This letter was written by openly gay Lincoln Board of Education member Barbara Baier. She copied Outsports on the letter. She paints a sad, dire state of affairs for LGBT athletes at the University of Nebraska, which corroborates what I have heard from others there. You can support Ron Brown's removal by signing this change.org petition.
Dear Board of Regents, Chancellor Perlman, Athletic Director Tom Osborne, and Coach ‘Bo’ Pelini:
I am writing to express my concern regarding the continued employment of Coach Ron Brown. Earlier in March at an Omaha City Council meeting, Mr. Brown communicated his opposition to fair and equal laws regarding Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) individuals, their employment and access to public accommodations. He cited the University of Nebraska – Lincoln (UNL) and Memorial Stadium as his home address, and as such indicated his representation of these institutions. He claimed his opposition to fair and equal treatment of LGBT individuals is part of his religious ethos and, thus, above the reach of any consequences that could result from his opinions and actions.
I have seen Mr. Brown speak. The speech I witnessed occurred at an annual nonprofit event in the fall of 2011 at UNL’s Champions Club. Mr. Brown made clear his ties to the University of Nebraska and its athletics program. The majority of his speech was spent attacking people of a minority status – LGBT individuals and a mysterious, but undefined ‘homosexual agenda.’ Again, he used words of faith as a cover to attack a minority community. At the conclusion of the speech, I was deeply troubled and, as a person of the attacked minority group, I felt psychologically and socially threatened so I left the event.
Herein is my concern. I am an elected member of the Lincoln Board of Education. (Of course, I am writing this letter as an individual citizen and not as a member of the board.) I have been blessed with an excellent professional career. I have the support of my committed partner of 24 years, our 12-year-old son, both our families, many work and personal friends, and several communities of faith. I am very lucky, but I am worried about LGBT students and particularly LGBT student athletes attending the University of Nebraska and participating in your nationally recognized athletics program.
I know from my school board service that LGBT youth are especially vulnerable to psychological and social attacks. Over my seven years of public service, I have received complaints and concerns from numerous LGBT students and their parents. They reported being negatively singled out by faculty and other authority figures, and by other students in the classroom and in other school settings for their difference. Some of those students were attending Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) and some were attending UNL.
I have advocated for LPS students with our Administration, which has consistently followed Board policy and corrected the problem. It is a value at LPS to nurture and maintain a safe, welcoming school environment for all. I wish I could say the same for the University of Nebraska. I have referred students to UNL’s LGBTQA Student Center, which is wonderfully supportive. But other than an annual appearance at the LGBTQA student banquet, I have not witnessed any meaningful support from the University of Nebraska Regents or the Administration to change the negative campus environment that impacts all LGBT students, faculty and staff.
I am not one for strong words, but in the case of the University of Nebraska, hypocrisy is an institutionalized value as regards LGBT students and their fair and legal right to access a tax subsidized postsecondary education. This hypocrisy is exemplified by the longstanding and persistent anti-LGBT behavior and bullying tactics of Coach Ron Brown.
I hope that you seriously consider your responsibility in allowing and, by your inaction, endorsement of his behavior toward LGBT students and the entire LGBT community. If I felt threatened by Coach Brown by simply attending a function at UNL’s Champion’s Club, then what do LGBT student athletes feel in your athletics program? How do they feel attending your many campuses and classrooms? How do LGBT faculty and staff feel? Does maintaining a climate of hate further your academic mission or diminish it?
I also remind you that it was just about 18 months ago that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sent advisory letters to all educational institutions across the country, including postsecondary, indicating that harassment of LGBT students or those perceived to be is actionable under federal Civil Rights laws on the basis of sex and gender discrimination.
In conclusion, I encourage you to reflect upon these concerns and, through that reflection, remember that we live in a pluralistic society where hatred of any minorities should be questioned and, ultimately, eliminated. When some people seek to camouflage their hatred under the cloak of their faith, their professed religious beliefs should not shield them from the consequences of their actions.
Barbara A. Baier
CC: Big Ten Council of Presidents & Chancellors University of Nebraska Board of Regents Lincoln Journal Star UNL LGBTQA Center Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs