By Brad Mannion
In the midst of the 90-minute University Council meeting at the University of Georgia, Janine Aronson, a professor in the Terry College of Business, spoke on the anti-discrimination policy and its amendment to include gender identity and gender expression as a separate category of discrimination.
“Speaking as the first faculty member who is a transsexual…this statement is long overdue,” she said.
The Human Resources Committee addressed the topic — including gender identity and gender expression in the Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment and Equal Opportunity policies at UGA — during the meeting.
The HR Committee brought the issue to the Council’s attention after receiving a resolution from the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences faculty senate.
The Student Government Association also passed an “almost unanimous” resolution similar to the item brought to the Council, said SGA Representative Megan Gallagher.
“The student body is very on board with this and wants it, too,” she said.
Several Council representatives voiced opinions on why this should not be included in the policies – considering the legal ramifications and people taking advantage of gender identity – but Aronson cast down the problems addressed.
“Some states have also had issues like the ones brought up and they’re totally confounded,” she said.
Aronson said an explicit mention of this group in these policies is vital for UGA.
“We need to state it in the policy, and it needs to cover everybody who has gender identity issues,” she said.
UGA has a history of discrimination with different groups, and Aronson said gender identity and expression may be walking down that same road.
“You can add up all the different groups — the University has a long history of discrimination,” she said.
Aronson said the problem cannot be solved by ignoring it.
“If you go back far enough — if you go back to the 30’s — you could say, ‘Well we don’t have to worry about African-Americans because there aren’t any here.’ I’m sorry — they do exist, they were here, they were around,” she said.
But Aronson did not speak only for herself — she also discussed her past interactions with fellow UGA community members and their fears of discrimination at UGA.
“In the name of the one staff member who is out and also one staff member who is deathly afraid to come out, she is deathly afraid of how she will be treated here,” she said. “I met with the staff member who is not out…Monday. I put her at ease, but not ease enough. It is time to put these protections into action.”