15 July 2011

Changing Purdue's Nondiscrimination Policy

We Won!

Gender Identity, Gender Expression, and Genetic Information were added to Purdue's nondiscrimination policy. I am copying a portion of an email I made explaining how this was done:
Here at Purdue, we took advantage of Student Government. Through Purdue Student Government there are two senators representing the underrepresented through what is known as the "Council of Organizations for Respect and Equality." Based on talks, one of the senators ran with the idea, and took it to the full senate. We initially proposed adding Gender Identity, Gender Expression, Genetic Information, and Political Affiliation. We were shocked when it passed unanimously through student government, and part of that was probably that we packed the room. Anyway, nothing happened at the university level that time, so the next year we did it again but took advantage of PSG's ability to propose policy directly to the Board of Trustees. Obviously there were meetings with various administration before that. We included Genetic Information as there is actually a federal law that includes genetic information (http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/genetic.cfm) so it is something universities have to think about adding anyway. Political Affiliation was dropped to make it easier to pass the Board of Trustees. 
Initial Reasoning for Work

The LGBTQ Advisory Board under the office of the Provost was charged with identifying areas that Purdue could improve to encourage more diversity especially in the area of sexual and gender minorities. One of the areas identified was the non-discrimination policy. The board suggested the addition of gender identity and expression into the non-discrimination policy. During my first semester as a student I heard of an instance of gender identity discrimination, when an employee blocked a transgender student from going into the bathroom. After that, I went to the 2009 Midwest Bisexual Gay Lesbian Transgender Ally College Conference (with support from the Dean of Students) and learned of the importance of gender identity and expression in non-discrimination policies. I also talked to students from schools with the policy, and became jealous of their protections, and embarrassed at Purdue’s lack of protections for a highly marginalized population. Due to this, I decided that Purdue needs to protect students on the basis of gender identity and expression.

Amending - Gender Identity and Expression
(Note some of this information may have changed as this was written Summer 2009)

Gender Identity and Expression is included in a growing number of nondiscrimination and equal opporunity laws (One example would be the leading corporations - link). Republican Governor Mitch Daniels, through executive order, added gender identity as a protected class to several laws affecting state employees, including the Indiana State Employee Harrassment Policy (link) and the Equal Employement Opportunies for State Employees Policy (link).

In Indiana, gender identity and/or expression are included as protected classes in Marion County (link), Bloomington (link), South Bend (just for city employees - link), and Depauw University (link). West Lafayette added the protection in 2011.

Some of the Lafayette area's important businesses also include Gender Identity and/or Expression in their policies, including Eli Lilly (link) and Toyota (link). Suburu (link) even prides themselves on their corporate equality index for transgender people.

One might also note that on the national level, the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which includes gender identity, has found success in Congress (link). Both Senator Lugar and Bayh of Indiana voted for this bill (link).

According to the Indiana Transgender Rights Advocacy Alliance, as of 5 July 2009, thirteen states and DC include gender identity and/or expression in their antidiscrimination policies (link).  Three of these states are in the Midwest (Iowa, Illinois, and Minnesota).

Beyond the world of politics and corporations, universities have been taking up the issue with full steam. All of the Ivy League Universities include gender identity and/or expression (link), and all of the Big Ten Universities include gender identity and/or expression.

Amending - Genetic Information
(Note some of this information may have changed as this was written Summer 2009)

Genetic Predisposition and Carrier Status are the blaring trains of nondiscrimination policies. They just seem like they are obviously going to come up. Already, many states and even the federal government have anticipated the potentials of genetic discrimination and passed laws.

Federally, genetic information can't be used by employers or insurance companies to discriminate (link). Indiana also has a law, Code 27-8-26, but it only applies to insurance companies, though it does define genetic testing/screening (link).

In the world of academia, out of the Big Tens and Ivy Leagues, only Columbia University has taken the move to include genetic protections in its nondiscrimination policy (link). Purdue has now made the addition (occurring in 2011). Its inclusion, however, could very likely be a trend. One of Lafayette's important businesses, Eli Lilly, includes protections for its employees (link), and others are almost certain to follow, especially because the federal government has already stated this is an important protected category. President Bush issued two statements of support, before eventually signing a bill, in 2003 (link) and 2005 (link). The National Genome Institute also has information on their website why steps must be taken to prevent genetic discrimination (link).

Genetic discrimination has real potential as testing becomes cheaper and faster. Purdue should take steps, as the federal government has, to protect people from genetic discrimination.

Additional Resources
QSU Press Release on the Addition

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