The University of Richmond Board of Trustees voted Thursday in favor of adding gender identity and gender expression to the school’s non-discrimination policy.
The affirmative vote makes Richmond only the third private college or university in Virginia to do so, behind Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va. and Virginia International University, located near Washington, D.C.
“This means our two years of work and collaborative projects have really paid off,” said Jon Henry, a junior and president of Student Alliance for Sexual Diversity. “We are focused on celebrating this victory at the moment rather than thinking to the future.”
Henry said they had met with different faculty and administrative groups on campus to get support and had also gotten signatures of endorsement from approximately a third of the student body.
Steve Bisese, vice president for student development, was a key supporter of this initiative, Henry said.
Bisese said the change was perfectly in line with the principles of the Richmond Promise.
“By having this amendment, it opens the door for us as a university to reexamine our policies and procedures to make sure they recognize transgender students, faculty and staff,” Bisese said. “The amended discrimination policy continues to send the message that the university does not tolerate discrimination.”
The non-discrimination policy for the University of Richmond, as stated on the Richmond website, reads: “The University of Richmond prohibits discrimination and harassment against applicants, students, faculty or staff on the basis of race, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, disability, status as a veteran or any classification protected by local, state or federal law.”
This decision will add “gender identity” and “gender expression” to the list.
Johanna Gehlbach, junior member of SASD, said, “The fact that the LGBT community can go from being virtually non-existent to having a petition go through to the board of trustees — that’s crazy.”
Glyn Hughes, director of the Common Ground, said his main role in the discussion was to figure out how to handle the changes to the policy in a concrete way.
“What we were thinking about,” Hughes said, “was how we could deal with different scenarios.
“We’re pretty confident that we can do that—whether it comes to housing requests or wanting to switch from Richmond to Westhampton College—we could handle those and we would just do it on a case-by-case basis and have a commitment to making sure that those requests were met with no hassle.”
Gehlbach said the majority of complaints she had heard about the policy were more about the specific changes than the overall idea.
“When we were tabling in the Commons,” Gehlbach said, “there were kids asking, ‘What does this mean? What would this do?’ … People are more worried individually about, ‘How is this going to affect me?’
“But that’s what we’re here for. We’re here to let them know what’s going on.”