Proposal reaffirms commitment to diversity

By Gus Bode

Faculty senate to vote on resolution Tuesday

Factoid:The Faculty Senate meets the second Tuesday of each month at 3 p.m. in the Illinois-Kaskaskia rooms of the Student Center.

The Faculty Senate may join the ongoing controversy surrounding divisive comments made about gays through a proposal they hope will help mend fences.

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“My motive was to develop a statement that reaffirmed the faculty and Faculty Senate’s commitment to creating a safe environment for all faculty, staff and students,” said the resolution’s author, Robert Benford, a senator from the College of Liberal Arts.

The senate will vote on a resolution during its meeting Tuesday. The proposal is designed to reiterate SIUC faculty’s belief in equal opportunity for any race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age disability, sexual orientation or marital status.

Benford said that before writing the resolution, which is not binding, he looked at many national organizations’ websites for ideas but couldn’t find anything that fit SIUC.

Instead, he decided to use language that was already in effect at the University because he believed it made the declaration more relevant. Benford drew the resolution from the Board of Trustee’s bylaws, the equal opportunity guarantee in the affirmative action policy, a statement from the women’s faculty caucus and from the chancellor’s website.

The proposal ends by restating SIUC’s continuing commitment to these policies, but went further to include the administration’s important role as the initiator.

“Be it further resolved that the Faculty Senate recommend that the chancellor encourage all members of the SIUC community to strive to create such an environment,” the resolution reads.

Rev. Joseph Brown, director of the Black American Studies program and a senator from COLA, said in order to create such an environment, it must start with the administration.

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“I think people who are leaders of any organization have the power to affect policy and quality of life because they are the spokespeople in the media,” Brown said. “That’s what leaders do. They stand up in public and help us to name that which is important to us.”

Benford said he decided to include the chancellor in the reaffirmation because of the comments that he made about gays in July.

“When someone in a position of authority makes a statement that diminishes or lowers the apparent status of any member of that community that will give some people the sense that they have the license to discriminate against members in that category,” Benford said.

“Although I appreciate the apology issued by the chancellor, I don’t think that is enough and in fact I think the damage is irreparable. So the question is, can we come in and do something constructive and begin to repair and heal?”

Paulette Curkin, co-director of the Triangle Coalition, helped Benford with the proposal. Curkin said the chancellor’s apology was needed and good, even if some view it as a formality.

“We are educators, and sometimes that means we have to educate our own,” Curkin said.

Benford said it was frightening for him to read the comments from the chancellor and others in the University community against gays and same-sex partner benefits.

“Universities are supposed to be places that celebrate diversity, welcome diversity and encourage diversity of ideas, thoughts and lifestyles,” he said.

“It is not a place where we ask people to conform to some particular religion or moral code or way of life. That has no place at a university.”

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