Gay activist coming to UF for a lecture at the Reitz


Published: Tuesday, January 24, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 23, 2006 at 10:39 p.m.
Ascontroversy brews over the University of Florida's offering of domestic partnership benefits, UF plans to welcome the former director of one of the nation's leading gay and lesbian civil rights groups.
Elizabeth Birch, former director of the Human Rights Campaign, will give a lecture Monday in the Reitz Student Union Grand Ballroom at 8 p.m. The Human Rights Campaign, which can be found at www.hrc.org , tracks worldwide organizations that offer domestic partnership plans. Birch's lecture is sponsored by UF's Pride Student Union and Student Government Productions.
UF is now enrolling employees in a new plan that would cover the domestic partners of gay, lesbian and heterosexual employees. Of the nation's top 10 public universities, half offer similar plans, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
  • Senators play hooky: Kim Tanzer, chair of UF's Faculty Senate, is cracking down on senators who play hooky. Tanzer has replaced seven senators who didn't show up for any meetings during the fall semester. The senate's constitution stipulates that any senator who misses three consecutive meetings automatically resigns, but the policy has only been loosely enforced in the past.
    Tanzer, with tongue in cheek, said last week that her goal was to have a Senate filled with "people who at least might attend."
  • Vouchers in Vermont: Florida's not the only state dealing with a controversial school voucher program - Vermont has had one for 130 years.
    To deal with towns too small to offer full school systems, the Green Mountain State allows children to enroll in the public or private schools of their parents' choosing at their local district's expense.
    But, just like Florida, where a much younger tuition voucher program was recently declared unconstitutional by the state supreme court, Vermont is starting to take a closer look at its "town tuition" system, encouraging districts to consolidate instead. That has officials in Vermonters for Better Education worried.
    "If the consolidation monster should gobble up Vermont's tuition towns, it will be a sorry end to a magnificent and long-lived voucher program," Executive Director Libby Sternberg wrote in a guest editorial to the Thomas Fordham Institute's Education Gadfly. She praised the program for giving poor children a chance to attend the best schools in the state.
    Meanwhile, voucher supporters in Florida aren't giving up. Gov. Jeb Bush is talking about a possible vote for a constitutional amendment to reinstate vouchers, and state Rep. Ralph Arza, R-Hialeah, chairman of the House Pre-K-12 Committee, has suggested a campaign to get the judges who made the decision voted out of office.
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