Queer News On Campus [QNOC] Articles Digest
For the week ending 2011.01.16
Brought to you by the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals. http://www.lgbtcampus.org
Archives of the QNOC Digest can be found at http://queernewsoncampus.blogspot.com
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1. The New York Times - Yale Payroll Error Gives Gay Employees a New Year Surprise
2. The Michigan Messenger - Lansing Community College starts first LGBT scholarship
3. Twin Cities Pioneer Press - Ex-Gophers golf coach sues U for sex bias
4. Windy City Media Group - New director at UIC Gender and Sexuality Center
5. Pride Source - Celebrating 40 Years of Spectrum
6. Ohio University Compass - Ohio creates gender neutral housing option: Students can apply for the pilot program
7. Concordiensis (Union College) - New LGBTQ alliance group
8. Yale Daily News - Penn's LGBT community reaches out to prefrosh
1. The New York Times, January 11, 2011
620 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10018
Yale Payroll Error Gives Gay Employees a New Year Surprise
By Tara Siegel Bernard
Imagine that your employer sent you a letter just before Christmas informing you that it failed to withhold the proper amount of income to cover your 2010 tax bill, and would begin deducting that extra amount from your paycheck right after New Year’s.
That’s what happened to 61 employees with same-sex partners at Yale University, in New Haven, Conn., which made an inadvertent payroll error that will mean thousands of dollars in extra taxes withdrawn from paychecks of many of these workers this year.
Many same-sex couples are all too familiar with the extra financial costs and complications that can arise because their marriages are not recognized by the federal government. Living in a state where these marriages are recognized, like Connecticut, doesn’t always make their financial lives any easier since couples are subject to two sets of tax rules: they’re considered “married” for tax purposes on their state income tax returns, but not on their federal returns.
This is the issue that tripped up the payroll system at Yale. A programming error failed to withhold income for taxes owed on the value of domestic partner health coverage. As we’ve reported, the value of those benefits are taxable (for nondependent partners) by the federal government. But in states like Connecticut, same-sex married couples are treated the same as opposite-sex married couples, and those benefits are not taxable on their state income tax returns.
“Unfortunately, the payroll system inadvertently treated those benefits as nontaxable for Connecticut and federal purposes for the entire calendar year of 2010,” said a letter, dated Dec. 22, from Yale’s payroll department to employees with same-sex partners who were affected by the error. To correct the error, the university went on to say, it would pay the tax and deduct the amount it paid from employees’ paychecks — in equal amounts over the first three months of 2011.
The university, which has extended health insurance to its same-sex employees’ domestic partners since 1994, typically withholds those taxes from employees’ paychecks over the course of the year. But due to the programming error, employees will be responsible for paying the taxes for both years in 2011.
Those costs can be significant. According to one employee who did not want to be publicly identified criticizing the university, paying the tax back over a three-month period would reduce take-home pay by 33 percent — and that doesn’t even include the taxes owed for this year.
If the employee paid the tax back over the course of the year, take-home pay would shrink by 8.3 percent (or double that, at nearly 17 percent, when factoring in this year’s taxes). The employee said some workers owed $2,000 a year in taxes (which means they would need to pay a total of $4,000 this year), while others owed close to $4,000 (translating into $8,000 total), though those numbers were likely to vary based on the value of the benefits and the tax bracket of the employee.
“They’re making it about balancing the books, when there are real consequences for the human beings who depend on the paychecks they earn,” the employee said. “Rather than apologize for the cruel timing of the letters, we got a long explanation about how this all came about and how grateful we should feel, because it could have been even worse.
The university also said in the letter that it would amend the employees’ 2010 taxable reportable earnings to reflect the additional taxable earnings and taxes.
“We understand that for some employees the 90-day time frame for repayment may cause financial hardship,” a Yale spokeswoman said. “For those employees, greater repayment flexibility will be provided on an individual basis.”
The spokeswoman said the university regretted the error, and “looks forward to a time when there is a federal recognition of same-sex marriage and civil union rights with respect to tax withholding rules.”
An increasing number of companies are beginning to reimburse employees for these taxes in an effort to put them on a level playing field with opposite-sex married employees, who are not subject to the extra costs. But for now, Yale employees are responsible for covering these additional taxes.
2. The Michigan Messenger, January 11, 2011
Lansing Community College starts first LGBT scholarship
By Todd A. Heywood
Lansing Community College, the state’s third largest community college, has announced it is offering a scholarship for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. While some four year institutions such as Michigan State University offer such scholarships, this is believed to be the first scholarship offered to the gay community at a community college in Michigan.
