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Members from the Queer Initiative, Gay-Straight Alliance and the Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgendered groups on campus have been working for over a year to make changes to CU’s non-discriminatory policy.
These student groups, along with others, have been working with the help of the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on GLBT Issues to include “gender identity and expression” to the non-discriminatory policy, according to their presented resolution.
As of now, the university’s non-discriminatory policy, Article 10 of the Law of Regents, reads as follows:
“The University of Colorado does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, creed, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status in admission and access to, and treatment and employment in, its educational programs and activities.”
The resolution presented by these student groups would change the non-discriminatory policy to include “gender identity and expression” to the policy after the phrase “sexual orientation.”
The proposal for the changes was originally presented in March of last year, said Margot Ripley, a 20-year-old sophomore international affairs and chemistry major. Ripley is also the vice chair of the Gay-Straight Alliance on campus, a voting member of the GLBT Resource Center Student Advisory Board and a member of the Transgender/GenderQueer Task Force.
“Last March a proposal was submitted by a member of the student government, and that’s the actual bill that would be signed in by the regents,” Ripley said. “The presentation last week was just of a letter trying to persuade the regents because it’s been tabled since last spring.”
She said the proposal was originally drafted by the Queer Initiative, but was signed by an additional 10 or 15 organizations on campus.
Last Thursday, students traveled to Denver to speak in the open hearing in front of the regents and express their desire for the changes to be made to the policy.
“We had a wide variety of organizations, as well as individuals from different groups,” Ripley said of the meeting last week. “The Queer Initiative was the group that I think most people were affiliated with. People from student government were there. People from different organizations on campus and call centers were there too.”
In the Queer Initiative’s letter to the regents regarding the proposed change to the policy, they stated, “By not protecting the freedoms of identity and expression, the University of Colorado at Boulder is contributing to an environment that permits hate crimes and bias-motivated incidents on campus.”
The letter also defined for the regents the differences in definition of sex, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation.
Daniel Ramos, a 23-year-old 5th year Spanish and sociology major, drafted the proposal last year and said inclusion of all identities is at the heart of the whole effort.
“We really need to make sure that we’re including a number of different identities and appreciating and understanding what that identity means to an individual,” Ramos said. “There are outdated and inaccurate definitions that regents and the CU system are applying to these students who don’t fall into these definitions.”
Ripley said the proposal also aims to help better protect students.
“I believe that part of the mission of leaders in Colorado is to protect the students of the university,” Ripley said. “By leaving out gender identity and gender expression, they are not actively protecting their students.”
Ken McConnellogue, the associate vice president of university relations, who was present at the meeting last Thursday, said the regents were receptive to the students who spoke, but the regents have much to cover at their meetings.
“Well, I think it’s certainly on their minds,” McConnellogue said. “Is it their top priority? Probably not. They’re concerned with funding and the academic enterprise and things like that. It’s not that it’s not on their radar screen at all, it is.”
McConnellogue said he believes the regents will further discuss the proposal at their next meeting around the third week in June.
Discrimination because of one’s gender identity or expression is a common issue in the classroom, Ramos said.
“I think [discrimination] occurs a lot, especially in the classroom,” Ramos said. “I experience it a lot. I hear from others who experience it a lot too.”
He also stated that despite the hard work the numerous groups have put into this proposal, he is unsure if all the regents are on board with why these groups want to see the language of the policy change.
“My impression is that one, the regents are very uneducated about the issue and the definitions,” Ramos said. “The other thing that really surprised me was that they were ok with being good enough. They made argument after argument about why they thought they were covered and that they were ok being covered at the basic level instead of taking it a step further. It’s an issue they don’t understand, so they don’t think they need to care about it.”
Ripley said she’s positive about the future of the proposal and is looking forward to the chance for the regents to vote.
“I’m really hopeful. I think that this is a message change, and I think it will be possible to convince the regents,” Ripley said. “They are responsible members of the community that will hopefully make this change.”
Contact CU Independent Deadline News Editor Sarah Simmons at Sarah.firstname.lastname@example.org.