UND ends work on gender inclusion policy
The plan would have required the use of a transgender person's preferred pronouns and the use of facilities that align with their gender identity.
GRAND FORKS, N.D. (KFGO/KVRR) – UND President Andrew Armacost says the University will stop work on its draft policy on gender inclusion — and will not implement it.
The policy was recently criticized by the North Dakota Catholic Conference, in a letter to parents of students in Catholic high schools.
In a statement Friday, Armacost said “when speech becomes the source of discrimination or harassment, existing UND policies offer protections to all members” of the campus. He said those protections “are consistent with federal and state law, and… guarantee access to education and employment for each member of the campus community.”
Armacost says the decision should not signal a lessening of the support UND shows to every member of that community.
A UND spokesman says Armacost discussed the matter with UND student leaders and the Student Senate this week before deciding to cease work on the policy.
At that same meeting, the Student Senate passed a resolution supporting continued development of UND’s draft policy.
On Jan. 13, Grand Forks Mayor Brandon Bochenski publicly supported the Catholic Conference letter, but at a city council meeting this week, he apologized for his choice of words on the issue.
The University will not be making any further comments on that matter at this time, and will instead let the President’s message to campus speak for itself.
Below is the President’s message:
The recent public discussion about a draft gender inclusion policy at the University of North Dakota highlighted concerns both about freedom of speech and religious exercise and expression and about protections for transgender students, faculty, and staff members. At last Friday’s press conference (Jan. 14, 2022), we addressed these concerns as well as the intent of the policy.
The campus-wide committee that drafted this policy identified relevant laws and state policies and assembled them into a single, accessible document that highlights protections already in place. Further, the committee’s intent was to bring a sense of humanity to a highly marginalized group.
The draft policy included guidance about the use of preferred pronouns on campus for students, faculty, and staff. Uncertainty existed about the consequence of not following this guidance and the impact on freedom of speech and religious exercise and expression.
UND has a strong track record of free speech protections with a “green light” rating by the non-partisan Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). Our campus policies recognize the importance of promoting speech as a conduit for ideas and providing ample space and encouragement for the expression of a broad diversity of viewpoints on topics where members of campus may have passionate and principled disagreements. Limiting speech cannot be the answer as we face challenging issues.
However, when speech becomes the source of discrimination or harassment, existing UND policies offer protections to all members of our campus, including in the areas of gender identity and sexual orientation. These protections, with well-defined thresholds, are consistent with federal and state law, and they guarantee access to education and employment for each member of our campus community.
As a result of the recent discussions and because existing policies already provide equal opportunity protections to all of our campus members, UND will cease its work on this draft policy and will not implement it.
This decision should not signal a lessening of the support we show to each and every member of our campus community. At UND, the expectation is that all of us treat one another with respect and dignity in each of our personal interactions.
What’s next? The conversations over the last week illustrate the importance of our strong and enduring commitment to free speech, the free exchange of ideas, and a civil dialogue, which are central to the mission of our university. This illustrates my vision for a campus where we come together to address our differences rather than driving each other apart.