The scholarship is open to any member of the LGBT community who has a 2.2 or higher grade point average, is under the age of 25 and resides in the district. Applicants should also be involved in the LGBT community in some way.
The scholarship was named for Betsy Lou Robson, a member of the Lansing community. Her family determined that funding the scholarship was an excellent way to honor her. The funding is enough to last for three or four years, says Peggy Hellwig but the LCC Foundation is soliciting donations to keep the scholarship running for many years.
Leaders in the LGBT community were hailing the new scholarship, which has an application deadline of Jan. 28.
“It’s a wonderful thing to see young, out, and proud members of the LGBT communities being recognized and helped in their educational goals. We are particularly pleased to see this start to happen on the community college level, where so many people turn for vocational education or for a more inexpensive way to begin their college careers,” said Denise Brogan-Kator, interim executive director of Equality Michigan. Equality Michigan is a statewide education and advocacy organization for the LGBT community. “Thank you, Lansing Community College, for leading the way – we hope Michigan’s other community colleges will be able to join you soon in offering these crucially important scholarships to LGBT students.”
The Lansing Association for Human Rights, a Lansing area LGBT group, also praised the scholarship.
“We are delighted by this scholarship opportunity made available to our community. Ms. Robson’s generosity and thoughtfulness is much appreciated,” said Penny Gardner, president of LAHR. “We look forward to knowing who are the recipients for LAHR to honor them and the memory of Ms. Betsey Sue Robson at some future event.”
Gardner said having such a scholarship available for the LGBT community was important.
“Having this LCC Betsey Lou Robson scholarship available to the LGBT community means that we are recognized as integral to LCC and to Lansing. It means in yet another way, LGBT people will have another opportunity to advance and achieve their goals. LCC was chosen because Ms. Robson lived in Lansing,” said Gardner. “I wager she was familiar with the LGBT active presence in Lansing, was also familiar with those discriminating obstacles some of us are able to negotiate and is providing assistance to individuals to negotiate them a bit easier. Further, I imagine she might have foreseen the long term effects this support will provide to our city and to groups like LAHR over time.”
For more information on the scholarship — whether donating to it or applying for it — please visit the LCC Foundation website. The scholarship will fund up to four semesters for those who win the scholarship. Hellwig says the scholarship is currently funded for several years, but without funding support added to the current nest of cash will lead to an end of the program.
3. Twin Cities Pioneer Press, January 12, 2011
345 Cedar Street, St. Paul, MN 55101
Ex-Gophers golf coach sues U for sex bias
By Brian Murphy
A former women's golf coach sued the University of Minnesota on Wednesday for sexual discrimination and harassment claiming she was prevented from instructing players or traveling with the team last fall because she is a lesbian.
Kathryn Brenny accuses golf director John Harris, a Champions Tour golfer and former Gopher player, of creating a hostile work environment after learning she was gay and forcing Brenny to resign in October from her "dream job" as an assistant coach only two months after she accepted it.
Accusations of discrimination and nepotism are at the center of a 14-page complaint Brenny filed in Hennepin County District Court. She seeks more than $200,000 in damages from Harris and the university.
"The University of Minnesota strongly contests both the factual foundation and legal basis of the claims asserted in this lawsuit," U general counsel Mark Rotenberg said in a statement.
"The university has made every reasonable effort to address Ms. Brenny's concerns. This institution has an unwavering commitment to civil and human rights and equal treatment for our students, faculty and staff, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. We intend to vigorously defend the university in this case."
Brenny, the 1998 Minnesota state high school champion from Little Falls, claims Harris circumvented university hiring practices by creating a position for his son-in-law, Ernie Rose, to perform her duties even though Rose did not have a degree, which is necessary to be a head coach.
The allegations surfaced in December as Brenny and her attorney tried to negotiate a settlement with the university. Those talks ended Dec. 21, said the attorney, Donald Mark Jr.
Brenny, 30, played at Wake Forest before winning the 2007 Minnesota State Amateur championship. She was an instructor in North Carolina when she applied for the associate head coach's job in Minnesota, assuming she would teach and mentor the team's entire 10-woman roster.
Instead, according to the complaint, Brenny was allowed to work only with the freshmen and was prohibited from talking about golf with upperclassmen. In addition, it says, she spent the majority of her time running early-morning conditioning drills and doing paperwork.
Brenny, a coaching novice who was hired at a salary of $44,000, did not accompany the team on its four outstate trips.
Rose, however, did travel with the team after being moved into the newly created position of director of instruction. Harris, whose contract allows him to compete on the Champions Tour, played three tournaments in the fall and did not travel with the teams.
