Letter to the editor

Dear Editor,

As chair of the AAUP LGBT Faculty Concerns Committee, I wanted to publicly thank the members of the Undergraduate Student Senate for standing up for human rights and equality by tabling a resolution supporting the extension of domestic partner benefits at KSU, and to the Graduate Student Senate and Faculty Senate who have previously passed such resolutions.

The USS is quite correct in its assumption that our university is both losing talented LGBT faculty and failing to attract quality faculty because of its refusal to extend full rights and benefits to all faculty.

I was reminded of just how significant the loss is this past month, when a faculty colleague reminded me that I am the only faculty member remaining of the core group of LGBT faculty who started the LGBT Studies minor just five years ago. We do not have hard numbers of how many LGBT faculty have left in recent years because sexual minorities are not counted by Affirmative Action, and because at places with a negative environment for LGBT people (like Kent), many faculty and staff remain closeted out of fear.

What I do know is that the 31 members of the LGBT Faculty Concerns Committee have identified nine LGBT faculty who have left in the past five years. I personally believe that the loss of nine faculty or one faculty because of discrimination is a shameful representation.

Kent State University’s upper administration is currently using the excuse of the passage of Issue One as the reason why they cannot extend domestic partner benefits (ignoring the simple fact that other state universities have done so since the amendment’s passage). But I want to remind readers that this is just the latest excuse.

In the decade I’ve been at KSU, the administrative excuses have been that KSU shouldn’t be the first university to extend DPs because we’d attract attention, that we couldn’t afford to extend DPs with rising health care costs, that AAUP didn’t fight hard enough for it during negotiations, and now, that Issue One prevents us from doing so. Bigots always find seemingly rationale excuses to justify discriminatory behavior.

While Issue One is the current excuse given for the failure to extend DP benefits, that this doesn’t explain why the university administration has not extended soft benefits to LGBT faculty and staff, or why the university has no references on its Web site or in Human Resources materials as to what services have been extended at departmental levels even though the joint Work-Life Committee has made these recommendations for five years. It also doesn’t explain why Kent doesn’t have an LGBT Student Office or LGBT Student Affairs officer, despite continued requests by PRIDE!Kent.

It is my hope that the new president will take the concerns of students and faculty seriously, and not continue the Kent tradition of ignoring the concerns of sexual minorities while focusing energy on drafting new excuses for discrimination. (As an aside, I have been trying to meet with President Lefton on these matters since July, and my latest rescheduled meeting date is Sept. 28.)

We cannot be a leading university if we continue to be a homophobic and intolerant institution that hemorrhages talented faculty and students because of our exclusionary policies.

And once the USS resolution is passed, every major governing body at Kent State will have submitted resolutions in support of domestic partner benefits to the President and Board of Trustees. Let us hope Lefton listens to the voices of the representational governing boards at Kent State and brings our university out of the backwash of intolerance and injustice.

Molly Merryman, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Justice Studies