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December 11, 1990

       1.1  University Committee on Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action

 

 

 

                           1.1.1  December 11, 1990

 

 

  Present   Susan Asselin, Robin Ball, Virgil Cook, Mona Edwards, Muriel

            Flynn, Laurie Good, Michele Holmes, Patricia Hyer, Joan

            Kalnitsky-Alif, Kathy Lewis, Brian McConnell, Cornel Morton,

            Harry Pence, Nancy Simmons, Chris Tayloe

 

  Absent:   Allison Ballew, Alan Bayer, Doretha Butler, Randy Grayson, Doris

            Evans, Mark Flora, Jane Harrison, Janine Hiller, Deborah Ho,

            Melissa Holland, Dawn Maxey, Pat Morris, Dennis Jones, Michael

            Lambur, Charlotte Pratt, Wayne Speer, Linda Woodard, Glenn

            Valentine

 

  Guests:   Jerry Cain, General Counsel's Office;  Kay Heidbreder, General

            Counsel's Office;  David Kingston, University Council;  Barbara

            Pendergrass, Commission on Student Affairs

 

 

  Cornel Morton called the meeting to order at 2:00 p.m.

 

 

  1.  ADOPTION OF AGENDA

 

      The agenda was adopted as distributed.

 

  2.  APPROVAL OF MINUTES

 

      The minutes from the meeting of November 6, 1990 are pending approval

      at the January 8, 1991, meeting.

 

  3.  ANNOUNCEMENTS

 

      o   Dr. Hyer noted that the hiring goals for classified staff and fac-

          ulty will be available in January (for inclusion on the Plan). She

          asked that this topic be included for discussion at the next EO/AA

          meeting.  Ms.  Mona Edwards, who has also been working on this

          project, has a draft copy available for perusal.

 

      o   Dr. Morton announced that 3-4 additional campus climate workshops

          are planned for the spring semester.  He added that he hopes to de-

          vote one to gender equity issues.  Also on the topic of sex equity,

          Dr. Morton announced that Dr. Bernice Sandler, former head of the

          Project on the Status and Education of Women, under the Association

          of American Colleges, has agreed to present a "Breakfast With. . ."

          program on Friday, February 22nd.

 

      o   Dr. Hyer informed the Committee that the Affirmative Action Incen-

          tive Grants Program applications have been distributed.

 

  4.  NEW BUSINESS

 

      a.  RESOLUTION TO REVISE THE UNIVERSITY'S EO/AA STATEMENT

 

 

          Dr. Morton informed the Committee that the Commission on Student

          Affairs has approved a resolution (CSA 1990-91A) that would add the

          phrase "sexual orientation" to its non-discrimination statement.

          The resolution came before University Council on December 3rd, but

          was referred to the EO/AA Committee for its recommendation.  He

          asked Brian McConnell, author of the resolution and senator from

 

          the Student Government Association, to provide the history and ra-

          tionale for the resolution.

 

          Mr. McConnell stated that he had written the revised statement se-

          veral years ago as a means of discouraging homophobia in any form

          from Virginia Tech's admissions or hiring practices.  He noted,

          however, that the proposed resolution contains a clause which

          states "that in matters of conflicting jurisdiction with the United

          States Department of Defense that this policy not be binding." Sub-

          sequent discussion of this topic indicated that the specific DOD

          reference might not be sufficiently inclusive.  It was agreed that

          "Department of Defense" should be replaced by "Federal Agencies."

          He informed the Committee that the resolution has been approved by

          both the Student Senate and the Commission on Student Affairs. Mr.

          McConnell indicated that the resolution represents an effort to

          discourage harassment of this "invisible minority"; he went on to

          describe several incidents where gays and/or lesbians have been

          accosted.  In response to a question about the difference between

          "sexual orientation" and "sexual preference," Mr. McConnell stated

          that homosexuality is not considered a "choice" made by an individ-

          ual. Thus, the phrase "sexual orientation" has been widely accepted

          and is used in this resolution.

 

          Dr. Kingston, representing the University Council, expressed his

          concern about the increasingly "piecemeal approach" to the state-

          ment.  He wondered if the university might be unintentionally ex-

          cluding certain groups from the non-discrimination statement by not

          specifically mentioning them.  He advised that the university de-

          velop a simpler, more broadly inclusive statement, such as not dis-

          criminating on any non-academic and non-employment related grounds.

          Ms. Kay Heidbreder, Associate General Counsel, stated that the

          present statement could not be changed in such a way, as it is man-

          dated by Federal statutes.  Dr. Hyer then questioned how discrimi-

          nation claims would be handled.  Ms.  Heidbreder responded that

          although Federal and state statutes do not include a reference to

          sexual orientation, the inclusion of that phrase on Tech's state-

          ment was not specifically prohibited.  She noted that both William

          & Mary and Radford University have adopted the new statement.  Ms.

          Heidbreder cautioned, however, that the revision represents the

          university's own internal commitment to non-discrimination, and if

          challenged, could open the university to a whole new class of com-

          plaints.

 

          In response to a question concerning hiring practices, Dr. Morton

          noted that revising the statement would not in any way change per-

          sonnel procedures; necessitate the creation of hiring goals for

          gays, lesbians or bisexuals; or require the disclosure of sexual

          orientation upon hiring.  He reiterated that revising Tech's state-

          ment reflects a conscious attempt to protect those who are differ-

          ent and subject to harassment.

 

          Discussion then centered around the intent of the policy.  Ms.

