The University of Pittsburgh and Seamus Johnston, a transgender ex-student who sued the university, jointly announced a settlement of the suit on Tuesday. Only a few details were provided. "The university, through its newly appointed associate vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, will establish a working group, which will include student leadership, to continue to study, evaluate and make recommendations regarding the implementation of best practices for institutions of higher education vis-à-vis transgender individuals, particularly with respect to transgender individuals’ access to gender-specific spaces in accordance with their gender identity," the joint statement said. "The university also notes that, independent of the lawsuit, the university recently made available gender-neutral housing at Ruskin Hall on its Oakland campus, which represents taking leadership on gender-identity issues. Also representing the University’s leadership on these issues, the university’s website now provides that 'faculty, staff and students are welcome to use … any restroom that corresponds to their gender identity.'"
A federal judge last year dismissed a lawsuit by Johnston, a transgender man who was expelled from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown in 2012 in a dispute over his use of men's bathrooms and locker rooms. The judge rejected the idea that a transgender man who has not been recognized by legal authorities as having completed a gender transition could claim protection based on transgender status under federal antibias statutes.
The Emory University community awoke on March 21 to “Trump 2016” and related messages chalked on walkways, stairways, building walls and other places across our campus. Anti-Trump protests followed. Free and open expression is strongly encouraged at Emory, so the chalked endorsements normally would not cause anyone to blink an eye. But, in this case, a particular set of circumstances created a flash point.
News media coverage and even our own campus dialogues have largely essentialized this incident into the right to free speech versus the need for students to be more resilient in coping with an often harsh world. Some argue for the primacy of open expression at any cost, while others insist on the right to feel safe and unthreatened by certain expressions of free speech. In fact, the issues are much more complex, especially with the incident at Emory.
Although the phrase “Trump 2016” in and of itself may seem innocuous to many, in the context of the important work happening on our campus to ensure that every student experiences a sense of belonging, the recent chalkings spurred students to enunciate their claim to an institution in which they can feel like invited guests. Emory students from many backgrounds work hard to make our community better for all by raising our social and political consciousness around the many pressing issues of social justice.
First, protest movements are encouraged and are alive and well on university campuses. Although we have much work ahead at Emory, we have made significant progress by coming together as a university community to address last fall’s demands by the Black Students at Emory movement. Having identified shared concerns, values and passions, we are now positioned to create a more racially just campus community.
Second, some of the chalkings on Emory’s campus were a violation of university policies, certainly not because of the content, but because the chalkings were done in unacceptable locations and without reserving the space. Our guidelines concerning public messaging are crucial to maintaining open expression.
Third, many students who are members of marginalized groups have encountered intolerance much of their lives. These lived experiences inform their campus activism. At Emory, like many other institutions, students have been subjected to bias incidents based on various aspects of their identities, including race, religion, disability, sexual orientation and political views. Such acts -- both overt and subtle -- take a profound toll on students on campuses that they genuinely want to embrace as home and haven.
Many of the same students find themselves serving in leadership roles and contributing their labor to improve our campus social climate, all the while continuing to manage rigorous academic demands.
It is no secret that many people -- across the political spectrum -- have expressed concern that some elements of this year’s presidential campaigns are offensive and prey on public anxieties about America’s changing demographics. The controversial and often vitriolic nature of current political discourse is clearly painful for many people and especially difficult for groups that historically have been marginalized -- groups that include many Emory students.
The intensity, timing and anonymity of the “Trump 2016” chalking incident produced a tipping point. In the context of a college campus, we thrive on open and civil dialogue, inviting even the most controversial perspectives and remarks. The college setting is a laboratory where students may, for the first time, grapple with such issues. Those conversations by their very nature can be difficult and must take place in a safe environment that is inclusive and guided by mutual respect and civility.
Demeaning language and personal threats are counterproductive and undercut the arguments that prioritize open expression, as well as those that call for a more sensitive community.
It is unequivocally wrong to suggest that students who support the Trump 2016 campaign should not have a right to express their support. Similarly, students opposed to the campaign have the right to express their views on what Trump 2016 means to them. One of our fundamental responsibilities as educators is to encourage respectful student activism across the array of complex public issues that challenge our nation and the world.
We must continue to work together at Emory and throughout our society to cultivate an environment in which we respect one another’s views and honor our collective right to express those views -- a community of practice in which discourse in the public square is as civil as it is robust.
Ajay Nair is senior vice president and dean of campus life at Emory University.
New North Carolina law requires public colleges to segregate bathrooms by biological birth gender, forcing transgender students and faculty members to use facilities that don't reflect their identities. UPDATE: Three university employees sue.
Students at various colleges nationwide were stunned and upset Friday to find anti-Semitic fliers (below) on campus printers. Many students initially assumed that someone in their library or residence hall had printed the flier. But as the day went on, more campuses reported the same flier on their printers. The flier -- including two swastikas -- accuses Jews of "destroying your country through mass immigration and degeneracy." A neo-Nazi group that runs the website called The Daily Stormer (named in the flier) took credit for hacking the various printers and expressed pleasure in the distress of students who found the fliers.
Colleges and universities that received the fliers denounced them and said that they were investigating how their printers were hacked and were taking steps to try to prevent further such hacking.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, called The Daily Stormer an "up-and-comer in the heated competition to rule the hate web." The center's report on the website may be found here.
In an unrelated incident students at Hollins University were surprised on Easter morning to discover that someone had painted a swastika on the Rock, a campus landmark that students regularly paint with various messages, The Roanoke Times reported. Campus security immediately painted it over, and students later repainted again, with the message "Take Back the Rock."
Emory students draw images related to all the presidential candidates, seeking to promote free speech; Scripps student government leader sets off debate by condemning "Trump 2016" note written on student's whiteboard.
Prairie View A&M University last week fired Dawn Brown as women's basketball coach after players said that her rule on dating one another violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972,The Houston Chronicle reported. The athletes said that the rule was effectively discrimination against lesbians since the team is single sex. Brown's agent denied that the rule reflected bias against lesbians, noting that team members were also barred from dating trainers, managers and others affiliated with the team, and that the nonteam members covered by the rule included men.