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Commentary

Editor’s note: Commentary provides university faculty and staff an opportunity to express their opinions in The Miami University Report. Contributions should be no longer than 500-600 words in length and should be directed to Bill Houk (physics), houktw@muohio.edu.

"Talk is Cheap!"
Tom Speh, associate dean, Richard T. Farmer School of Business Administration
James Stearns, department chair, marketing
Dave Rosenthal, marketing

We in the marketing department and School of Business share the horror and dismay that recent "hate" acts have generated throughout our community. There can be no tolerance of such behavior or sentiment, and we need to speak powerfully to condemn it. We congratulate and support those who have already spoken out against hate.

As despicable as these hate incidents were, we feel compelled to point out that Miami University as an institution systematically discriminates against one group on a daily basis. This discrimination does not take the abstract form of words or e-mails or horrific symbols. The discrimination takes place in a very tangible way. Miami University denies domestic partner benefits to gays and lesbians. Every other member of the administration, staff and faculty has the right to enroll spouses and families in the Miami University health benefits programs. Administrators, staff and faculty can also take advantage of tuition waivers to support the educational advancement of their families. These benefits are denied to the partners of our gay and lesbian colleagues, despite resolutions overwhelmingly passed by the Faculty Senate and the Business School faculty (and probably other groups of which we are not aware).

Miami has set the laudable goal of significant improvement by 2009. Yet we are willing to watch as some of our most talented and motivated faculty leave the University because they are discriminated against, jeopardizing our goals as an institution. Others, not only gays and lesbians, refuse to consider Miami University as an employer. Still others feel the daily sting of knowing that they are "second class citizens."

An overwhelming majority of successful organizations and institutions now offer domestic partner benefits. These include General Motors, Ford, IBM, Philip Morris, AT&T, Procter & Gamble, Safeway, Dell, Coca-Cola, Xerox, Federated, Delta, Gap, Kodak, General Mills, Colgate and many others who hire our students. Some offer domestic benefits because they believe it is the right thing to do, some out of self-interest. Both are good reasons.

For years the university has pointed to Columbus as the problem. This myth was dispelled in July when legislative leaders said there is nothing stopping state universities, other than the will and courage of the administration, from offering domestic partner benefits. From the Columbus Dispatch, July 11, 2002: "[Ohio] Senate President Richard H. Finan said, ‘I think they’re passing the buck. Miami University did the same thing several years ago—saying unless the legislature passes a law making this possible, they wouldn’t do it. There is nothing on the books right now that says they couldn’t pass it.’" Why can’t Miami have the courage to take a leadership position and action among state universities on this issue? Why must we always follow on issues of courage and organizational values? Why must we just pay lip service to issues of hate and diversity?

Miami currently is revamping its health care coverage. The time is right for us to join Ball State, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Case Western, Indiana, Michigan State, Purdue, Iowa, Michigan, Wake Forest and others, and stop university-sanctioned discrimination. We have shown the resolve to speak out against hate and discrimination; that is important and significant, but it is easy. Having enough courage to act in the face of hate and discrimination is something else. End this terrible injustice against our colleagues. Miami University, put your benefits where your mouth is!

Date Published: 12/05/2002
Volume: 22   Number: 18

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