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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Grinnell’s commitment to transgender students

President Raynard Kington sent out a special campus memo in response to the Trump administration’s revoking of transgender students’ rights
President Raynard Kington sent out a special campus memo in response to the Trump administration’s revoking of transgender students’ rights. Photo by Mahira Faran.

Last week, President Raynard Kington reiterated Grinnell’s commitment to transgender students in a special campus memo. This followed the Trump administration’s rescindment of an Obama-era letter that provided guidelines for how colleges should support transgender students. Going forward, the College will be increasing the amount of gender-inclusive housing, streamlining Grinnell’s name change process and providing new trainings for faculty and staff on the issues that transgender students face.

“Grinnell has been ahead of the curve in terms of its practices and policies and support for transgender people,” Angela Voos said, Vice President for Strategic Planning and Title IX Coordinator.

With input from the Gender-Inclusive Housing Committee, Residence Life will be moving forward in providing more gender inclusive housing, which allows students to have roommates of any gender and ensures that there is at least one gender-inclusive bathroom on each floor. 

“We are looking to increase the amount of spaces on campus that are gender inclusive. We will always retain, of course, some single sex spaces for those who need or prefer that,” said Andrea Conner, Associate VP of Student Affairs. “Currently we have about 20 percent gender inclusive …  and we have 20 percent that is single sex, so we’re looking to increase single sex slightly, and then potentially moving away from most co-ed spaces [to gender inclusive]. By the end of March we’ll have made the final decision on exactly how much we’re going to grow that gender inclusive pot.”

Simultaneously, work has been underway to improve the process by which students can change their preferred name and preferred gender pronouns, which is currently a complicated ordeal.

“We’ve been trying to formalize a process that is less cumbersome for individual students. We are working to create essentially a web-form where people can submit their pronouns and their name, and then that will be less of an onus on an individual,” said Conner.

In changes that are more driven by students, the Office of Intercultural Affairs (OIA) is working to develop transgender sensitivity trainings for faculty and staff. This comes after members of the Transgender Advocacy Group (TAG) were frustrated with how some professors dealt with issues such as pronouns, and wanted to ensure that all faculty were aware of how to treat transgender students. Ian McConnaughay ’17, co-leader of TAG, said that the group has been working with Maure Smith-Benanti, the Director of OIA, to develop a training that meets the needs of transgender students.

“I’m trans and I’ve had problems with professors in the classroom before, just trying to get them to not misgender me and so forth. And we’ve collected these stories of ways that professors have been less than stellar in their sensitivity to trans issues,” McConnaughay said. “There’s a definite probability of being able to reach out to department heads first of all to give them trans sensitivity information, that they can then disseminate in their departments.”

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