KNOXVILLE – The Lambda Student Union of the University of Tennessee – Knoxville is pushing for inclusion of nondiscrimination policies regarding sexual orientation and gender identity/expression for the fall 2005 term. Past efforts have met with resistance, but the Knoxville group is hopeful that things are about to change.
Discussions with the Office of Equity and Diversity (OED) indicated that UT’s position is in accordance with federal mandates regarding anti-discrimination. Sexual orientation and gender identity/expression are not federally protected as minorities. Despite that, the OED Director did state that complaints from GLBT student will be investigated.
Donna Dearmon, Community Liaison and Outreach Coordinator for the Lambda Student Union, expressed dissatisfaction with the current policy.
“The policy is written so that it is left up to interpretation as to whether the GLBTQ community is covered in the non-discrimination policy,” Dearmon pointed out.
Further meetings with UT’s Assistant Vice Chancellor revealed plans for a “framework” for a diversity action plan to be implemented by 2010. The interactions with this office were positive and indicated a need to work with the grassroots student population, engaging the various organizations that would be interested in seeing the policy changes occur.
Dissatisfied with the 2010 target date, Lambda plans to research prior implementation of similar policies on 587 other American college campuses. Their emphasis will be on the legal aspects of implementation.
“Federal mandate was not required by these other institutions,” Dearmon noted.
Current inquiries are underway with regard to questions surrounding the lack of implementation of prior pro-GLBT policies passed by the Student Government Association and the Graduate Student Senate.
Lamdba Student Union plans to consult and collaborate with the Lambda Legal Society associated with the UT-K College of Law.
Dearmon asked for support from the community.” We need our alumni to voice their opinions and support. They will be the strength we need in this effort.”
Interested alumni can assist in these efforts. A listserv is available at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/utproalum for further information.
Donna Dearmon provided much of the material in this article.