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Courtesy of U.S. Dept. of Education

On Nov. 1, University President Christopher L. Eisgruber ’83, Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi, and University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank sent a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in support of legal protections for transgender individuals.

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

Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."

The reports referred to in the letter detail the Department of Health and Human Services’ proposed definition of sex under Title IX as binary, unchangeable, and determined by a person’s genitals at birth. 

The university leaders believe that this would “[roll] back important protections against discrimination on the basis of gender and gender identity.”

The letter cites DeVos’s own words about the Department of Education’s “responsibility to protect every student in America and ensure that they have the freedom to learn and thrive in a safe and trusted environment.” 

To uphold that responsibility, the letter states, the federal government must provide protections for students of all gender identities.

A restrictive definition of sex, in the authors’ view, would turn its back on the transgender community and be detrimental to transgender students. Protections against this definition, the letter states, would be consistent with both the advice of the American Medical Association and with basic principles of fairness.

The letter concludes by expressing hope that DeVos will provide the necessary leadership to oppose the proposed change and will advocate for an interpretation of Title IX that fully protects the rights of transgender people. 

Director of the LGBT Center Judy Jarvis said she is very appreciative of President Eisgruber and the other university leaders’ initiative on the issue. She considers it crucial that the leaders of our nation’s educational institutions make the importance of transgender students and faculty clear, calling the anti-trans policies “cruel, unnecessary, and just distractions from all the other important inequities that the Department of Education could be working on.”

Jarvis wanted to remind the University’s transgender and non-binary students and employees that the LGBT Center is a source of support for them. According to Jarvis, the LGBT Center will offer legal information sessions, one-on-one support, and multiple Gender Group meetings every week.

“It’s just horrible, as our DACA students know and as students of many Muslim countries know,” she continued, “when your existence is targeted by your federal government, and so I want to make sure our trans students and employees know we are here for them.”

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