The Yale College Council approved a resolution Sunday night calling on the administration to include the terms “gender identity” and “gender expression” in the University’s official nondiscrimination policy.
Less than two weeks after Harvard University announced the addition of protection for “gender identity” — though not “gender expression” — to its own nondiscrimination policy, the YCC pushed for a similar action at Yale. Although some YCC members said they worried that the Yale resolution was not substantive enough to effect real change, supporters of the resolution — which passed, 13-3 — argue that it is needed to ensure that transgender members of the Yale community do not face harassment.
In 2004, Erin Emily Dwyer, a transsexual former Yale Dining Services employee, sued the University for discrimination, alleging harassment from coworkers and supervisors. Dwyer lost the case, but Hugh Baran ’09 — the coordinator of the Queer Political Action Committee, which is campaigning to add the clauses to the University’s nondiscrimination policy, said the revisions would prevent members of the Yale community from having to follow a similar path.
“Changing the policy allows for a review process and for appeals to be made to the administration,” Baran said. “It allows people to have institutional and legal recourse against instances of discrimination.”
But YCC Secretary Kasdin Miller ’07, who voted against the resolution, said that although she fully supports equal rights against discrimination for transgender members of the Yale community, she was concerned that the resolution was not specific enough about policy implementation.
“With an issue like housing, for example, it means taking a specific stance instead of just suggesting there needs to be change,” she said.
Loren Krywanczyk ’06, who identifies himself as gender-queer, spoke during the YCC deliberations about his experiences as a transgender student at Yale. Krywanczyk said he thinks Yale’s commitment to gender diversity should be broadened beyond the a binary system of men and women because the current lack of formalized recognition makes some transgender students’ lives difficult.
“The absolute lack of policy and support has left my status in the hands of deans and masters, who fortunately have been very supportive in my case,” he said. “It would be a tragedy if future students in my position didn’t receive the same treatment because the University hasn’t expressed this commitment to diversity. … I know people who have had awful experiences at University Health Services and with housing because Yale refused to recognize their gender status.”
QPAC member Jacob First ’07, who helped draft the resolution, said QPAC has sought meetings with Yale President Richard Levin and other University administrators, but has been told that their schedules do not allow for any meetings.
“We’re hoping that we can talk to the administration,” he said. “I feel like we want to show that it’s an issue that does affect staff, students, professors, everyone at Yale, and then hopefully they would then make a statement saying they do think this is an important issue. … We just want to have that conversation with them, but we can’t really talk about how we can make Yale trans-friendly without having this in writing, that Yale doesn’t want to discriminate in these ways.”
The decision at Harvard was made public on April 12, two days after the school’s Undergraduate Council sent the Harvard Corporation a bill co-sponsored by about 30 campus organizations. But Harvard Vice President and General Counsel Robert Iuliano told the Harvard Crimson that the corporation had already agreed to add the clause to its nondiscrimination policy a week earlier.
More than 50 colleges nationwide have added gender identity to their nondiscrimination policies, including Harvard, Brown and Cornell universities, as well as the University of Iowa, which was the first school to make the change in 1996.
Yale officials could not be reached for comment Sunday night.