In September, Brenny complained about her vague status in a letter to Associate Athletics Director Liz Eull. The letter led to meetings with Harris, Eull and Associate Athletics Director David Crum.
According to the complaint, the university redefined Brenny's job duties to keep her from directly instructing women's players or traveling with the team. In mid-October, Brenny twice met with Athletics Director Joel Maturi to complain she was not being allowed to coach and commenced grievance proceedings, the lawsuit states.
"Maturi told (Brenny) that her choices were either quit or comply with Harris' demands," the complaint said.
Within days, the university offered to reassign Brenny to a sales job at TCF Bank Stadium outside the golf program, which prompted her to quit.
"The atmosphere that was created became more and more hostile, to the point where it made it intolerable for me to even perform the limited administrative duties that had been reassigned to me," Brenny said in a statement.
"While I was never given an explanation for why I was treated this way, I later learned that I was discriminated against because of my gender and sexual preference."
Brenny's resignation and allegations have roiled the Gophers golf community, including alumni who criticized Harris' hiring from the start. Harris, 58, is under contract for $110,000 a year at Minnesota.
In August, Phil Ebner resigned as president of the Minnesota Golf Booster Club, frustrated that Maturi did not heed his pleas and those from several members of the 2002 NCAA championship men's team to hire longtime associate coach Andrew Tank, who left to become head coach at Iowa State.
During the search last summer to replace golf director Brad James, Ebner warned Maturi in e-mails that Harris, who has earned $3 million on the Champions Tour since 2002 and has no coaching or recruiting experience, had ulterior motives for returning to Minnesota, where he was a two-time All-America golfer from 1971-74 and played hockey under Herb Brooks.
Rose is earning $49,500 as an independent contractor not subjected to the university's hiring standards, said Ebner. An instructor at Winsong Farm Golf Club in Independence, Minn., Rose spent the 2009-10 season as an assistant coach on James' staff. He caddied for Harris on the Champions Tour after playing professionally on the PGA Tour of Australasia starting in 2001.
Ebner, a former Gophers assistant coach who captained the 1994 men's team, contends Maturi ignored boosters because he was star-crossed by Harris' cachet as a former Gopher, three-time Minnesota State Amateur champion and renowned professional who could be a boon for fundraising.
To be fair, the Gophers women's team under Harris' stewardship recorded four of the lowest 54-hole scores in the program's history in the fall while the squad finished no worse than eighth in every tournament.
Maturi hired Harris after learning the golfer planned to scale back his competition in the Champions Tour.
"John had expressed interest in the position and it became clear to us that it was a great match," Maturi said in a statement when Harris was hired. "John understands Minnesota and is committed to achieving success with both of our golf programs."
One of Harris' first tasks was hiring a replacement for associate women's coach Kristine Wessinger, who left to start the women's program at St. Catherine University in St. Paul.
Brenny hired Mark, whose Eden Prairie firm in May won a $1 million judgment in Hennepin County for Jimmy Williams after a jury determined that Gophers basketball head coach Tubby Smith had misrepresented a job offer to the longtime assistant coach.
4. Windy City Media Group, January 12, 2011
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113
New director at UIC Gender and Sexuality Center
Megan Carney will join the University of Illinois at Chicago as the new Director of the Gender and Sexuality Center on January 18, 2011.
Carney was Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Chicago's About Face Youth Theatre from 1998-2002, where she designed and implemented innovative theatre education and leadership development programs with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and ally youth, adults, and their allies. She then continued for three years as Associate Artistic Director. Most recently, she has been a program designer, educator, and writer, partnering with a variety of non-profit organizations such as the University of Michigan, The Goodman Theatre, About Face Theatre, and Carlow University. Carney uses multiple methods to approach issues of identity and inclusion, methods that increase educational dialogue through storytelling and interactive forums.
In recognition of the excellence of her work, Carney has been inducted into the City of Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame and she has received the GLSEN Pathfinder Award, Cook County's State's Attorney's Office Community Empowerment Award, the Arts of Citizenship Award, and an American Psychological Association Presidential Citation.
5. Pride Source, January 13, 2011
11920 Farmington Road, Livonia, MI 48150
Celebrating 40 Years of Spectrum
By Crystal A. Proxmire
In 1971, the University of Michigan became the first public university to recognize the gay community with an official office to deal with the issues of gays and lesbians on campus. Now, 40 years later, the Spectrum Center is celebrating how far the community has come.
