Please note-

*Please note- Your browser preferences must be set to 'allow 3rd party cookies' in order to comment in our diaries.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

University of Minnesota's Alleged Discrimination Implicates an Entire State

By Andrew Belonsky -

University of Minnesota has quite a problem on its hands: an associate women's golf coach named Kathryn Brenny has filed a lawsuit that alleges her superior, golf director John Harris, discriminated against her and fired her for being a lesbian.
Though Brenny signed a $44,000 contract just last August, director Harris soon demanded she stay on campus, focusing on "humiliating" clerical duties, rather than on tour with the team. According to Brenny's lawsuit, officially filed today, Harris told her that if she didn't cooperate, she would be out of a job.
It wasn't until later, Brenny says, that she heard Harris and other officials were uncomfortable having a lesbian travel with the all women's team, allegedly concerned about LGBT people's mythical predatory habits.
Brenny soon resigned, citing a "hostile work environment, discrimination, retaliation and harassment, and discrimination concerning sexual preference" in her suit, filed under Minnesota's Human Rights Act.
"Almost as soon as I arrived in Minnesota, I was not permitted to carry out the duties of the position, and I was denied the opportunity to coach the team,” Brenny said in a statement. “This included my not being permitted to travel with the team to the four tournaments scheduled for the fall. 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.”
The University's legal team insists nothing improper went down, yes, but if Brenny was indeed discriminated against, the school and Harris have a responsibility to come clean; not just for justice, but for the good of their entire state.
When I was a kid, I attended for seven years a summer camp in Bemidji, Minnesota, and my experiences there helped make the "Land of 10,000 Lakes" my favorite place in the union, and even today, when I meet someone from Minnesota, I feel an instant kinship.
But the rise of a Republican majority in the state's government, and their threats to ban same-sex marriage, as well as an emboldened Christian right ready to take down anti-gay bullying legislation, have me reconsidering my love for Minnesota. It's no longer the beautiful, pristine state to which I longed to return. It looks downright ugly, in fact, and the odds of me taking a pilgrimage back to the North Star State are pretty dim. For now, at least.
You see, what many people don't realize is that one instance of oppression or discrimination is never an isolated event. Hate is universal, and when expressed, taints your friends, neighbors... Even an entire state.
If Harris did indeed discriminate against Brenny, then he has not only done wrong by his former colleague, but by the entire population: those of us who are LGBT, his fellow Minnesotans, and anyone anywhere who values equality. The University isn't the only one on trial here; an entire state's culture finds itself scrutinized, for, as Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in the oft-quoted "Letter from Birmingham Jail," "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
And, if school officials aren't convinced by my reasoning here, perhaps this will get their attention: right now there are countless LGBT high school seniors debating where to attend college next fall. Does this lawsuit make them more inclined to spend their money at the University of Minnesota? I doubt it.


No comments:

Post a Comment