Mr. President, we STILL need your leadership
By Andrew Sheeler
A progressive decision that would vastly benefit lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) people has been left to languish due to the heart-breaking lack of political will from our leaders. Sound familiar?
Sure, I could be talking about Congress’ inability to end the discriminatory Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy. DADT is the U.S. military policy that prohibits LGBT people from serving openly. Even a rumor of homosexuality can lead to dishonorable discharge from the military. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was enacted in to law in 1993, when there was still great fear and intolerance of LGBT people. It was falsely advertised that the law would protect gay and lesbian soldiers by preventing the military from openly questioning their sexuality. This “protection” led to soldiers being outed to their superiors by their peers. DADT has cost the U.S. military dozens of valuable servicewomen and men, including interpreters and intelligence analysts. The 111th Congress has thus far proved unable to overturn the national disgrace that is Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Every passing day makes it less likely for DADT to end.
In truth, I wasn’t talking about DADT in my opening paragraph. I was talking about the fact that the University of Alaska does not currently include sexual orientation in its list of statuses that are protected from discrimination. It’s our very own Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. We are alone among state universities to hold that disgusting distinction.
In August, I wrote an editorial that called on UA President Patrick Gamble to take some decisive action in favor of UAF students, staff and faculty by amending the Non-Discrimination Clause. Since then, there have been four meetings of the UA Board of Regents, four separate chances for Gamble to demonstrate leadership by directing the Board to take up this issue. In the absence of leadership from Gamble, it falls to the students to take the initiative.
Where have the student leaders been? Last year, the UAF Gay-Straight Alliance was an outspoken advocate for LGBT issues on campus. When anti-gay speaker Edward Delgado came to campus, they held a protest and used the occasion to speak out about the need to amend UA’s Non-Discrimination Clause. This year, the GSA has been quiet. The Day of Silence is one day of the year. You should be shouting and screaming from the rooftops the other 364. And you shouldn’t be alone.
It is time that our ASUAF student government takes a decisive stand on the Non-Discrimination policy. ASUAF proved earlier this semester that when students speak out, they can change minds. If our student leaders can convince the Board not to enact a five percent tuition raise, then surely they can convince the Board to make a policy change that would protect a substantial portion of students, staff and faculty.
Think the stakes aren’t high? Remember Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers student who killed himself after having a gay sexual encounter broadcast over the internet by his roommate? Clementi put a face to the disturbing statistic of LGBT suicides resulting from bullying. The next Tyler Clementi could be here at UAF. Amending the Non-Discrimination policy would send a message that the University of Alaska is serious about preventing bullying.
Pres. Gamble and the Board of Regents had the entire semester to take action. They weren’t listening because maybe we weren’t speaking loud enough.