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September 29, 2023

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University strives to be inclusive, falls short in policies, health

Campus Pride, a national non-profit organization, publishes a campus climate index to help prospective college students find LGBT-friendly campuses.

The University does well in the rating system, earning a 4.5 out of five in the “LGBT-Friendly Campus Report Card.”

In particular, the University receives the highest marks in a number of key areas including “Academic Life” and “Student Life.” The University offers a number of courses focused on LGBT issues/concerns and a minor in LGBT Studies is an option for students. Within Student Life, the University has a number of student organizations and also staff support specifically for LGBT and Ally programs and opportunities.

The University should be proud that it has made a commitment to campus equity issues for LGBT students, staff and faculty. At the same time, the University community should strive for a perfect 5.0 rating from Campus Pride.

In the areas of “Policies and Practices” and “Counseling and Health Services,” the University falters. Specifically, the University does not have, according to the report card, “Accessible, simple process for students to change their name and gender identity on university records and documents” nor does the university offer “Insurance coverage for students transitioning from M to F and F to M to cover hormone replacement therapy.”

Of the Ohio schools graded by Campus Pride, only three have a simple, accessible procedure for name and gender identity changes on records/documents: Case Western Reserve, Oberlin and Wright State.

For students who cannot easily and readily change these documents, the consequences range from frustration to indignity.

If a student wishes to be called by his/her preferred name and referred to by his/her preferred gender identification, the student has to contact each professor, explain the circumstances and politely request that the faculty respect the student’s wishes.

That’s the frustrating part.

Now, here’s the indignity: I have heard from more than one student that even though the student has spoken with a faculty member alerting the professor to the name change, some professors simply refuse to call the student by his/her chosen name.

Thus, the student’s identity is hijacked by the insensitivities of the teacher.

I hope this indignity is a rare experience, but the problem could be easily solved if the University simply offered students an expedient way to change their name and gender on university records and documents.

In terms of hormone-replacement insurance coverage for students transitioning from male to female and female to male, only two Ohio schools graded provide such coverage: Case Western Reserve and Ohio State University. Since student success is tied to health and well being, it seems like a worthy commitment to offer this coverage through student health insurance options.

Again, while the University has reason to be proud of its score, it also has every reason to strengthen that pride by meeting students’ needs for respect, dignity and well-being in all areas of the report card.

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