3 college leaders urge DeVos to uphold Title IX transgender protections
- The leaders of three universities wrote a letter last week to U.S. Education Department Secretary Betsy DeVos to express "concern and dismay" over reports that the federal government may roll back protections for transgender students, urging her to back an interpretation of Title IX that fully protects their rights.
- Rutgers University President Robert Barchi, University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank and Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber said they object to a potential move by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to define sex under Title IX as binary, unchangeable and determined by genitalia at birth.
- They said the change would be in opposition to the medical community's guidance about distinctions between sex, gender and gender identity as well as the American Medical Association's calls for legal protections and access to public facilities for transgender people. The leaders wrote the move would open transgender students up to discrimination and harassment.
The New York Times reported last month it had obtained the draft of a memo from HHS that would devise a "biological" definition of gender under Title IX and that a birth certificate or genetic testing would serve as proof of sex. The definition could be adopted by the Education Department, according the Chronicle of Higher Education, which would mean transgender students would not likely be able to raise complaints about discrimination on campus to the federal government.
Other college officials have expressed concern about efforts by the Trump administration to remove Obama-era protections for transgender people, and some institutions have made efforts to make their campus more inclusive in response. Spelman College, an all-women's HBCU, announced last year it would accept transgender female students.
DeVos rescinded the Obama administration's 2016 guidance that expanded investigations of gender discrimination to include transgender bias allegations and required institutions to allow LGBTQ students to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity. The Education Department clarified after the guidance was rescinded that it would still investigate some transgender student Title IX complaints, though it would no longer hear cases about bathroom accommodations.
Critics of the policy note federal courts have continually ruled that federal sex discrimination laws, including Title IX, protect against discrimination of transgender people. They say that even if the Education Department implements the new definition, state and local laws banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity would still apply.