SRU recently updated its non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
Colleen Cooke, recreational therapy professor, had been talking to the university to get the policy updated for quite some time, and said that she was happy the changes were finally made.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Cooke said. “I interacted with the administration and there was no issue. I’m really pleased. It wasn’t nearly the battle I thought it might be and our president and his cabinet were on board from the get go so that was great.”
Cooke was not alone in trying to get the policy updated, with other campus community members, including Cindy LaCom, director of SRU’s gender studies program and Emily Keener, assistant professor of psychology, co-chair of the President’s Commission on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation (GISO) pleased that the changes were finally made to the policy.
“I’ve been working with trans students for 19 months to try to implement some policies and procedures and it has been difficult,” LaCom said. “Very little has changed so this is really wonderful news. It’s an update that’s appropriate and relevant and I’m excited because I think it provides to the SRU community some foundation on which to devise other policies.”
LaCom said she hopes that the change to the non-discrimination policy can be a stepping stone for additional updates, including one for housing.
“We need a revised, more robust housing policy and including the language gender identity and gender expression [in the non-discrimination policy] means that were a step closer to being obligated to recognize trans and gender non-binary students,” LaCom said. I think that SRU prides itself on its commitment to diversity and inclusion and this kind of formalizes that commitment in really formal ways and I think it’s a really positive step.”
Keener said a lot of her work was focused on issues relating to gender identity and gender expression and that it was important for those two items to be added to the policy since it’s unclear for the most part whether trans students are protected under laws, rules and policies that use the word sex.
“It seems that people kind of change the definition of sex or gender to meet their agenda,” Keener said. “It needed to be clearly specified that trans students and non-binary students are protected.”
Keener said the first draft of the update originally didn’t include gender identity and expression but she was ecstatic when they found out SRU was going to take the most progressive, inclusive route.
Like LaCom, Keener also hopes to have more successes with updating policies across campus in the future.
“I look forward to creating more inclusiveness on campus and to be more visible about our values,” Keener said. “I think that we have a tendency to come from a risk prevention perspective, where it’s not required by law [to include policies relating to LGBT+ issues] so we don’t do it, but what if we’re allowed to do it and what if we were that kind of campus, that went above and beyond to be visible about its inclusion.”
The newly updated policy can be viewed here.