University to announce transgender resources this fall

Posted on Jun 23 2016 - 7:00am by Lyndy Berryhill and Mia Sims

The University will launch online resources for transgender employees and students this fall.

The resources will include workplace transition guidelines for employees and a map of campus that marks single occupancy bathrooms and changing rooms. Additionally, there will be a protocol developed for potential residence hall issues.

Shawnboda Mead, LGBTQ Standing Committee member and director of the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement, said there are two separate projects that will be useful for transgender or transitioning employees and students.

“There is a group currently working to develop Workplace Transition Guidelines,” Mead said. “The single occupancy restroom project was already underway and is an independent project of the transition guidelines group. Many of the processes and resources in the transition guidelines document will overlap for students and faculty/staff.”

Currently, committee members are working to finish the employee guidelines and will begin developing student protocol.

In light of recent Title IX guidelines released regarding discrimination against transgender students, Ole Miss has plans to remain true to its Creed.

“We do not have a transgender bathroom policy,” said Brandi Hephner Lebanc, vice chancellor for student affairs. “But we do have a non-discrimination policy. We do not unlawfully discriminate on the basis of gender identity or expression. As our Creed states, we treat individuals with dignity and respect; we work with all members of the community to best meet their needs—this includes individuals who identify as transgender or are transitioning.”

The discussion over bathrooms has been widespread across the nation over the last few months.

Hephner LaBanc said the LGBTQ Standing Committee is in the process of identifying and cataloging restrooms in campus facilities. She said the committee has found gender-neutral restrooms, which are typically single-occupancy, across campus, though not in every building.

“Due to the age of some of our buildings, there may be limited non-gender restroom access in those facilities,” Hephner LaBanc said. “Nonetheless, we are happy to work with (and have already done such work) to meet individuals’ needs.”

Lionel Maten, assistant vice chancellor for enrollment management and housing at the University, said, from a housing perspective, the University does not have a specific policy, but there is an effort to accommodate students.

“We don’t currently have a transgender floor,” Maten said. “Students are worked with individually to make sure they’re accommodated and comfortable in an environment.”

Committee member David Labanc said residence issues will be decided on an individual basis.

If a student needs assistance in a residence hall with special requests such as a single-occupancy room or a roommate, they could contact their hall staff and relate the issue. If the conflict is not in one of the residence halls, but still on campus, the student could contact the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement and get personal assistance from a counselor.

Labanc said students could also reach out to the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies based on their unique needs.

Committee member and professor of biology Gail Stratton said it would be best for all campus buildings to have appropriate bathrooms, but until that happens, there are single-occupancy restrooms outside the chapel in a space that is open all of the time.

Stratton said the significance of dealing with this issue goes beyond accommodating transgender students, it is another chapter in human rights in Mississippi and across the South.

“It is very interesting how access to bathrooms speaks volumes about values,” Stratton said. “In our own past in the South, restrooms for African-Americans were often simply not available or separate and certainly not equal.

“As a University that seeks to affirm our Creed, where we believe in respect for the dignity of each person, the University should be bold in leading the way in providing gender neutral restrooms and proudly label them.”

All resources are expected to be available online through the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement at the beginning of fall for incoming and returning staff and students.