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Student Senate praises, pushes university with two LGBT resolutions

ATHENS, Ohio (Oct. 19, 2006) -- On the heels of Out Week, Ohio University Student Senate passed two resolutions relating to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) affairs at its meeting Wednesday evening. One resolution recognized an addition to the university's affirmative action policy, while the other called for research into "inequities associated with the LGBT Program Center."

The first resolution, which passed without debate, gave senate support to the addition of "gender identity and gender expression" into the affirmative action policy. The phrase was added in July. Commissioner for LGBT Affairs Will Wemer said he was pleased to have the distinction added early in the academic year. 

"It is a rarity when a commissioner starts the year and one of their major goals (has) already been achieved before they even set foot in the town for the year," Wemer said. 

Wemer was also one of the sponsors for the second resolution, which requested that faculty and staff members examine and explain what he said are inequities related to the LGBT Programs Center. The resolution noted that the LGBT Programs Center is the only minority program with only an assistant director. He said the directors of the other minority programs receive higher salaries and easier access to the president. The resolution also indicated that the LGBT Programs Center was allocated less funding per year than other minority programs. 

The report compared the LGBT Programs Center with International Student Services, Multicultural Programs, Disability Services and the projected figures for the new Women's Center.

The resolution also recommended that LGBT affairs be given a seat in the yet-to-form Office of Equity and Diversity (OED). Other minority groups have been named as part of this office, but LGBT has not.  

"In a executive summary for the OED from Associate Provost Charlene Smith, LGBT was not explicitly mentioned," Wemer stated. "It's language. It may be being considered, but right now there's no explicit statement."

Smith responded that the LGBT Programs Center is recommended to join the  office next year and before June 30, 2008, which is when the plan calls for the  comprehensive OED to be in place. The OED is set to be established in five  phases and the executive summary listed only those offices immediately  involved in phase one of the office's development.

Though the resolution was debated for almost half an hour, it passed unopposed with two abstentions. The discussion clarified that the resolution was meant to stimulate research into the issues of inequity rather than accuse people of wrongdoing. 

"When we found out about this problem, we could either yell and scream about it," said Wemer, "Or we could take the more civilized route of working with the administrators rather than against the administrators."

"This resolution is really promoting positive action on campus," said Lee Robbins, commissioner for women's affairs and sponsor of the bill. "We're not presenting this in a way that is adversarial."

Now that the resolution has passed, Wemer said he is ready to begin discussing issues with faculty and staff members. 

"The easy part was writing the resolution," said Wemer, who authored the document along with Robbins and Tristan Walker, commissioner for minority affairs. "Now that it's out in the open, and leaders and administrators know about it, it's time for action. We need to keep the issue in the open, as a student senate and as advocates for diversity on this campus."

Commissioner Walker said he did not expect much faculty resistance to the project. 

"There will be challenges with certain individuals," Walker said, "But there are a lot of faculty on this campus who are willing to work with us."

The commissioners expect to work on the project for the remainder of the year, and expect to pass on the project to future senate members after that. Wemer said he hopes to have explanations for minority affairs budgets for the senate by the end of the year. He also hopes to gain a seat on the OED by the end of the year. 

"Once we get more funding information, we can see how big the gap actually is," said Wemer. "The major thing where we can say 'yes, we've achieved something' is if and when we do get a seat in the OED."

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Media Contact: Director of Media Relations Jack Jeffery, (740) 597-1793 or jefferyj@ohio.edu

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