Texas State professors find limited support for changing policy

School gets approval from statewide faculty group but not other schools in its system.

By Jason Embry
Tuesday, October 28, 2003

SAN MARCOS -- Faculty leaders at Texas State University-San Marcos have found support for their push to change the school's discrimination policy, but not as much support as they wanted.

The Texas Council of Faculty Senates, which includes faculty members from 36 schools, met in Austin on Saturday and approved a statement that all public colleges and universities in Texas should have a policy that prohibits discrimination based on 10 factors, including sexual orientation. Representatives approved the motion unanimously in a voice vote.

On Friday, however, an effort to put a similar measure before faculty senate representatives from the nine schools in the Texas State University System was stymied. Bill Stone, chairman of the Faculty Senate at the San Marcos campus, was unable to present his motion.

He said Mavis Triebel, an instructor at Lamar State College-Port Arthur who presided at the meeting, told him that the purpose of the group was not to make motions or take votes but to discuss issues to present to system Chancellor Lamar Urbanovsky.

"We all agreed that we would take it back to our senates, and the local senates would make the decisions," said Triebel, who said she objected to what Stone was trying to do only on procedural grounds.

But Stone sees a roadblock, not a procedural disagreement.

"There are some institutions that are sympathetic to the issue, but there are clearly some that do not want it on the table," he said.

The Faculty Senate at Texas State has called on school President Denise Trauth to add sexual orientation to the university's discrimination and harassment policy. Trauth supports that change but said it should be made by the regents who oversee the nine schools in the Texas State system.

She also said she hoped she could persuade the regents to change the policy by showing votes of support from faculty leaders at other schools in the system and from the Texas Council of Faculty Senates.

Kandi Tayebi, chairwoman of the Faculty Senate at Sam Houston State in Huntsville, also part of the Texas State system, said she supports including sexual orientation but thinks a vote would have been inappropriate Friday.

Tayebi said she will raise the issue with professors at her school this week, and she expects that they will support including sexual orientation.

At 26,000 students, the San Marcos school is significantly larger than others in the Texas State system.

Jerome Supple, the school's president from 1989 to 2002, said last week that presidents of the other schools in the system did not support adding sexual orientation to the policy when he brought it up in 1998 because the issue had not come up at their schools. The issue never has gone before system regents for a vote.

Schools that already have sexual orientation in their discrimination policies include the University of Texas, Texas A&M, Rice and Austin Community College.

jembry@statesman.com; (512) 392-8750