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Under fire, Penn
State reaffirms nondiscrimination policy

Under fire, Penn
State reaffirms nondiscrimination policy

Bias lawsuit against coach prompts university statement.

Pennsylvania State University made a declaration of support for its nondiscrimination policy on Wednesday, amid a pending court case that accuses a university basketball coach of antilesbian bias.

The statement was possibly prompted by student activists who last week questioned the university's commitment to its policy, which officially protects gay and lesbian students. "Penn State is fully committed to our nondiscrimination policy in every respect," university vice president Steve MacCarthy said in the statement on a university Web site.

But in the case brought by former student Jennifer Harris against coach Rene Portland--which accuses Portland of race, gender, and sexual orientation discrimination--Penn State lawyers argued that the nondiscrimination policy amounts to an aspirational statement, not a legally binding contract.

MacCarthy tried to head off critics by saying in the statement that "nothing in the arguments made by the university should be interpreted as a suggestion that Penn State has abandoned its policy regarding affirmative action and nondiscrimination."

The university is conducting an internal investigation into Harris's allegations, but many still feel MacCarthy's statements don't ring true.

"I think Penn State continues to sidestep issues by presenting the public with statements that don't directly answer the ethical questions," graduate student Eric Patridge told the Centre DailyTimes.

Penn State's gay association, the Rainbow Roundtable, echoed Patridge's feelings and is planning a protest march Sunday to coincide with the final women's home basketball game. (Advocate.com)

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