Despite President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of federal protections for transgender students last week, the University of Rhode Island has publicly stated its continued commitment to protect all students, regardless of their gender identity.
Apart from allowing students to use the bathroom that corresponded to their gender identity, interpretations of Title IX made during the Obama Administration allowed for additional protections against discrimination on campus. It required universities that received federal funding to use pronouns and names consistent with student’s gender identities, allowed students to live in housing that corresponded with their gender identity and also prohibited universities from disclosing a student’s transgender status.
“This is so much bigger than bathrooms,” said Coordinator of LGBTQ Programs and Services Annie M. Kosar. “Yes, it involves bathrooms, and that’s such a huge issue, but there is so much more to it.”
Gender and Sexuality Center Director Annie Russell had been preemptively working towards ensuing the continued protection of transgender student rights at URI even before Trump revoked them. Russell said she saw this coming.
“People who are reducing this to bathroom use should understand that it’s much bigger than that,” Russell said. “Protections from Title IX were about housing, and bathrooms, and health care and each part of what a university offers to any of their students.”
Ultimately, Russell said she is very confident that they university will continue to protect the rights of transgender students and that she was happy to see President David M. Dooley’s email addressing the URI community on the subject.
“We fully realize the potential fear and anxiety that can result from the reversal of this guidance, especially the impact on the LGBTQ community,” Dooley wrote on Feb. 27. “We want to assure you that URI stands firmly by our core values. As an institution that strives daily to be free of discrimination and to uphold the tenets of Title IX policy, we want to assure our community members that the University of Rhode Island will continue to provide protections to all people regardless of one’s gender identity and/or expression.”
Even though the issue extends so much further than just bathroom use, Russell continued to stress the importance of bathrooms and the fact that some students on this campus have to plan their entire days around what
“That’s not okay,” Russell said. “That’s something that continues to worry me and we continue to work on at the university. It’s not just that folks are encouraged to use whatever bathroom that they want to, but that there are enough gender inclusive bathrooms that students don’t have to actively think about it.”
Although Dooley and Russell have ensure the continued protection of transgender student right at URI, Title IX Coordinator Roxanne M. Gomes could not be reached for comment as to wherever or not there will be any changes in the day-to-day operations in the Office of Affirmative Action.
“The biggest thing that I want to let folks know is that we’re here,” Russell said. “The Gender and Sexuality Center cares very much about student’s experiences and what they’re going through or may be dealing with. This is a hard time, and we understand the emotional impact of this. We want to do everything we can to make sure that student’s lives don’t get altered by this.”