Editorial: Lack of Progressive Initiatives Leaves UT in a Time Warp

Minaret Archives, 1994

In publicizing the faculty and administrative struggle over domestic partner benefits, The Minaret has consciously decided to inform the UT community of our institution’s prolonged lack of progress on the issue that has long passed being shameful.

In all truth, however, this is not the first time The Minaret has publicized this issue. Nearly 14 years ago, in our Jan. 28, 1994 issue, we drew attention to the growing trend for top universities to adopt domestic partner benefits.

Dr. Gary Luter, still a professor of speech and drama, then wrote: “Now the University of Tampa has a chance to demonstrate leadership in the area of equal rights by becoming the first university in the state to create an enlightened policy for its gay and lesbian employees . . . UT can be at a forefront of this movement, rather than playing catch-up tag.”

Unfortunately, and with great ignominy for our institution, we are now beyond a position of “catching up,” as private and public schools, both in Florida and across the nation, have left us in the dust on this fundamental issue of equal rights.

Nearly 14 years ago, Dr. Luter wrote that Director of Human Resources Donna Popovich believed that colleges and universities are moving in the direction of domestic partner benefits. Now, the same Popovich tells The Minaret that UT is proceeding “cautiously” in this area, careful to consider all implications of a policy before adopting it.

Just how long, we wonder, does it take to properly consider the “nuances” of this issue? Are 14 years not quite enough? Is there something inherent in this issue that requires over a decade of thought before our university decides to live up to its own professed principles?

Again, as Dr. Luter stressed nearly 14 years ago, the university’s own non-discrimination policy printed on the inside cover of the University of Tampa Catalog states that the university does not discriminate against faculty or staff members in employment or advancement on the basis of sexual orientation.

As an institution, we must be evaluated based on our actions rather than our words. Annual repetitions of hollow rhetoric do not change the fact that the benefits extended to married heterosexual couples are withheld from their same-sex counterparts.

In the same Jan. 1994 article, Dr. Luter points out that UT leaders in the 1960s sought to derive an “advantage” from excluding blacks, thinking that more white students would flock to UT to escape the newly integrated classrooms of state universities. In this light, we hope that our reprehensible lack of progress on domestic partner benefits is not a manifestation of some institutional proclivity to lag behind the times.

As the university continues its unprecedented growth and prides itself on being a cutting-edge institution with significant progress, it is useful to pay close attention to the distinction between words and facts. Looking at our commentary section from January of 1994, a superficial glance would give the impression that UT is now lost in a time warp. In addition to our feature on domestic partner benefits, our editorial was titled “Time for university to start recycling programs,” another progressive initiative that UT is still without. The fact that a 1994 commentary section could be printed unnoticeably a decade and a half later is disturbing indeed; what of all that supposed “progress” that we’re always boasting about?

Now is the proper time for this institution to ask what kind of legacy we would like to leave. Is it that we’ll constantly be two decades behind our peers, a place of retarded conscience, the late adopters? Will we be remembered as consistently the last caveman to pick our knuckles up off the cave floor? If so, if we choose to ensconce ourselves in a historical continuity of “catch-up tag,” we wonder, should we add that to our admissions brochures?

Related Articles:

President and Faculty Battle Over Domestic Partner Benefits

Overview of Domestic Partner Benefits in South Florida Colleges

Faculty Question Benefits Survey’s Methodology, Results

Students and Donor Support Domestic Partner Benefits, President’s Stance Still Unclear

Gay Donor/Alumnus Pushes Vaughn for Domestic Partner Benefits

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