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A letter from The Coalition For an Equitable Community --
Recently, there has been a preoccupation by some members of our Board of Trustees with comparative statistics and win-loss records. Much of this has focused on Bobby Bowden and his record this season. That is not what this article is about. It is about a score that directly affects the lives of thousands of our students, faculty and staff.
We’ll start with the statistics, and then get into the explanation.
- When it comes to schools in Florida, the record is 13 to 3 with FSU on the losing side —UF, by the way, is in the winning column.
- When it comes to the ACC the record is 11 to 1, with FSU being the only school to lose.
- When it comes to the American Association of Colleges and Universities, an elite group of research institutions, which we strive to join, there is a total shut out: 64 to 0.
This article is not about sports; it is about equality. The statistics just mentioned are those institutions that have non-discrimination policies inclusive of sexual orientation.
Many people will doubtlessly not understand why this is important and why this is an issue where we want to stand with the overwhelming majority of the academic community.
Let us explain.
The first basic reason to adopt an inclusive non-discrimination policy is to validate the personal dignity of the LGBTQ students, faculty and staff at FSU. The university’s refusal to protect these groups implicitly endorses the view that discrimination is acceptable.
At this point in our history we should all be able to agree that it is not. All members of the FSU community should not only feel, but know, that the university values them and the contributions they make to Florida State.
Personal dignity aside, there are a few important considerations not based on the fundamental belief that all men are created equal, which are nevertheless important.
The first is academic freedom. Academic freedom means freedom of inquiry. It means being able to research without fear of retaliation for unpopular views or discoveries. It means being able to ask your professors controversial questions without being afraid your grade will suffer. When the university allows discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, it makes students and faculty afraid to ask those questions and to do that research. Our scholarship and reputation as a university suffers.
Furthermore, there are serious economic implications when the university refuses to protect sexual orientation. We are at a competitive disadvantage against our peer institutions when they protect sexual orientation and we do not. Our failure to adopt an inclusive policy means that FSU does not always get the best and the brightest because they go to institutions where they will be protected.
This hurts us both in the classroom and the academic community. This viewpoint is not limited to the “liberal” higher education establishment.
Almost all of our corporate partners recognize that to recruit and maintain the best, they have to protect individuals from discrimination based on their sexual orientation. Nike, Coca-Cola and SunTrust recognize the importance of an inclusive policy; it is time Florida State does so as well.
The movement to adopt and inclusive non-discrimination policy at FSU is strong and growing. The Student Government Association, through COGS and the Student Senate, has supported this effort. Graduate Assistants United supports this effort. The Faculty Senate supports this effort. In short, there are only a few holdouts bringing us down.
Given this shameful record, we could ask these individuals to step down, as they have asked others to do. But we will not. They have contributed a lot to this university, and we appreciate and respect that.
But we do insist that they must change the playbook; worn-out arguments and mudding up the legal waters will not cut it anymore. If UM can do it, if USF can do it, if UF can do it, there is absolutely no reason that Florida State University cannot do it.
It is time to end our competitive disadvantage. It is time to join the 21st century and stand firm in our commitment to academic freedom and the dignity of ALL members of the Seminole community.
It is time to adopt an inclusive non-discrimination policy.
The Coalition for an Equitable Community seeks to eliminate all forms of discrimination based upon individual identity and to foster a community which values diversity, tolerance and acceptance.
This letter was originally published in the FSView in November 2009.
To learn more about The Coalition For an Equitable Community please visit www.fsucoalition.com