August 18, 2019 | 74° F

Rutgers president co-signs letter calling on Department of Education to protect transgender students

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The letter was addressed to Betsy DeVos, United States Secretary of Education, and asked her to oppose the proposed changes made in the Title IX memo. It asked her to advocate for an interpretation of the title that fully protects the rights of transgender people.

University President Robert L. Barchi, joined by other University administrators, sent a letter to U.S. Department of Education (DOE) Secretary Betsy DeVos yesterday urging for continued protections for transgender students in light of the recently leaked memo regarding Title IX.

Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber and University of Wisconsin—Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank cosigned the letter with Barchi.

In it, they expressed concerns for the Department of Health and Human Services’ proposal to define sex under Title IX as something unchangeable, either male or female and determined by a person’s genitals at birth, and called on DeVos to take leadership in opposing the proposed change.

“As presidents and chancellors of leading American research universities, we write to express our deep concern and dismay at reports of possible withdrawal of federal agency protections for transgender people,” the letter begins. “We appeal to you to do everything you can to prevent such action and to uphold the dignity of all persons.”

They said the proposed definition is narrow and binary, and could roll back protections against discrimination on the basis of gender and gender identity.  

The American Medical Association has called for legal protections ensuring access to basic human services and public facilities for transgender people, which are important, because transgender Americans, including students on college campuses, have faced discrimination, isolation and harassment, the authors of the letters said.

They said in the letter that now is not the time for the country to turn its back on the progress transgender people have made.

“Providing these protections is fully consistent with basic principles of fairness and respect for others, and it is also fully consistent with the guidance of the American medical community regarding the distinctions between sex, gender and gender identity,” they said.

The Daily Targum reported that last week Rutgers students organized a rally at Brower Commons on the College Avenue campus to speak out against the memo and show solidarity for transgender students on campus. 

Barchi and the other administrators said the DOE has a responsibility to protect every student in America.

“You (DeVos) have observed that the Department of Education has ‘a responsibility to protect every student in America and ensure that they have the freedom to learn and thrive in a safe and trusted environment. This is not merely a federal mandate, but a moral obligation no individual, school, district or state can abdicate,’” they said.

They said they have been “steadfast” in efforts to ensure students on campus feel welcome and supported, and called on the federal government to also remain steadfast in providing protections for transgender students, as well.

“We hope you will provide needed leadership in opposing the proposed change, and that you will strongly advocate for an interpretation of Title IX (and other federal laws) that fully protects the rights of transgender people — an interpretation grounded in the law, medical judgment, compassion and a firm commitment to respect the dignity of all Americans,” they said.

Ryan Stiesi

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