Statement from University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler on national and local issues related to transgender and nonbinary rights

Monday, November 19, 2018

Across the country, institutions of higher education are responding to proposed changes in the federal definition of gender under Title IX. If implemented, gender would be defined as male or female, unchangeable,  and determined by an individual’s sex assigned at birth. This would effectively remove the identities of  transgender and gender non-conforming people.

Understandably, many are feeling scared, angry, and confused about how potential policy changes will affect their lives and the lives of others. I can assure you that I will reject any movement that would erase or deny the identities of those in our University community who are transgender or gender non-conforming. To do so would be to deny human dignity.

Our University policies enact our commitment to tolerance, diversity, and respect for differences. Vice President for Equity and Diversity Michael Goh released a statement clearly outlining the University’s support and timeline for our draft administrative policy entitled, Equity and Access: Gender Identity, Gender Expression, Names and Pronouns. I want to unequivocally state my support for the draft policy and the important work being done to ensure that our institution remains a leader in advocating for LGBTQ rights.

I acknowledge that there are opposing viewpoints and strong feelings about the draft policy and a number of other social and political issues. What makes us a vibrant learning community is our ability to engage across difference in meaningful and productive ways. We must create campuses where everyone is not only free, but encouraged, to express their views.

Strongly supporting and protecting the human rights of all members of our community is a necessary foundation for freedom of expression.  When we deny the rights and dignity of even one person, we remove the ability to engage with one another in a way that ensures that everyone feels seen, heard, and respected on our campuses.