The Faculty Senate voted unanimously Friday to include “gender identity and expression” in the University’s non-discrimination policy in hopes of protecting the rights of transgender students, faculty and staff.
The resolution to include the new language into GW’s Equal Employment Opportunity Policy was presented by the Joint Committee of Faculty and Students alongside a packet of information prepared by the LGBT Resource Center in support of the policy change.
“This seemingly small change to GW’s EEOP will be a significant and meaningful step toward achieving our mission,” LGBT Resource Center leaders wrote in the packet. “Such a change will openly and loudly declare that GW not only supports diversity, but nurtures it.”
Michelle Tanney, a graduate student and member of the joint committee, said the change will aid the transgender community on campus.
“I have many friends in the LGBT community and have seen them have trouble because there was no explicit recognition for transgender students on campus,” Tanney said.
Aaron Fox, coordinator for the LGBT Resource Center, said the change in policy would allow transgender students freedom in the expression of their gender.
“Gender expression is someone’s outward expression of their gender, from clothing to mannerisms, to the tone in someone’s voice, to the people they associate with,” Fox said.
Fox added that the change will put GW in line with top-ranking universities across the US.
“All of the top 10 schools in the U.S. have language that includes gender identity or expression, only two out of the top 25 do not have it included in their policy,” Fox said. “I think that GW can be in those top-tier schools, and I think that passing this resolution is one of the ways that we can step into that tier.”
The resolution was passed with a technical amendment by the Faculty Senate’s executive committee that slightly altered the language of the EEOP to mirror the terminology in the D.C. Human Rights Act.
“We wanted to be sure that our list in the EEOP policy is inclusive,” Law School professor and Faculty Senate member Arthur Wilmarth said. “It’s to make sure that our policy is fully consistent with laws.”
Several members and supporters of the LGBT community attended the meeting and spoke out on behalf of the proposed changes.
Kaden Trifilio, a transgender sophomore, said the change was needed to make students and staff feel comfortable at GW.
“I remember as a freshman coming in and not being sure where I fit in,” Trifilio said. “To be able to set something up to send a clear signal that GW does indeed recognize the transgender community and does want to protect that community is really important.”
Another supporter of the resolution, art history professor Catherine Chandler, said the proposed changes are already in line with the current practices of the University.
“The proposal is perfectly in line with the policies and practices of the University, which do not discriminate,” Chandler said. “I think that by accepting this change it puts GW in line with its peers and with what it already does on a daily basis.”