexual orientation clause, it should not be blackmailed by a handful of donors into doing what is simply wrong.  That is a really dangerous slippery slope.  Finally, there is the possibility that many potential donors are disgusted with the University‚s refusal to adopt a sexual orientation clause and are refusing to donate. By adopting a sexual orientation nondiscrimination policy, Missouri State would improve its alumni and donor relations. At present, the Missouri State policy is inconsistent with the views of the vast majority of Americans with respect to sexual orientation nondiscrimination. While some local donors might temporarily have their noses out of joint if the sexual orientation clause were adopted, a significantly greater number might contribute to a university which has taken a rational and clearly needed step.

In short, this is another unproven assertion which plays with the actual truth of the matter.

 What are the positive benefits of adopting a sexual orientation clause?

The most direct benefit is to allow the substantial number of gay men and lesbians in the Missouri State system to lead without fear open and honest lives. In sharp contrast to the present situation, they would have a written policy to challenge discrimination. This is important since gay people comprise five to ten percent of the population, which means that, at minimum, over a thousand people in our system will directly benefit from this change.

A second benefit: The various nondiscrimination policies of our University will become consistent. At present, a number of organizations and departments at Missouri State have sexual orientation nondiscrimination policies, including the Student Government Association, the School of Social Work, and Residence Life. To create consistency, the University can either order these units to change their nondiscrimination policies by deleting their sexual orientation clauses, or the University can change its own policy. The latter is clearly the preferable course of action especially since deletion of the clause could cause loss of accreditation.

A third benefit: A sexual orientation nondiscrimination policy will place Missouri State graduates in the same category in this respect as graduates of universities which have such a policy. Missouri State would join the nation's major public and private universities in having a sexual orientation nondiscrimination policy.

A fourth benefit: With passage of a sexual orientation clause, Missouri State will be better able to recruit faculty, staff, and students. Many individuals in the academic marketplace who are looking for employment or education believe that failure to have such a clause signals that the institution is hostile to gay people and culturally out-of-step. Missouri State must compete with many universities and other organizations for talented individuals. In Missouri, we must compete against the University of Missouri system, Washington University, Central Missouri State University, St. Louis University, Drury University, and Truman State University, all of which have adopted sexual orientation clauses. Since Missouri State is arguably disadvantaged with respect to salary, reputation, and research facilities in this competition for talent, failure to enact a sexual orientation clause is simply one more strike against Missouri State in its often failing effort to attract able individuals upon whom its future success depends.

Finally, as Americans we may have our political, social, and cultural differences, but we all believe in the bedrock foundations of our country--fairness, justice, and equality.  It is clear that the leaders in education and business in the United States are extending these historical commitments to gay Americans.  Missouri State can buck the future only for so long without real damage to reputation--not only to the quality of our school, but to our even handedness as a community.  The arguments against inclusion are dated, silly, and unproven.  We should be moved by our hopes and not our groundless fears, living confidentially with the fact that as Missouri State employees and students we know that we can all get along just fine.

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