With the support of faculty, staff and students behind her, Dana Bultman, an associate professor of Spanish in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, approached the committee table, holding in her hand what she called a resolution caused by a “sense of frustration.”
Bultman spoke to roughly 40 members and guests at the University Council Executive Committee meeting at the University of Georgia on Thursday, indicating her interest and the interest of people who did not “feel recognized” by the UGA sex discrimination policy.
“We were approached by staff, faculty and some students about our gender identity policy,” she said.
Deemed the Fair Employment Practices Act, the resolution would seek to include a separate category for gender identity and expression in the Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment and Equal Opportunity policies at UGA.
But the resolution states University Council would vote on drawing up a resolution in the meeting on Feb. 19 — a vote in favor of Bultman’s proposal would not initially include the separate category.
“Essentially, the federal EEOC considers gender expression items to be covered by the sex discrimination prohibition, and therefore there’s no need to include that language,” said Michael Lewis, vice chair of the UGA staff council. “To do so introduces extraneous liabilities. That’s lawyer-speak for ‘I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t have to.’”
Clare Norins, assistant director of the Equal Opportunity Office, said the policy does cover gender identity and expression.
“Gender identity has been declared protected as a form of sex discrimination,” she said. “As a practical matter, it is covered under our policy, and we will investigate the complaints we receive about gender identity.”
The EOO website goes into greater detail on whom is and whom is not protected under UGA policy.
But Bultman said the issue and frustrations are because the policies are not “explicit” in defining the people protected.
At the same time, the problem of detail could be a liability for policymakers.
“The point that was raised was once you start enumerating what’s protected under sex discrimination, if you leave something out then you may have painted yourself into more of a corner than you would like to be in,” Norins said.
One committee member said gender-related issues went to the Human Resources Subcommittee, who have worked on such issues as domestic partner benefits in previous months.
With this subcommittee working on these plans, Roxanne Eberle, an associate professor of English, sought to make sure the language between this type of resolution and any resolutions out of HR “syncs.”
David Hazinski, an associate professor of telecommunications in the Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said the resolution would not carry sufficient "weight" unless the HR Committee first drew up the proposal.
“Right now, we’re not going to do anything to send it to [University] Council,” he said.