President Birge's message to campus on October 25, 2018
As you may have heard, according to a leaked memorandum obtained by the New York Times, the Trump Administration is seeking to restrict Title IX's definition of "gender" to "a person's status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth." This proposed definition would eliminate the protections of Title IX for transgender individuals.
I want you to know that MCLA will continue to maintain broad protections for trans/non-binary/gender-nonconforming faculty, staff, students, and campus visitors regardless of the action of the Trump Administration. Massachusetts law, the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, and the Trustees of MCLA provide the College with the authority to determine the content of our antidiscrimination policies.
Further, as an institution, we do not agree with the Trump administration's definition of gender and gender identity and we will not use their definition for any purpose; we will not erase people's identity nor prevent them from using facilities that best fit their gender identity and expression, and; as an institution, we will continue to value the contributions of trans/non-binary/gender-nonconforming faculty, staff, students, and visitors and recognize their vital roles as part of our campus community.
Even if the Trump Administration were to change Title IX's definition of gender as described in the leaked memorandum, at the state level, the Commonwealth's laws include some of the strongest gender identity protections in the nation. The Commonwealth protects transgender individuals from discrimination in state government, employment, credit, public schools, housing and public accommodations, specifically including locker rooms and bathrooms. Crimes motivated by gender identity bias are also hate crimes in Massachusetts.
In response to the 2016 enactment of the Commonwealth's Transgender Anti-Discrimination Law extending protections in public accommodations, including hotels, stores, restaurants, theaters, sports facilities, and hospitals, opponents of the Law gathered sufficient signatures to add a referendum on the Law to the 2018 ballot (Question 3). In a somewhat confusing manner, a "yes" vote on Question 3 would keep the Law, whereas a "no" vote would repeal the Law. While current polling indicates that most voters support keeping the law, even if the electorate voted to repeal the gender identity protections in public accommodations, the Massachusetts State Universities, which are not public accommodations under state or federal law, would still retain the authority to determine how we define gender for the purposes of our own antidiscrimination policies.
More specifically, pursuant to Section 9(w) of Mass. Gen. Laws Chapter 15A, the Board of Higher Education has the authority to "establish an affirmative action policy and implement a program necessary to assure conformance with such policy throughout the system [of public higher education)." In 2007, the BHE approved the inclusion of gender identity as a protected characteristic in the universities' Equal Opportunity, Diversity and Affirmative Action Plan. In each version of the EO Plan, the BHE and the universities have consistently included antidiscrimination protections broader than those mandated by state or federal law.
Chapter 15A gives the BHE and the universities the authority to determine the content of their antidiscrimination policies. Neither a revision to the federal definition of gender under Title IX nor the removal of gender identity protections in state public accommodations would have an effect on the validity of this authority. Furthermore, even if gender identity were removed from the Title IX definition of gender or antidiscrimination protection in public accommodations at the state level, Massachusetts law would still protect transgender individuals from discrimination in state government, employment, credit, public schools and housing, giving the universities and the BHE ample support to continue their inclusion of gender identity as a protected characteristic in their EO Plan and related antidiscrimination policies.
If you, or someone you know has experienced a form of discrimination, please contact Ms. Nicole Comstock, MCLA’s Director of Equal Opportunity and Title IX (Venable Hall, Room 309c, ext. 5571) and/or Dr. Christopher MacDonald-Dennis, MCLA’s Chief Diversity Officer (Bowman Hall Room 211, ext. 5300).