SRU is in the early process of changing its discrimination and harassment policy and affirmative action statement to include sexual orientation.
SRU, along with Millersville University, are the only two universities in the state system that don’t include sexual orientation in their respective policies.
Colleen Cooke, recreational therapy professor, is working with other members of the campus community to get the policy changed, having history with the issue, leading to the creation of a respect statement, which can be viewed here.
“I’m taking the lead on it and we’re gonna move forward and hopefully have some change,” Cooke said.
Cooke said the issue is on the agenda for the next meet and discuss meeting between APSCUF and PASSHE.
“Hopefully we’ll get resolution before that and be able to remove it from the agenda,” Cooke said. “If we don’t get resolution, the union is fully supportive of this change and is ready to discuss it in detail.”
Cooke said that she feels safe on campus but the lack of ‘sexual orientation’ in the policy is a matter of dignity and respect, and that if the university is adamant about not discriminating against members for sexual orientation they should state it.
“The fact that in the year 2017 they still can’t make a statement that really does reflect [the campus] is disconcerting, it’s disappointing,” Cooke said.
Cooke has been in discussion with Holly McCoy, SRU’s assistant vice president, diversity and equal opportunity, and Title IX coordinator, about the issue. McCoy said while the initial policy does not show representation for sexual orientation, it’s not required by the state of PA.
“There’s a stock notice of non-discrimination language that’s required by the department of education that’s required under federal law,” McCoy said.
According to McCoy, although sexual orientation is not listed, those reporting a discrimination complaint can include to choose sexual orientation as an option on the complaint form.
McCoy said it’s important that this policy change is now revisited.
“Given where America is in the 21st century and where our students are coming from, what our students are bringing with them when they come to campus, we’ll be taking forward a recommendation through the administrative process to make those changes,” McCoy said.
McCoy said she passed the information along to her boss, Amir Mohammadi, vice president for finance and administration, who will pass it along to the rest of the university cabinet. Eventually the process would have to go through the council of trustees since it would be a policy change. McCoy said that while the campus community may be accepting, it’s important that the official documents reflect that.
“You look at how the country is today and as much as you want to think it, I think it’s important to take a stand and let people know what our values are in these areas,” McCoy said.