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Students, faculty call MU inclusion clause idealistic

From U-Wire
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
February 2, 2000
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COLUMBIA, Mo.-If the University of Missouri system won't offer inclusion, the colleges will.

After the MU system Board of Curators opted not to include sexual orientation in the system's nondiscrimination policy in January 1999, the Missouri Students Association helped mobilize schools and colleges at MU to add the clause into their own nondiscrimination policies.

All but one MU undergraduate college has incorporated sexual orientation into their nondiscrimination statements. However, there have been few opportunities to show the power of the clause in action.

"What a policy statement represents is an ethical stance on how you agree to operate," said Ted Tarkow, associate dean of the College of Arts and Science.

If students were to feel discriminated against and wish to take formal action against a college, Tarkow and other administrators said they weren't sure how far these agreements to operate could extend to protect them.

Sociology professor John Galliher attended the low-turnout faculty meeting last February when Arts and Science faculty members voted to reaffirm the sexual-orientation clause in their policy, which had been in place for several years.

Galliher said he didn't remember any discussion about the practical implications of a college adopting a policy that didn't fall in line with system policy.

"I don't think anyone in the college has ever been sued for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation," he said. "The faculty understand that this can't occur."

Although MU administrators have said that they feel confident in their policies and practices, some students say they have experienced discrimination for their sexual orientation at MU.

Freshman Janae Smith, who until recently had hoped for a 30-year career in the military, said her aerospace-studies class forced her to "live a lie."

As a high school senior, Smith planned to join ROTC in order to obtain a scholarship that would eventually pay for medical school and give her a job out of college.

But the military's strict "don't ask, don't tell policy" meant Smith had to hide her sexual orientation in class, at workouts and around other cadets in order to avoid being kicked out of the program.

"It's a big part of your life; it's the person you love," she said. "That would have been 30 years of my life trying not to let anybody know, and I really don't want to do that."

As a part of ROTC, Smith was enrolled in an aerospace-studies class under the College of Arts and Science, which has a sexual-orientation clause in its nondiscrimination policy.

Robert Avalle, chairman of the military science department, said all ROTC scholarship recipients are required to join a military science class, even though students who join the classes are not required to join ROTC.

Smith said she once tried to defend the rights of homosexuals in the military to a classroom of cadets who were against allowing open homosexuality in the military.

"I was trying to argue for this without openly admitting it myself and getting kicked out," she said. "I got so upset sometimes, why should it even matter?"

Fifth-year senior Jeanine Johnson, a gay student who left ROTC after her first semester, said joining ROTC is like signing away constitutional rights.

"There's things you can do in the civilian world that you just can't do in the military," Johnson said.

One of those things is openly discussing one's sexual orientation, which is the reason Johnson left ROTC, she said

Johnson said that once the program's directors learned she was involved in a homosexual organization at MU, they suggested she leave ROTC rather than be forced out.

Both Tarkow and Galliher said they didn't know how ROTC's "don't ask, don't tell" policy would relate to Arts and Science's sexual-orientation clause.

"Because we work for the Department of the Army, which is in the Department of Defense, we just abide by DOD policy," Avalle said. "But, if it was in conflict with a university policy, then each individual ROTC program would have to reconcile the issue with the chancellor or dean."

No ROTC members or other students have complained formally to colleges about discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and administrators said they don't know whose policy takes precedence ROTC's, the particular college's or the UM system's.

Johnson said she had a feeling about how the hierarchy of clauses would work if it was ever tested.

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