OUR VIEW: OU needs stronger language to combat GLBT discrimination
Our View: More needs to be done to ensure gender equality in Oklahoman colleges.
The 2012 Higher Education Fairness Index, a research study which catalogues nondiscrimination policies regarding the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, reports humble strides to fairness for GLBT equality in Oklahoma higher education. Though a positive change is slowly surfacing, it is important for all colleges and universities to recognize the GLBT community by including sexual orientation in anti-discrimination policies.
According to current data released by the study, 18 of the 66 colleges and universities statewide have equal opportunity statements that include sexual orientation. This is an increase of seven schools to change their anti-discrimination policy since 2010.
OU is one of these seven schools to amended its anti-discrimination policy within the last two years, including sexual orientation in its anti-discrimination policy since May 2011.
The University of Central Oklahoma, on the other hand, is the only school in the state to include “gender identity” and “expression” in its statement.
Data from the 2008 American Community Survey and other recent figures suggest that there are between 43,000 and 57,000 GLBT members in Oklahoma. Discrimination comes in many forms, and it is easier to address discrimination when the target is defined. Without addressing who is targeted, it is impossible to fully eradicate discrimination and without explicitly including sexual orientation in policies to protect the rights of the GLBT community, minorities fall in cracks.
Their rights go easily ignored, and violations are easily unnoticed. Failing to address this population is just as dangerous as out-rightly discriminating the population. Both instances leave wide-open the possibility for inequality and violence.
Simply, without the proper amendments in equal opportunity statements and other documents, our neighbors, peers and co-workers will continue to lose their rights.
Even though OU’s policies respect the principles of equality and fairness, discrimination still exists outside the university and on other universities’ campuses. This discrimination is many times beget by the conservative climate within the state.
Despite its conservative tradition, Oklahoma should not only be viewed through a traditional, political lens and the state should not be defined by the measures decided at the Capitol. Institutions like universities can be just as influential as the legislature, and such institutions should challenge the standard. Universities, like the 18 noted above, should veer off the well-beaten path and become a vehicle for progressive change.
Earlier this month, for example, a resolution authored by Oklahoma Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, that reaffirmed the support for traditional marriage was supported by the state Senate 40 to 4. This certainly wasn’t the first time conservative tradition was embraced, and it won’t be the last.
The immobility of Oklahoma Legislature has not influenced OU, and we cannot let it set the tone for the 48 universities throughout Oklahoma that fail to include sexual orientation in equal opportunity statements.
Do not stand aside while the rights of many within our state and our community are violated or ignored. Contact your representative and senator to let them know your stance on discriminatory legislation. University policies can have a ripple effect among the community, especially given the large amount of students, faculty and staff on campus, but this ripple effect is not guaranteed.
We commend the 18 progressive colleges that have set the bar high by deviating from popular conservative thought. There is more to be done, though.
Let’s take cues from UCO and urge OU to adopt more succinct language in its anti-discrimination policy. As the largest employer in Norman, OU is a leader in its community.
Let’s become the most fair and equal leader.