FSU responds to federal rollback of protection for transgender students

On Feb. 23, President F. Javier Cevallos sent an email to the FSU community in response to the Trump administration’s repeal of federal guidelines protecting transgender students.

In the email, Cevallos said, “I am writing to reassure you that the rescinding of this guidance does not affect our campus.  Framingham State University remains committed to providing equal access and an inclusive discrimination-free environment for all.”

In an interview, he said, “One of my mottos since I got here was that we respect every single person on this campus, and I think that’s what we will continue to convey. … I know there is a high level of anxiety about everything that is happening in Washington, and I thought it would be a good idea to reassure the campus that we will continue to be all-inclusive.

“We have to continue to remind everyone that, in our system, there are checks and balances that control what anyone can do, including the President of the United States, and that we will continue to support our students,” he added.

Cevallos emphasized the importance of the student body and said, “You are the reason we exist. So, we have to make sure every student, every faculty and staff member feels supported. … We are a community.”

Kim Dexter, director of equal opportunity, Title IX and ADA Compliance, said because the Trump administration had been pretty “consistent” in its message about challenging the Obama administration’s decisions to change several Title IX guidelines, the rollback was “anticipated.”

She added, “While I don’t agree with that, it did kind of put us on guard.”

Dexter said she fully supports Cevallos’ message and said, “Some students were already concerned about the impact and it created a lot of confusion in the community and nationally.”

She said, “We’re in a place in the country where protections are embedded in the law and embedded in policy – not all locales are that lucky.”

Dexter added, “On our campus, we are committed to being a safe and inclusive environment. Massachusetts policy and Massachusetts law prohibits discrimination and mistreatment based on your gender identity. This does not change the protections for our students.”

Dexter said while bathroom access is the “hot-button issue,” the Obama administration also addressed usage of proper pronouns as well as misgendering.

“They focus on the bathroom piece because it’s the most controversial. … It really meant more than that and it’s sometimes hard to keep that focus when that’s not where the discourse is,” she said.

FSU has several gender-neutral designated bathrooms around campus.

Freshman Matty Bennet, who identifies as genderqueer, said, “I think that Trump’s decision has real implications on the lives of many transgender children in schools across America. … Trans students face more social isolation, higher rates of depression and higher rates of suicide. Instead of further isolating this community, Trump should have taken steps to further protect these vulnerable kids.”

He added, “The trans community needs everyone’s support now more than ever. Trans people are people, too, and deserve the same rights as everyone else. Trans people deserve to exist in public spaces. Trans people deserve to pee in peace. I would also like to say that if anyone has any questions, they should find the right resources to educate themselves.”

Rylan O’Day, a transgender male and senior, said, “I feel safe here knowing that Cevallos wants to support and protect us here on campus.”

He added it is important for the LGBT+ community to stick together and said, “Keep fighting and don’t stop loving and supporting each other, whether we are LGBT+ or from other communities. We need to stand together.”

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