SA Senate approved a final, ballot-destined constitutional amendment at an emergency meeting last Thursday in the latest chapter of the government’s effort to grapple with the status of its gendered clubs.
By the end of the packed Gowen Room meeting, the Senate ratified an amendment that aligns itself and any SA-affiliated organizations with UR’s nondiscrimination policy and recommends a gender-exclusivity waiver process for single-gender organizations to keep their groups both gender exclusive and SA affiliated.
The amendment, proposed by a task force late last month, came in light of last year’s All-Campus Judicial Council ruling that SA was violating its non-discrimination policy by remaining affiliated with single-gender organizations.
Fifteen senators voted for the amendment and two abstained.
The waiver, as it did when it was first proposed, drew criticism at the meeting from some members of TINT, a social group dedicated to trans, intersex, non-binary, and two-spirit issues.
Two members, juniors Andie Burkey and Ruth Dan, proposed a temporary amendment that had been constructed by several other TINT members, which included a short-term exclusivity waiver with a six-year transition phase to full inclusion.
They proposed that organizations, to remain SA affiliated, would have to submit evidence annually in the waiver that they have a desire to become fully gender-inclusive but are facing a barrier to do so with an external governing body. During the meeting, they emphasized organizations that are not compliant by the end of the six-year phase could be reconsidered by SA if they showed “genuine dedication.”
The ratified amendment proposed a different process regarding the waiver.
“Affiliated organizations whose existence 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 apply for a gender exclusivity waiver,” reads the ratified amendment’s second section. “This waiver must be approved annually to retain affiliation 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.”
Burkey and Dan disapproved of the idea that gender-exclusivity is needed for an organization to run and also the vagueness of the amendment.
“Language like ‘depend upon’ and ‘are integral to’ is a step backwards from the goal of making the campus truly gender-inclusive, because gender-exclusion shouldn’t be integral to any organization,” Burkey and Dan’s temporary amendment reads. “If there is no reason external governing bodies [are] forcing groups to be gender-exclusive, there is no reason to allow campus groups to be so; the amendment should only allow this waiver process for groups that don’t have any other choice.”
Burkey argued that the task force created to address single-group organizations lacked non-binary representation and should have been composed of mainly individuals who are impacted by the policies, such as non-binary, two-spirit, intersex, and trans students.
“[This decision] is not coming from logic, it’s coming from feeling,” said Burkey. “There was so much fear that influenced the decision. Our amendment is more clear, it supports all students better than the amendment that was passed. You shouldn’t have to justify why you shouldn’t be discriminated against. But I feel like working with this amendment will get more done than working against it.”
Dan was a member of the task force but was not listed as such on the recommendations released. The circumstances of Dan’s membership are not clear.
Many students from multicultural Greek organizations came to argue their perspective of the proposal. Some argued that men and women of color have different cultural experiences and gender is a starting point for their separate communities to bond.
The SA amendment actually began as two separate amendments, which after discussion and a vote were joined together with two separate sections. Some senators disagreed on joining the two, arguing that combining the two amendments would take away the student body’s ability to voice their opinions.
The amendment will appear on this year’s SA elections ballot, which will go live online this Thursday and Friday. SA plans to educate students next week on the effect the amendment will have if passed. It will be hosting office hours with SA officials to answer any students questions.
Clarification (4/10/18): That Dan was a member of the task force was added in for further clarity.