"Spectrum has increased its ally involvement, gotten involved regionally and nationally in the work of LGBT issues on college campuses, and begun to engage its alum base with the office," said Jackie Simpson, the director of Spectrum since 2005. Spectrum has also expanded the scope of its work over the years to include sexual orientations and gender expressions of all kinds, looking at how those demographics co-exist with other labels such as race or religion. Now, Spectrum serves a whole "spectrum" of individuals.
"Students today are interested in learning about how all of their identities interact with each other. In essence, what does it mean to be gay and Christian, or to be a Latina lesbian? Single boxes and single labels are limiting to youth today. I believe this is why more and more youth identify as 'queer' than ever before ... It gives them more options," Simpson said.
Spectrum gives students resources for feeling safe to express themselves. It also works with faculty, staff, and other schools to share information and encourage more inclusive campuses. It has a Speakers' Bureau program and an Ally Training program. Plus, the center hosts many other educational and fun events. Spectrum's ruby anniversary year kicked off with a Doin' it for 40 Years bash on Jan. 10 at the U-M Museum of Art, which featured musicians, student artwork, catering and a birthday cake. The center will also host talks with people in the film industry this year, such as Rod Gailes, who directed and produced the movie "Camouflage."
From Feb. 22-24 U-M will host the Midwest Bisexual Gay Transgender Ally College Conference, which is the largest LGBT student-organized conference in the nation. The event attracts more than 1500 students. In March there will be a professional drag show, and in November a pink carpet event for the alumni.
It will be the kind of year that the founders of the office would have only dreamed about back in 1970 when they were denied meeting space to organize a gay conference on campus.
In March 1970 the Detroit Gay Liberation Movement inspired the gay community in Ann Arbor to start a Gay Liberation Front Chapter at U-M. According to Spectrum's website, the goals of the GLF were to "battle stereotypes of gay people, fighting homophobic prejudice, and invalidating the mental illness model of homosexuality." The GLF, along with a sister group called the Radical Lesbians, became officially recognized by the Student Government Council as legitimate student organizations.
The GLF was then denied space for a conference, and in the uproar that followed, school officials decided that a Human Sexuality Office needed to be established. It was the first of its kind in the nation.
Jim Toy of GLF and Cindy Gair of Radical Lesbians were hired at quarter-time pay to be the first employees of the office. Each was titled Human Sexuality Advocate.
One of Toy and Gair's first fights was to have "sexual orientation" included as a protected class in the University's bylaws, to protect gay individuals from discrimination in employment, educational programs and activities and admissions. Toy carried the torch of that campaign for 21 years, until finally in 1993 the Board of Regents voted 8-1 to amend the University bylaws to protect sexual orientation.
Other successes were easier to achieve. In 1973 Toy and Gair formed their first Speakers' Bureau. In the 1980s they were allowed to say "Gay" and "Lesbian" in their title, and thus became The U-M Lesbian Gay Male Programs Office, while also expanding their focus to include bisexuals and people of color. In 1994 they added "Bisexual" to their name. In 1995 they added "Transgender," and now the four offices fall into categories of the Spectrum Center - a place where everyone is welcome.
In a press release, Michigan Student Assembly President Chris Armstrong said he plans to take part in the Spectrum celebrations this year. "The Spectrum Center is truly a place where out LGBT leaders can grow and develop. It connects students to the many resources that are around them and shows them the larger Michigan community they are a part of. If I had not found Spectrum my first week on campus, I would not have succeeded on campus the way I did."
For more information about the Doin' it for 40 Years celebrations or other Spectrum Center services and events, visit http://www.spectrumcenter.umich.edu.
6. Ohio University Compass, January 13, 2011
Ohio University Communications and Marketing, Athens, OH 45701
Ohio creates gender neutral housing option: Students can apply for the pilot program
By Colleen Kiphart
This fall, Ohio University will be one of at least 55 other universities in America to offer students the option of applying to live in gender neutral housing (GNH).
Residential Housing will begin assessing interest for the program as upperclass students complete their initial housing contract. Only those students who have applied for the pilot program have the potential to be placed in GNH. Specialized applications for the program will be handled similarly to those for other specialized living communities offered by Residential Housing.
According to an FAQ on the Residential Housing website about gender neutral housing, “Gender neutral housing (GNH) communities focus on creating an inclusive environment where students can live in the same room with any student - regardless of sex, gender, gender identity/expression or sexual orientation.”
Vice President for Student Affairs Kent Smith explained why OHIO is exploring this housing option.
“GNH is an emerging topic in higher education and one that Ohio University wanted to pursue in keeping with OHIO’s commitment to diversity and providing inclusive environments,” he said. “At the same time, Student Senate came forward with their own findings and support for the program based upon a survey which showed 87 percent student support for creating a GNH living community.”
