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Why does Notre Dame have NTPNA stamped on its admission application?

| Wednesday, October 31, 2018

There are people on this campus who do not feel safe.

Thirty-four percent of transgender or non-binary students stated that they strongly or somewhat disagreed with the statement: “I feel a sense of belonging at Notre Dame.”

Of the students who experienced adverse treatment due to their gender identity, 50 percent said it had a somewhat or very negative effect on their sense of personal security.

This is a problem, and a problem that the University administration seems determined to ignore.

The recent Campus Inclusivity Survey acknowledged transgender people as an option on the survey. However, the University has continued to refuse to recognize them as a group that deserves protections from discrimination in our University’s notice of non-discrimination, which states:

“The University of Notre Dame does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, disability, veteran status, genetic information or age in the administration of any of its educational programs, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, athletic and other school-administered programs, or in employment.”

By refusing to recognize transgender people on campus, the University has been able to force students into a dorm by their gender-assigned-at-birth rather than their gender identity. This is only one of the many issues that transgender people experience at Notre Dame, and an issue which could be influenced by including transgender people as a protected group in the notice of non-discrimination

This all seems hypocritical especially considering that Notre Dame has made a point to include gender as a category in our Spirit of Inclusion.

“We welcome all people, regardless of color, gender, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, social or economic class, and nationality, for example, precisely because of Christ’s calling to treat others as we desire to be treated. We value gay and lesbian members of this community as we value all members of this community. We condemn harassment of any kind, and University policies proscribe it. We consciously create an environment of mutual respect, hospitality and warmth in which none are strangers and all may flourish.”

Clearly an environment of mutual respect, hospitality and warmth has not been cultivated for all members of our community.

Unfortunately, the Spirit of Inclusion is not a legally binding document. Therefore, while the Spirit of Inclusion is a nice gesture of compassion and understanding, it does nothing to protect transgender and non-binary students from discrimination.

I am not a member of the LGBTQ+ community and will never be able to understand the experiences of transgender and non-binary students on campus or in the world, let alone transgender and non-binary students of color.

However, with the recent results from the Campus Inclusivity Survey, coupled with the recent plans made by the Trump administration to narrowly define gender, I felt it necessary to use my column to publicize this issue once again.

If students on our campus are left vulnerable they may be forced to turn to the federal government as their only option. Clearly, however, this administration is not willing to protect them.

The Trump administration has moved to define out of existence transgender and non-binary people. The Department of Health and Human Services has reportedly planned to narrowly define gender as gender-assigned-at-birth. This will leave millions of people vulnerable to Title IX violations and set back the clock on policies to protect transgender and non-binary people from discrimination.

Obviously, the Trump administration is not going to step up and protect transgender and non-binary people, but why won’t our University administration?

This University was founded on the principles of Catholic Social Teaching: valuing the life and dignity of the human person, which can only be preserved when human rights are prioritized and responsibilities to community members are met. This is why it troubles me so greatly that our administration is unwilling to apply that teaching to our transgender and non-binary students on campus.

America took a long time to accept Irish people as a part of our nation, and for the longest time they were left open to various forms of discrimination. “No Irish Need Apply” or “NINA” was a common phrase qualifying job openings in American papers. Notre Dame stepped in and served as a safe haven for Irish Catholic intellectuals and Catholic youth for decades.

If Notre Dame continues to fail in taking action to include transgender people in discrimination protections, if we continue to fail in acknowledging an entire population of people on campus, we continue send the message that “No Transgender People Need Apply.”

I have hope that our University administration will step up and commit to protect transgender and non-binary students from discrimination at this University. The Campus Inclusivity Survey was a wonderful step forward to better understand the experiences of all students on campus.

Now let’s use that information and take action.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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