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SOU president draws line on side of inclusion

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.”

Diversity Shenethia

Interim diversity and inclusion director named at SOU

NEWS BRIEF
(Ashland, Ore.) — Shenethia Manuel, a respected higher education administrator, has accepted an offer to serve as Southern Oregon University’s interim Director of Diversity and Inclusion from July through December as the university launches its search for a permanent director.

Marjorie Trueblood Gamble, who has served in the SOU position for the past seven years, will leave June 29 to become Dean of Multicultural Life at Macalester College in Minnesota.

Manuel will work remotely through July, then will be on the Ashland campus from August through the end of the year. The university will launch a nationwide search for its permanent Director of Diversity and Inclusion in August.

“Shenethia is well-respected in higher education and highly qualified to step right in to help SOU maintain its positive momentum in diversity and Title IX matters,” SOU President Linda Schott said. “Strong leadership in those areas is critical as we begin implementing various components of our new strategic plan.”

Manuel served as vice president for human resources, equity and inclusion at Missouri University of Science and Technology from 2008 until last September, when she took emerita status and began her own consulting firm in Norman, Oklahoma. She worked previously as director of personnel and affirmative action officer at Rose State College in Midwest City, Oklahoma.

SOU worked with a search firm to identify Manuel as a candidate for the interim SOU position, and she was offered the job following an interview process that included members of the university’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Title IX team and Cabinet.

She received her bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Oklahoma, her law degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and her master of arts in ministry and culture degree from Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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