Students will be informed of the program, its guidelines, and how to apply during the standard information sessions that Residential Housing facilitates for returning students. Additionally, those students who express interest in the program will receive instructions for completing the supplemental application materials from Residential Housing after completing their initial housing contract.
“We are capable of accommodating approximately 50 upperclass students in the pilot program,” said Executive Director of Residential Housing Christine Sheets. “There are no restrictions, but rather an application and selection process for interested students.”
According to Sheets, the GNH pilot program will serve as a learning experience for the students and the University.
“Primarily, we hope to discover the effectiveness of this community from both the student and staff perspectives,” she said.
The University has been interested in the topic of GNH for some time, Smith explained.
“Diversity has always been a central focus of Ohio University’s mission, and this initiative furthers our efforts in providing an inclusive community,” he said.
“Anyone with questions or comments should contact the Residential Housing Office at 740-593-4090 and our staff will be happy to answer questions or share information with them,” said Sheets. “They can also visit our website to view information about GNH, and all of Residential Housing’s other specialized living communities at www.ohio.edu/housing/halls/slc.cfm.”
7. Concordiensis (Union College), January 13, 2011
Box 2577, Union College, 807 Union Street, Schenectady, NY 12308
New LGBTQ alliance group
By Joshua Ostrer
An LGBT ally organization, which has yet to be named, is new on campus this year. The program is aimed at training student allies in assisting with the struggles of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning community.
According to the program website’s mission statement, the group focuses on the identity development of allies and developing educational interventions.
Jessica Sarrantonio ’12, who first brought the organization to Union College, explained that the program is intended to be distinct from other LGBTQ programs on campus because it will cooperate and work alongside existing programs. Nonetheless, it is, however, intended to be separate from other campus groups.
The alliance program is also intended to help fill part of the void left by Spectrum, the gay-positive campus club which is currently inactive.
The new program emphasizes training LGBTQ supporters on how to effectively support the cause.
The National Consortium of Directors of LGBTQ Resources in Higher Education clearly focuses on the term “ally”, which can be defined as an individual who supports a subjugated group by acting as a proponent of the organization’s proposed goal.
Although Union’s program is not officially cataloged on the program’s national database, Sarrantonio explained that “it’s totally in the making—it’s not an official club, yet.”
The program is unique because there is no particular method to its implementation into society. Some schools, such as the University of Michigan and Texas A&M have produced guides to their own campus programs and have made this information readily available for other schools.
However, Union’s program will use a “train the trainer” program. On Jan. 16, Megan Bolger, a senior at Hamilton College, will be visiting Union to jump-start the “train the trainer” program here at Union.
The four-hour session, which over a dozen Union students are scheduled to attend, is to be the first step in the building process. The program will be the first time all the students involved will meet together.
This initial training is designed to be the first stepping-stone in making the organization active on campus and the goal of this process is hence to expand membership by training a larger group of students to make the program more effective.
Anyone interested in joining or learning more about the program can contact Sarrantonio at firstname.lastname@example.org.
8. Yale Daily News, January 15, 2011
P. O. Box 209007, New Haven, CT 06520-9007
Penn's LGBT community reaches out to prefrosh
By Emily Wanger
The University of Pennsylvania is reaching out to potential members of its LGBT community before they even reach Philadelphia.
Penn started the program last spring, when members of Penn's LGBT community contacted accepted students who self-identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, the Daily Pennsylvanian reported. Last year, 60 regular decision applicants were contacted, but this year the program is expanding to include those who are accepted early.
Under the program, application readers "flag" applicants who identified themselves as LGBT, considered themselves a strong ally to the community or had LGBT parents. Then, once they are accepted, these students are assigned to members of Penn's LGBT umbrella organization, who send them a personal e-mail.
The purpose of the program is to let pre-freshmen know about "resources on campus and ways to connect with LGBT and ally communities," said Regional Director of Admissions and LGBT liason Jordan Pascucci in an e-mail to the Daily Pennsylvanian.
Not everyone is clear on the nature of the initiative, however. Some college counselors believe the program to give an advantage to the "flagged" students in the admissions process, when it is really part of an effort to encourage LGBT students to apply to the University.
Bob Schoenberg, director of Penn's LGBT Center, told the Daily Pennsylvanian that there has been a noticeable increase in LGBT applicants in the early decision round.
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 regarding fair use of copyrighted work, this material is distributed without profit for information, research, and educational purposes. The Consortium has no affiliation whatsoever with the originators of these articles nor is the Consortium endorsed or sponsored by the originators.