Yesterday, the University of Memphis Faculty Senate passed a motion to draft a resolution in support of same-sex benefits for faculty. The resolution will be drafted by a five-member committee and should be reviewed by the Faculty Senate in February.
But according to Faculty Senate president Thomas Banning, the move is largely symbolic because any decision to provide same-sex benefits would have to be approved by the school administration and the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR). A similar resolution to provide same-sex benefits for faculty of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville was rejected by that school's chancellor in April. The U of M Faculty Senate also passed a motion yesterday encouraging the TBR to look into the advantages of that resolution.
Banning said the resolution will be rejected by the TBR because state law doesn't allow the university to provide same-sex benefits. He described the Faculty Senate's move to be a symbolic effort to show the faculty's support of same-sex benefits whether they're allowed under law or not.
"It's important that we recognize that trying to hire the best faculty possible means we have to be competitive with other four-year institutions," Banning said.
On a recent list of Newsweek's top 25 universities, 23 provide benefits to same-sex faculty members, Banning said.
Banning called the move a "business decision" and said the senate doesn't expect to see rapid change. Regardless, he said the university is doing what it can to show outsiders that the school is open and supportive of all students and faculty, regardless of sexual orientation.
"Speaking for the students, we have already established LGBT safe zones around campus. That is an indication that we are open, and we want the best and brightest students," Banning said.