Editorial: Policy change is empty so far

By The Beacon | November 21, 2013 2:15am

On Sept. 27, the Board of Regents voted to include sexual orientation in the Nondiscrimation Policy, a decision celebrated by students, faculty and staff across the UP community.

But what does the change really do?

According to President Fr. Bill Beauchamp, nothing. At an ASUP meeting on Nov. 4, Beauchamp told students that the policy change has no practical implications.

“If it makes more people comfortable that we have that, that’s important,” Beauchamp said. “But it does not represent a change in University policy. What it did do was put in writing our nondiscrimination practice all along.”

Maybe he’s right. Maybe the policy change was meaningless.

But we do need change. A precise wording of policies and statements is not ultimately what needs to be altered. Instead, the attitudes and behaviors of our community toward marginalized people need to change.

Two weeks ago, the Ad Hoc Presidential Committee on Inclusion (PACI) published their recommendations to the administration in regards to inclusion and nondiscrimination. These recommendations make the need for social change abundantly clear. The PACI found that LGBTQ students, faculty and staff continue to feel marginalized in the community.

“Some employees fear negative consequences for being too visibly ‘out’ as LGBTQ,” the recommendations say. The document also says that “students mentioned poor understanding and inappropriate treatment” of some marginalized groups on campus.

In light of student and faculty responses, the PACI not only recommended changing the Nondiscrimation Policy, but it also suggested tangible changes to promote equality, inclusion and diversity at the University.

For instance, the PACI recommended creating new orientations and trainings for students, faculty and staff to increase awareness of diversity in the University community. The committee also recommended hiring women and other minorities for leadership positions.

Members of the PACI are not the only people on campus to stress the importance of concrete change. After the Regents voted to change the policy, both senior Andrea Merrill and junior Matthew Gadbois wrote into The Beacon, emphasizing that policy change is a step in the right direction but does not signal the end of inequality.

But in the wake of the policy change, Beauchamp seems to be ignoring the need for concrete change. At the Nov. 4 ASUP meeting, he said the policy change would “probably not” allow same-sex partners to travel with faculty on study abroad trips, adding that he “(doesn’t) want to talk about ‘what ifs’” regarding the policy.

But those “what ifs” are precisely what we need to talk about. It is not acceptable for the administration to receive recommendations clearly stating that LGBTQ student and faculty are discriminated against, only to proceed to do nothing further than policy change, which by their own admission has no effect on the University’s practices.

Members of our community are still hurting from discrimination, and when Beauchamp says that the purpose of the Nondiscrimination Policy change is just to “make more people comfortable,” it sounds like a he’s putting a bandaid on a broken leg.

Beauchamp will meet soon with the committee to talk about how to move forward with their recommendations, according to Paul Myers, director of Health Services and PACI member. If Beauchamp truly wants the Nondiscrimination Policy change to have a positive impact on UP, he needs to enforce it by heeding the recommendations and committing to real change on campus.