          Heidbreder inquired whether the statement would be included on all

          official university documents.  She also inquired whether the re-

          vised statement would limit with whom the university can conduct

          business. Dr.  Morton replied that it would apply in all the ways

          that the current policy does.  Mr. Jerry Cain, General Counsel for

          Virginia Tech, described some possible problems that the resolution

          could engender. In summary, he expressed his opposition to regu-

          lations which are not similarly supported by state and Federal gov-

          ernment statutes.

 

          Dr. David Kingston then discussed several of his objections to the

          adoption of the resolution.  Specifically, he stated, the resol-

          ution cannot prevent the harassment of gays, lesbians or bisexuals,

          as it deals strictly with hiring and admissions practices -- and

          one's sexual orientation is not requested on any employment or ad-

          missions application.  He observed that passing the resolution

          would be a divisive action, as Tech's non-discrimination statement

          would then be different from the Commonwealth's statement.  Dr.

          Kingston also observed that sodomy is still a felony in the state

          of Virginia, and while the proposed resolution deals only with sex-

          ual orientation, he felt that it was inappropriate to adopt lan-

          guage that appears to condone sodomy.

 

          In response to these objections, Brian McConnell reiterated that

          the resolution was not merely an attempt to prevent direct

          harassment of homosexuals (an estimated 5-12% of students and fac-

          ulty) but was more an attempt to improve the climate of the univer-

          sity. Mr. McConnell stated that if Tech's non-discrimination

          statement included the phrase "sexual orientation," it would re-

          flect a more tolerant and attractive climate for this and other mi-

          norities.  In addition, he considered the question of lawsuits as

          relatively minor, because many potential complainants would be in-

          timated from filing a grievance.  He also addressed Dr. Kingston's

          observation regarding sodomy as a felony.  Mr. McConnell stated

          that in addition to this statute, there are other antiquated laws

          on the books that should be challenged (such as laws that prohibit

          the assembly of more than two homosexuals, or that gays cannot work

          in a place where alcohol is served). Dr. Kingston responded that

          while he opposes discrimination of gays and lesbians on any level

          -- and supports a statement to that effect in the sexual harassment

          policy -- he opposes adding it to the university's statement of

          non-discrimination. He urged the Committee to vote against the re-

          solution principally because there has been no evidence that dis-

          crimination has occurred in hiring or admissions practices.

 

          Ms. Mona Edwards agreed that this issue is an important one and de-

          serves full consideration.  She asked the EO/AA Committee if it

          felt it was meeting its obligation to the other groups mentioned in

          the statement.  In other words, would the addition of a new

          constituency to the statement spread the "watchdog" efforts of the

          Committee too thin?

 

          Dr. Barbara Pendergrass, a representative of the Commission on Stu-

          dent Affairs, informed the Committee that one of the issues that

          CSA considered as it reviewed the resolution was that it is ahead

          of the law.  She added that the law has often "lagged behind the

          correct thing to do," making this argument, in her view, an insuf-

          ficient reason to veto the resolution. Ms. Chris Tayloe inquired

          whether there has been a recent incident of harassment on this cam-

          pus associated with homosexuality.  Dr.  Morton responded that

          while he knows of no personnel decisions that have been affected by

          discrimination against gays or lesbians at Virginia Tech, he did

          report that one such incident had occurred during his service at

          another institution. Mr. McConnell stated that very few incidents

          -- and they have occurred in this area -- are ever reported because

          of the continued stigma associated with homosexuality.

 

          Dr. Hyer moved that the Committee vote on the resolution by secret

          ballot.  The eight voting members present cast their ballots and

          voted NOT TO APPROVE THE RESOLUTION by a margin of five to three.

 

  5.  ONGOING BUSINESS

 

      a.  Subcommittee Reports

 

          1)  SUBCOMMITTEE ON WOMEN

 

              Dr. Hyer announced that the sexual harassment policy had been

              reviewed by University Council at its December 3rd meeting.  It

              was referred to the Faculty Senate and was to be discussed at

              their meeting that evening.  She also reiterated that she would

              be stepping down as chairperson of the subcommittee, although

              she expressed her willingness to continue to serve as a commit-

              tee member. Joan Kalnitsky-Alif agreed to convene the next

              meeting.

 

          2)  SUBCOMMITTEE ON MINORITY CONCERNS

 

              No Report.

 

          3)  SUBCOMMITTEE ON DISABILITY CONCERNS

 

              No Report.

 

      b.  CUSTODIAN LEAVE POLICY

 

          In summary, Ms. Kalnitsky-Alif reported that the policy was unfair

          in three general areas:  1) it affects all custodians even though

          there are only 12-15% regular abusers of sick and annual leave;  2)

          it requires individuals least able to afford visits to a physician

          to present with a doctor's excuse when sick; and 3) it has a dele-

          terious affect on climate.  Joan Kalnitsky-Alif then described a

          recent meeting with Mr. Wyatt Sasser during which he agreed to pur-

          sue several suggestions regarding the revision of the policy. She

          reported, however, that Mr. Sasser telephoned later to rescind his

          offer to act immediately to review the policy for revision. Thus,

          she said, "we are back where we started from."  Ms.  Kalnitsky-Alif

          asked if a letter could be drafted from the Committee, to be sent

          to Ms. Ann Spencer, that would put in writing the Committee's offi-

          cial protest of the policy.  With Committee approval, she agreed to

          draft the document. Ms. Mona Edward suggested that this issue be-

          come an agenda item at a subsequent meeting, as several Committee

          members were not familiar with the history of this topic.  She

          added, however, that the Classified Staff Affairs Committee should

          be involved in any future discussion of this issue.

 

 

  The meeting adjourned at 3:45 p.m.

 

 

  Respectfully submitted,

 

 

  Laurie S. Good

  Executive Secretary

 

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