One of the most important aspects of the William and Mary community is the mutual respect, sense of responsibility, and trust that students and faculty have for each other. Just as students are held accountable for their personal and academic behavior through the honor code, it is the Tribe’s job to do the same for our faculty.
The Republican majority leader of the Virginia State Senate is helping to block the vote to federally ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), an amendment to the Constitution that would explicitly guarantee equal rights for all sexes and prohibit sex-based discrimination in addition to solidifying reproductive rights, equal pay, and queer rights. This man is Tommy Norment, who also happens to be a law professor at William and Mary.
Proposed in 1972, the ERA needs 38 state ratifications to officially amend the Constitution. It currently has 37 state ratifications, with Illinois ratifying it earlier this year. The ERA has gotten more traction recently, and has enough bipartisan support to pass in both the state Senate and House if it was able to go to a committee vote; however, thanks to one of our very own faculty members, it has not been possible thus far in 2018.
Although the amendment has not been officially voted on, there was an informal show of hands vote earlier this year where professor Norment advocated against ratifying the ERA, which is not his first time doing so. He has not commented specifically why he has voted no, but others that voted the same way have cited a technicality–that the amendment had expired in the 80s, despite the fact that Congress has the power to extend or even terminate the deadline as it has in the past.
Regardless of the reason for his opposition, professor Norment has showed a blatant and repeated disregard for the women in his classroom, his co-workers, and the women of Virginia [by not approving the ERA]. This behavior has no place at William and Mary, a community that prides itself on its growing diversity and acceptance. The irony that one of our own professors opposes and voted against the ERA in the same year that William and Mary is celebrating 100 years of co-education should not be lost on anyone.
I urge the students and faculty of William and Mary to engage with and put pressure on professor Norment to change his stance on the ERA. Currently, he is teaching a government course at the undergraduate level, making him especially accessible to community opinions.
Write him letters, leave him voicemails, start a social media campaign to bring awareness, or coordinate with student groups on campus to organize sit-ins or protests in his classes. Join the campaign to ratify the ERA and help put William and Mary on the right side of history.
Paulina Farley-Kuzmina ’20