Task force works to eliminate homophobia

By Ann Eisert

The Task Force on Discrimination Based On Sexual Orientation is analyzing and developing recommendations needed to eliminate discrimination at NIU.

The task force was formed last spring to evaluate the frequency, form and circumstance under which such discrimination or harassment occurs, and to evaluate what regulations, programs and processes are in place for addressing such cases.

A 65-question survey written by the group has received 1,187 responses from NIU undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff, said Tim Griffin, chair of the task force.

The results will remain confidential until the task force’s final report is drawn up and approved by NIU President John La Tourette.

Griffin said the results will be released “definitely before the end of the school year.”

“It will depend on how quickly they analyze it,” he said.

At the Feb. 4 meeting, the individual task force committees on environment/ROTC, academic affairs, student affairs and personnel presented recommendations that Griffin said are in “the stages of proposal and development.”

One of the proposed recommendations of the committee on environment and ROTC seeks to overturn the Topinka legislation. The legislation makes it illegal for NIU to ban the ROTC because of the ban on homosexuals in the military.

Norden Gilbert, associate legal counsel at NIU, said the Topinka legislation was specifically aimed at NIU so that “we couldn’t deny any organization from being on campus because they were following federal law.”

The committee also proposed recommendations such as changing the status of the department of military science and mandating that all individuals participating in the department also take a course on homophobia and heterosexism.

Other proposed recommendations include producing publications for people with disabilities and gays and lesbians for incoming students, including specific listings for homosexuals in university catalogues and handbooks, and requiring all coaches and athletic staff to participate in workshops combatting homophobia.

Gilbert said the respondents in the survey “thought athletics would be an uncomfortable place for gays and lesbians.”

The committee also saw a need to establish a mechanism for reporting homophobic incidents, as well as other hate incidents relating to other minorities.

The task force’s academic affairs committee focused on the design of the interdisciplinary gay and lesbian studies course, which will be offered in the fall of 1993 and may develop into a minor program.

The task force’s committees on student affairs and personnel had other recommendations such as hiring a full-time staff member for training, advising and education in gay, lesbian and bisexual affairs and adjusting provisions of university benefits to domestic partners of the same sex.