Organizing for Fairness at Georgetown College | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Organizing for Fairness at Georgetown College

64212_10151350661874361_1135509954_nThe Scott County Chapter recently has acted in support of a new group at Georgetown College that seeks to persuade the College to expand non-discrimination protections to include such things as sexual orientation.

Georgetown College is a historically Baptist institution that traces its roots back to 1787, claiming as one its forebears Elijah Craig, the Kentucky Baptist preacher and Bourbon maker.  Long a stronghold moderate Baptist thinking, the College adopted a formal policy prohibiting discrimination against gay students in 2008, College officials shy away from public acknowledgment of these policies.  The College refused to formally sponsor a gay/student group until 2011, when gay students on campus boldly came out in the College newspaper and made the campus aware of the bullying and harassment to which they were at times subjected.  Even then, the College insisted that the name of the group (Campus Spectrum) should not directly suggest anything about its mission, which is to welcome and support all students, regardless of sexual orientation.

In the Spring of 2012, about 90% of the faculty at the College voted in favor of a proposal to expand non-discrimination in hiring to include sexual orientation.  The proposal was considered especially timely in view of the fact that the College now does employ a few openly gay faculty and staff members.  This proposal would also bring the College in line with most other respected institution of higher learning, including many religious institutions which have long since adopted similar policies.

The proposal was brought before the College’s Board of Trustees last Fall.  In a surprise move, a committee of the Board rejected the proposal almost unanimously, for reasons that Board members have been unwilling to make clear.

Since that time a growing number of students, faculty and staff have begun to voice their concerns.  And some of them—who happen to be KFTC members—brought their concerns before the Scott County Chapter  at one of its monthly meetings.  The chapter responded by deputing Chapter staff member Dave Newton to facilitate a Power Analysis of the issue at a campus meeting on January 22nd of this year.  About twenty people attended, and the Power Analysis galvanized the group into a series of weekly meetings that have continued to grow both in numbers and in power.

The organization has named itself the Non-Discrimination Working Group.  It aims not only to update nondiscrimination policies, but to address other campus issues of justice and fairness, in ways that empower those most directly affected and that make campus governance more participatory and more transparent.  For example, the Group has recently begun to monitor the College’s plans to outsource its grounds and maintenance divisions.

On the non-discrimination front, the Group Is directly petitioning the Board to re-address the original faculty proposal.  In spite of pressure from administrators, students and faculty have vigiled together on the steps of Giddings Hall, the main administration building, and have distributed leaflets to Board members as they enter Board meetings.  Student members of the Working Group are soliciting support from nearly fifty other student groups on Campus.  Members are writing regularly for the campus newspaper, and are also hard at work on a week-long Teach-In at the end of April.  The teach-In will culminate in a rally, a “Silent Disco”, and all-night vigil on the eve the next regular meeting of the Board of Trustees.

Some members of the Working Group, looking back at the long history of the College, note that the College has a distinct tendency to “wait around” to see if it can afford to the right thing.  In pre-Civil War days, the College distanced itself from discussions of the morality of slavery.  The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s also appears to have passed the College by.  To be sure, questions surrounding fairness ordinances and gay marriage are hotly debated in Kentucky today, especially in the religious communities that the College has long served.  Nevertheless, Working Group members believe that gay rights are the civil rights movement of our time, and that young people especially are the drivers of this movement.  They believe that if the College sits this movement out—waiting around once again until it thinks it can afford to do the right thing, or is forced to do so by passage of federal or state farness laws—then it will miss an important teaching opportunity.

They are in this for the long haul.

- Jamie McClard, Christian Nunez, and Homer White Scott County Chapter

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