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Chancellor’s Message Regarding LGBTQIA Rights

Dear Antioch University Community,

The Trump administration and the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education have recently announced that it is considering adoption of a new definition of gender for purposes of federal law and federal protection.  Under the draft regulation, gender would be redefined as a “biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth.” The intent is that transgender people will be treated only as members of the gender into which they were born for purposes of civil rights protections.  They would have no protections under numerous federal laws for the gender they recognize and understand themselves to be.

This change would specifically include rolling back protections under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, which is a comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of “sex” in any “federally funded education program or activity.”   Of course, most higher education institutions receive substantial portions of its tuition revenue through federal student loans.  They are, therefore, subject to Title IX.  Similar language appears in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination in employment based on “sex, race, color, national origin, or religion.”   Prohibitions against sex discrimination appear in multiple other federal laws and regulations regarding public accommodation, housing, federal benefits, and much more.

As an institution that promotes social justice, and recognizes the dignity of all human beings and their right to be honored as the individuals they are, we strongly oppose this draft regulation.   First, the regulation completely ignores the fact that many people fit into the category of “intersex” that, for a number of medical reasons, have anatomy and/or chromosomes that are neither strictly male nor strictly female.  Second, it is a regulation that has no legitimate government purpose, other than to arbitrarily delegitimize and stigmatize individuals and to treat them as “less than” worthy of federal protection because of fear and ignorance.  It unfairly and arbitrarily disenfranchises over 1.4 million Americans from the protection of federal sex discrimination laws who recognize themselves — surgically or otherwise — as a gender other than the one they were born into.   The majority of federal District Courts and Courts of Appeals have come to the opposite conclusion in interpreting federal law.  The revised regulation would reverse that precedent.

This action follows the administration’s earlier efforts to ban transgender individuals from the military, despite overwhelming opposition from the military and despite clear evidence that transgender servicemen and women serve their country exceptionally well; there is no evidence of any adverse impact on the military’s effectiveness or efficiency.

Most concerning is that these efforts to diminish, demean, and dehumanize this segment of our population, has led to an increase in violence against them. According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), FBI data shows an increase in LGBTQIA hate crimes since 2015, especially against transgender and intersex individuals.  Our

LGBTQIA community is, therefore, concerned about their personal safety as well as their federal rights and protections in employment, housing, public accommodation, and higher education.

Therefore, over the past weekend, the Board of Governors, at its fall meeting in Seattle, unanimously passed the attached resolution of support.   We want our LGBTQIA community generally, and our transgender and intersex community specifically, to know that we stand together with them, respect them and the gender they understand themselves to be, and most importantly, affirm their dignity as human beings.

As Chancellor, I want to reaffirm our commitments set forth in the University’s policies of non-discrimination and non-harassment; it is our intention and our goal to be a sanctuary institution in which our LGBTQIA students, faculty, and staff may work and study without fear of discrimination or retaliation, where they are not only accepted but affirmed in their identity.  I would also like to confirm that the University will do what it can to comment on and oppose the adoption of these proposed regulations and to actively work with other institutions of higher education for this purpose.

William R. Groves, JD
Antioch University

The 22nd President/Chancellor of Antioch University, Groves has served as Chancellor since 2016 and has focused on three priorities; to reclaim and advance its reputation as an innovator in higher education; to grow programmatically and geographically in ways that will allow Antioch to reach its full potential to advance social, economic, and environmental justice; and to advance and promote the University’s 170 year-long history and heritage around social justice and democracy building.

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