Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

December 9, 2023

Augustana pushes for more gender neutral bathrooms after federal discrimination decision

The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice released a joint guidance on Friday that prohibits transgender students from being discriminated on the basis of sex. This guidance effects all schools that receive federal funding, including Augustana.
Sam Schlouch, director of public relations, said there will be no immediate changes to the campus. However, the college will continue to make accommodations for transgender students on a case-by-case basis.
“We don’t see these students as one mass group,” said Schlouch. “We still see them as individuals, and so by working with them individually we maintain that Augustana friendly type of atmosphere.”
The guidance states that a school  “must allow transgender students access to such facilities consistent with their gender identity.” However, the school “may make individual-user options available to all students who voluntarily seek additional privacy.”
Augustana has 14 single-occupancy gender-inclusive restrooms on campus, and Schlouch said the goal is to push for more gender neutral bathrooms. However, he said there is no timeline as to when these bathrooms will be implemented.
In order to comply with these guidelines, schools must provide a safe and non-discriminatory environment free of harassment, recognize identification documents, names and pronouns, house students according to their gender identity and must maintain their privacy.
Laura Ford, chief Title IX coordinator, said these changes have been “on the radar” of Augustana’s Title IX coordinators. They will discuss the policy and possible changes needing to be implemented at their meeting next week. The next steps could include adding more gender neutral bathrooms and looking at how quickly Augustana needs to make changes order to comply.
The guidelines also state schools must allow that transgender students to use locker rooms and play in sex segregated sports in accordance with their gender identity.
Athletic director Mike Zapolski said the guidelines don’t have an immediate effect on the athletic program at Augustana. He said there have never been any openly transgender student athletes, and even if there were, their presence would not effect the athletic program.
“We will do whatever it takes to be in compliance,” said Zapolski.
Ford said making sure the college’s locker rooms comply should be easier at Augustana, since the college does not have gym classes that require uniforms.
The guidance states that social fraternities and sororities have the right to set their own policies regarding the sex and gender identity of their members.
Katey Bignall, director of Greek life, said the Greek Council is drafting an official policy regarding potential new member’s gender identities that will be ready in the fall. However, she said the Greek community is open to accept any student regardless of their gender identity.
Schlouch encourages all students who require accommodations to reach out to the office of residential life and the dean of student’s office.

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Augustana pushes for more gender neutral bathrooms after federal discrimination decision