SA Government wants its constitution amended so that gendered groups can remain SA-affiliated, drawing formal criticism from Pride Network and social media outcry from other members of the campus queer community.
“We recognize the harm that these gender-exclusive policies can have on members of the transgender, non-binary, and gender-variant communities, and that these students do not currently have the same access as others to the opportunities and resources that these gender-exclusive organizations provide,” reads the SA task force’s recommendation report, which was released last Thursday after it was approved that Monday by the SA Senate.
“However, we recognize that removing these groups from the Students’ Association would decrease the overall number of opportunities for students to be involved in co-curricular organizations and, rather than lifting barriers for marginalized groups, may foster animosity towards members of the marginalized groups adversely affected by gender-exclusive membership policies,” the report continues.
The task force, co-chaired by SA President Jordan Smith and Associate Dean of Students Anne-Marie Algier, was created to address last year’s All-Campus Judicial Council ruling that gendered, SA-affiliated groups were unconstitutional. The decision, which was supported by LGBT advocates on campus, brought into question whether some club sports, a capella, and Greek organizations would survive.
Here is the proposed constitutional amendment, the final version of which can only be passed by a majority vote of students participating in the upcoming SA elections:
“Organizations whose existence and/or activities depend upon following gender-exclusive membership policies set by an external governing body (such as a national organization or intercollegiate league) or otherwise believe that gender-exclusive membership policies are warranted must have a Gender Exclusivity Waiver approved annually in order to retain recognition by the Students’ Association. Through this waiver, these groups must demonstrate that their membership policy and selection processes are integral to the mission of the organization, are openly advertised, and are non-discriminatory on all other grounds.”
According to the report, the waivers would go into effect in the fall of 2019. The task force recommended that waivers be filed and reviewed annually and that they provide detailed justification for gender-exclusive policies and evidence of educational efforts and external barriers to accepting all genders.
In a statement, Pride Network said it was disappointed with the recommendation and its SA approval.
“Due to the fact that the amendment, which proposes the creation of the Gender Exclusionary Waiver, is clearly transphobic, Pride Network urges its membership and the University of Rochester community to vote against it,” the statements reads. “We instead would prefer to see the creation of a Gender Task Force, which would consist in its majority of individuals from the transgender, non-binary, and gender-variant communities. A task force consisting of these communities who are directly affected by the ruling would give voice to this marginalized community that Pride Network represents. Please join in taking a stand against this systematic transphobia.”
Several members of TINT — a social group on campus concerned with trans, intersex, non-binary, and two-spirit issues — put out a statement opposing the amendment and criticizing the task force’s methods.
“Continuing to justify the existence of these single-gender organizations affirms the discrimination and exclusion of the TINT community in the activities and organizations,” reads the statement. “We have a right to these opportunities under the SA Constitution. The responses also made clear that amending the SA Constitution to allow any form of gender discrimination would be a formal and informal authorization for student groups to target the TINT community.”
The students said that having only one transgender person on the task force made it unable to properly understand gender-related concerns.
“It should be self-evident that a recommendation created and controlled almost entirely by the discriminators rather than the discriminated is fatally flawed,” their statement reads. “Likewise, a simple-majority vote to change the constitution to allow discrimination against [a] vulnerable minority is disgustingly unethical.”
A statement given to the Campus Times by the Inter-Fraternity Council said the “waiver requirements are consistent with our principles, as IFC organizations should be manifesting their support toward the LGBTQ+ community in terms of both requirements for membership and in terms of our programming efforts.”
A representative from the Panhellenic Association did not respond to a request for comment. No club sports presidents responded to requests for comment.