UT English Professor Calls for Domestic Partnership Benefits

Dear David Hanson:

Thank you for including me in your response to the domestic partner benefits article. Open discussion between all constituents at any institution is, I believe, the surest method for the most creative and productive vision.

A wise, old Jesuit priest once told me that “loyalty and dissent are correlative.” He was talking about the Catholic Church, but his words are applicable to any organization, country, university, or business. An institution can have too many “non-loving critics” and “non-critical lovers,” those who disparage without offering ideas, vision, or support, and those who are more loyal to familiarity and security than progress. “Loyalty demands dissent,” he taught me. You demonstrate your true loyalty to this university and your willingness to invest time and ideas in its improvement. Your dissent is full of concern for the growth of UT, and I appreciate it.

Know that I, too, found some of the opinions difficult to hear. It was difficult to sit in a faculty meeting some five or six years ago (I was fairly new) and have the first response to a well-researched report on DPB at Florida universities-filled with statistics on participation and policies-be about fraud. I was too stunned to speak. The follow-up argument (in writing) that UT would somehow uncover legal and tax liabilities that thousands of universities and companies had overlooked was “parochial,” as you say, at best. I don’t think it was intended malice, merely an unexamined ignorance. I have a female partner of thirteen years who also teaches at UT. Please know that such insensitive and false equivalencies are rare here. Whatever disappointments I have felt have been due to general lack of resources/commitment to faculty development-nothing except DPB specific to my identity-and are far outweighed by the support I have received, particularly within my department.

Homogeneity contributes to limited vision, as you note, and diversifying the university will be central to faster progress and accomplishment. UT is in a position now to “turn aside” (I remind myself of the root of “diversity”) from stagnating likenesses of ethnicity, gender, national origin, and sexual identity. We have few mechanisms to attract experienced faculty from other universities who would broaden our community. However, without the input of loyal supporters like yourself, I imagine our progress will be slower.

I respect your decision to withhold your expertise and financial contributions until UT resolves this issue fairly. However, I would ask you to reconsider. In a society where money is considered free speech, your targeted giving and continued guidance is invaluable.

Thank you again for your email.


Martha Serpas,

M. Div., Ph.D.

Associate Professor of English and Writing

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