Board postpones discussion about gender resolution

The Board of Governors has yet to hear a resolution to add a clause for gender identity and expression to Truman State’s non-discrimination policy.

Truman’s Student and Faculty Senates passed initiatives March 30 and March 27 to add language specifying protection for transgender persons to the University’s non-discrimination policy.

University President Troy Paino says he spoke with Palmer and Board of Governors Chair Susan Plassmeyer about the issue and the Board has expressed it might not hear the matter right away. He says Board members are not opposed to hearing the issue, but Plassmeyer had set a rather ambitious agenda for the year and did not want to deviate from the current goal of conducting a comprehensive revision of Board policy.

Current protection

Paino says he wants to communicate that part of the reason for any perceived lack of urgency on the part of the Board is he thinks gender identity and expression currently are protected under law for the purposes of Truman’s campus, students, faculty and staff. He says in his understanding the clause in the current policy, which specifies protection from discrimination on the basis of sex, includes protection for transgender people. He says he recognizes the symbolic significance and message of inclusion or omission of the clause, but does not find the language necessary to guarantee legal protection.

“As an institution, I just want to be clear to everyone,” Paino says. “We do feel gender identity is included and we in no way believe that we can tolerate any form of discrimination against someone based on their gender identity. From a legal standpoint we feel that it’s covered in our non-discrimination policy.”

Paino says at this time it is unclear if the Board will pursue a discussion of the issue during 2014. He says throughout his experience the Board has taken interest in listening to students and faculty and there is potential for future discussion and development of this issue.

Faculty Senate

Sherri Palmer, psychology professor and Faculty Senator, says Faculty Senate passed a resolution — by unanimous vote and with several abstentions by senators whose names were not recorded — to add a clause including gender identity and expression to Truman’s non-discrimination policy. She says the resolutions passed by Student and Faculty Senates during March 2014 then were forwarded to the Board of Governors.

Palmer says the motivation for the gender identity resolutions stemmed from the outcome of a previous resolution to add sexual orientation to the non-discrimination policy which the Board of Governors passed during December 2012. She says the advocates for the policy change decided not to include gender identity in that resolution during the drafting stage because at the time they thought there was a greater chance of passing the resolution without the gender identity clause.

Palmer says the advocates did not want to remove the language, but were worried they might not have another chance and made the compromise to focus on sexual orientation. She says the Board of Governors was not made aware of the gender identity issue at the time.

Student Senate

Student senator senior Derek Benjamin says student senators, seniors Laura Van Genderen and Jessica Poole, wrote the student gender identity and expression resolution. He says the Senate passed the measure by unanimous vote, along with several abstentions by Senate members whose names were not recorded.

Benjamin says he thinks the initiative is important because the transgender students on campus need legal protection from discrimination. He says he thinks gender identity and expression need to be specifically mentioned in the policy just as race, religion, ethnicity and other characteristics already are specifically named.