Board responds to issues

A week after Missouri Southern’s Board of Governors provided a brief update on efforts to examine and possibly revise the school’s non-discrimination policy, frustration remains for members of the Equality Alliance.

Board member Charles McGinty, who chairs the academic affairs committee tasked with looking into the matter, said Friday during the Board’s monthly meeting his committee had received a lot of information from Human Resources Director Debbie Dutch Kelley earlier in the day, but that it would take some time to sift through it all.

“We don’t have a short time frame,” McGinty said afterwards. “This isn’t something we need to get done quickly. It’s something we need to take our time with.”

The meeting was attended by more than a dozen members of the Equality Alliance, a group that provides support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students and is working to enact policy change in the form of the addition of sexual orientation and gender identity to the University’s non-discrimination language.

President Ashley Trotnic, a senior theatre major, is hopeful the Board took notice.

“I was hoping that the Board would see that we are curious to hear their report because they’ve sent it to a committee,” Trotnic said this week. “We have a lot of people who are wanting to see what they have said about the issue, what they have met on and what they have decided. We wanted them to know even though we haven’t done any protests we still wanted to make our presence known.”

The group organized weekly protests in and around Hearnes Hall last spring after a former Board member used a gay slur during a February retreat. Gov. David Ansley resigned two days later.

Dr. Hillary Fogerty, the Alliance’s adviser, said the brief update was predictable, but the students were even more determined going forward.

“The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior and they’re behavior thus far has been reprehensible,” Fogerty said. “Change comes slowly around these parts, I’ve been told.

“(The students are) more determined, more frustrated, doubtful that the Board is taking them seriously or the issue seriously,” she added.

McGinty told The Chart afterwards the committee was concerned about possible fiscal impacts from revising the policy.

“We want to make sure whatever we do doesn’t have a financial impact,” he said.

Trotnic said members of the Equality Alliance approached McGinty after the meeting for more information on the committee’s actions.

“It was very brief and it was very vague,” Trotnic said of the report. “If you weren’t aware of which committee was supposed to report on the issue you would have had no idea that the issue had even been brought up. A few members of the Equality Alliance approached him afterwards to get more information to see if that was in fact the committee report on the policy change and he was able to give us more information, which I don’t know why that wasn’t reported in the meeting.

“He said that the people on the committee have been talking to Debbie Dutch Kelley about financial issues,” she added.

Fogerty said the notion the Board is concerned about fiscal impact implies they recognize there is discrimination on campus against students and faculty and that if they were to introduce a non-discrimination clause they would have to do something to change the discriminatory practices.

“Or if they’re worried about fiscal issues, is it they’re worried that they’re going to get sued because they are currently discriminating against people and they realize they would have to stop or they would be open to lawsuits?” Fogerty said.

“Fiscal reasons to keep to keep discriminating against people have never made sense,” she later added. “Slavery was also fiscally good for part of the population; that doesn’t make it right or make it a viable system. If fiscal issues are the reason the Board is going to continue to hold up they’ve got to realize they’re thinking their bottom line is more important than students’ civil rights or safety.”

And though no timeline was provided for a Board decision on the matter, Trotnic and the Equality Alliance said they are determined to keep pressing for change.

“We had another meeting on Monday,” Trotnic said. “Our group has grown so much this year, we have at least 30 members and they’re all very passionate, they’re enthusiastic and they’re ready to move forward.

“The lack of the Board of Governors giving us information and the lack of their motivation, it seems, to move forward with the issue has not stopped our passion to move forward,” she added. “We’re still going to make our presence known until the change happens.”