Faculty, staff and students urged the University of Utah Board of Trustees Friday to strengthen U. policies prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.
But the board, the U.'s governing body, delayed action on the proposal until July 15 because four of its 10 members were absent.The proposal amends U. policies to prohibit discrimination based on "sexual and affectional discrimination." They were advanced, with some suggested changes or eliminations, through staff, student and faculty groups.
In a letter to the board, U. President Chase N. Peterson said the amendments fall into three categories. They would:
- Generally prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation against students, staff and faculty.
- Add sexual orientation to a list of protected characteristics such as race, color, religion, gender and national origin in the U.'s affirmative action policies.
- Prohibit U. assistance to or recognition of student or outside groups which discriminate based on sexual orientation.
Peterson recommended that the board adopt the first general discrimination clause but not change affirmative action policies or policies governing student or outside groups.
John Morris, associate vice president for academic affairs, said that affirmative action can involve steps undertaken to correct the underrepresentation of a specific group. But unlike gender and race, sexual orientation is a non-obvious characteristic and it would require inquiry to discover it, thus intruding on individual privacy.
As to changes prohibiting assistance to groups which limit membership by sexual orientation, this prohibition could reach ROTC and student religious groups that are constitutionally entitled to access to U. facilities, he said.
In urging the proposal's adoption in all three categories, staff member Rocky O'Donovan said the proposal is symbolic yet would change inconsistent and hypocritical U. policies. "Here I am, totally disenfranchised from this system because I'm gay, because my sexual and affectional orientation differs from that of the majority."
He said for the U. to remain silent on the issue would be unconscionable.
Staff member/student Nancy Perez, who identified herself as a lesbian, said she has experienced anti-gay comments in math class and has seen friends fired when their sexual orientation became known.