The GW Board of Trustees voted unanimously Friday morning to amend the University's equal employment opportunity statement to include "gender identity or expression."
Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman and Senior Vice President and General Counsel Beth Nolan recommended to the Committee on Academic Affairs during a meeting on Thursday that the University amend its current employment policy to be in compliance of D.C. laws, according to documents distributed at Friday's Board meeting. The Board voted to include the amendment without discussion.
"It brings us into compliance with the District of Columbia's laws," Lehman said. "Students have also advocated very strongly for this," he added, referring to the change.
President Steven Knapp said the inclusion of "gender identity or expression" in the policy shows the "spirit" of the GW community.
"This was the final step we were missing," Knapp said after the meeting. "We're already required by District of Columbia law not to discriminate, so this brings us fully into compliance ... and shows we're a community that is committed to diversity."
Knapp said that GW has been effectively operating under these standards since D.C. included "gender identity or expression" into the D.C. Human Rights Act in March 2006.
"We were already committed to this statement," Knapp said. "This is bringing the language into full compliance."
The equal opportunity statement now reads, "The George Washington University does not unlawfully discriminate against any person on any basis prohibited by federal law, the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, or other applicable law, including without limitation, race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression."
Student groups have been advocating for gender identity inclusion in the equal opportunity statement since 2005, Allied in Pride President Michael Komo said. Allied in Pride outlined an amendment to the policy as one of their goals for the 2009-2010 academic year.
"Students at the University can now rest assured that they have the protections necessary to feel safe on campus. Allied in Pride, joined with students, faculty members, staff members, student organizations, and more, has worked for over five years to reach this crucial goal," Komo said in an e-mail. "This is a huge victory. While it may seem like a small change to some people, this is an enormous help to those students who so desperately need it," Komo said. "This is a clear sign to me (and Allied in Pride) that the University has recognized the importance of the LGBT community."