Campus to vote on gender identity clause

The Triangle Coalition has been working toward the clause for five years.
Megan Stroup / Graphic Designer

The Missouri Students Association is holding a referendum to include a gender identity non-discrimination clause in their constitution this week. The clause would prohibit discrimination against gender non-conforming students within MSA.

MSA sent an e-mail with the address of their voting site to each student Monday night. The referendum is included on the same ballot for MSA senator elections.

"This is something we learned a little bit about on the campaign trail and it's something we've decided to pursue after sitting down with the people who wanted it done," MSA President Jordan Paul said. "I think most people are in support of this because it's about non-discrimination."

MSA passed legislation to support the inclusion of a gender identity clause in MU's non-discrimination policy March 11.

"I believe that adding this wording sends not only a clear message to administration that we stand behind our commitment to campus-wide gender identity inclusion, but also to the affected community that we remain cognizant of and concerned by any discrimination that limits participation in student life in and out of MSA," MSA Senate Speaker Amanda Shelton said.

Triangle Coalition President Asher Kolieboi said his organization has been working toward a gender identity clause in MU's non-discrimination policy since 2004 and predicts 70-75 percent of voters in the referendum will approve of including the gender identity clause.

"We're trying to make the campus a safer place," Kolieboi said. "Right now, anyone can be fired, harassed or assaulted just because they don't conform to a specific gender."

Kolieboi said a gender identity clause was purposely removed from the proposal to include sexual orientation in the non-discrimination policy before it was presented to the board to increase the likelihood of the proposal being approved.

Several organizations on campus, including the English and women's and gender Studies departments, have chosen to include the gender identity non-discrimination clause in their own constitutions after meeting with the Triangle Coalition in the last semester.

"The best way to get something added to MU's constitution is to go to individual organizations and student governments on campus and try and get them to change their own constitutions," Kolieboi said.

In addition to deciding whether to change MSA's constitution, the results of the referendum could also be used as evidence of student support when introducing the proposal to the board.

Chancellor Brady Deaton expressed support for the measure at a meeting with students in February, but said organizations in support of including the gender identity clause might face difficulties with the Board of Curators.

The effort to amend the non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation lasted eight years, from 1995 to 2003, twice as long as the Triangle Coalition's push for gender identity inclusion. When the board eventually approved the sexual orientation clause in 2003, several legislators threatened to withdraw the university's state funding. The push for a gender identity clause may face similar challenges.

"I am confident the Board of Curators will eventually amend MU's constitution to include gender identity in the non-discrimination policy," Kolieboi said. "I think that if the curators see that the vast majority of students are behind us they will approve our proposal. It will take a lot of work and probably a few more years, but it is possible."

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