SOU President Linda Schott reassured the campus community today that the university will not waver in its commitment to inclusion, equal rights and opportunities for all, despite recent discussions at the federal level regarding the definition of gender.
“We will always welcome, value, support and protect all students and prospective students – regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, immigration status, nationality, religious affiliation or political persuasion,” the president said. “That includes all who identify as transgender or non-binary.”
Recent news reports indicate that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is leading an effort to establish a legal definition of gender under Title IX – the civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination at educational institutions receiving federal funding. The department is pushing for a gender definition based narrowly on biological traits, reversing protections established over the past several years by courts and administrative rule-making.
Separately, the Department of Justice argued in a brief submitted this week to the U.S. Supreme Court that civil rights laws banning sex discrimination in the workplace do not extend to transgender people – again, based on the definition of “sex.”
President Schott said in a message to campus on Friday that inclusion and diversity are vital elements of the SOU identity, and the current debates “will not change who we are or the values that define us.”
“Our university steadfastly supports the rights of each member of our campus community – and the estimated 1.4 million Americans who recognize themselves as a gender other than the one that their biology indicates – to be valued as individuals with their own particular characteristics,” Schott said.
The standards of equity, inclusion and diversity are mentioned prominently throughout SOU’s new Vision, Mission and Values. One of the seven strategic directions that were identified in the university’s recent strategic planning process outlines the goals of replacing systemic barriers with equitable processes, establishing pathways that support the success of those from underrepresented backgrounds and preparing all learners – regardless of background, identity and position – to thrive in a diverse world.
“Whatever the eventual outcome may be at the federal level, I assure you that equity and inclusion will remain unassailable principles at SOU,” the president said. “Under any definition of gender, equal protection and equal rights will always apply to every student, prospective student and employee at this university.”