OSU commits to continued inclusion of transgender students

Jamie Chin, News Contributor

Announcement follows U.S. Department of Education’s recent change in

guidance regarding access to restrooms and facilities for transgender students

Despite the decision by the Trump Administration to rescind federal protection for transgender students, Oregon State University has continued their commitment toward the inclusion and safety of all transgender students.

An email was sent out to all students on Feb. 24 by Susie Brubaker-Cole, vice provost for Student Affairs, and Scott Vignos, director of Strategic Initiatives, to ensure protection and continuing support of all gender non-conforming students. The email mentioned several things, including the expansion of gender inclusive bathrooms and the availability of cultural resources throughout campus.

“I work closely with a number of colleagues across campus—the Office of Institutional Diversity, certainly—to address the diverse needs of our LGBTQ+ students and to ensure that we continue as a community to improve and learn about how to be inclusive and equitable for all student populations,” Brubaker-Cole said.

Brubaker-Cole jointly charged the Task Force on Transgender Issues, which is one of the groups at OSU that works to constantly improve transgender rights at school.

“The Task Force is comprised of students, faculty and staff from many different parts of campus,” Brubaker-Cole said. “It is currently working to look more deeply into how campus is meeting the needs of trans community members, and we are grateful to this group for the ways that their work will help us to take our supportive environment to the next level.”

One of the co-chairs of this group is Cindy Konrad, the assistant director at the Pride Center.

“The Task Force on Transgender Issues was created to examine current policies, practices and culture at OSU as they relate to transgender students, faculty and staff,” Konrad said. “The task force assesses the overall status of transgender faculty, staff and students at OSU and then formulates recommendations for ensuring safety, wellbeing and belonging of transgender members of our community.”

As a whole, many different organizations have joined together in order to ensure a safe, non-discriminating campus for transgender students, according to Brubaker-Cole.

“Much of this effort is coordinated through partnerships between Student Affairs (and the Pride Center in particular), the Office of Institutional Diversity, the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access and others,” Brubaker-Cole said. “I’d also underscore the key advocacy and leadership role that student leaders in ASOSU play today and have played in recent years. Student leaders have made great contributions to advancing an inclusive community at OSU for transgender students.”

The Pride Center, one of the OSU cultural centers which provides programs and support services to the LGBTQ community, started leading the ongoing #illgowithyou campaign about a year ago, an important OSU initiative that ensures security for transgender students who feel threatened, especially in bathrooms or locker rooms.

“The purpose of the #illgowithyou campaign is to decrease discrimination and harassment of transgender students,” Konrad said. “We distributed pins as part of the campaign, which people wore to represent their outward support for the community.”

A significant thing that the university itself has done to help with the inclusion of trans students is build transgender bathrooms, which are now located throughout campus. There are single-user restrooms in the dining hall and on every floor of the residence hall. OSU has provided students with a campus map of all 125 gender-inclusive bathrooms and facilities, and are still continuing the expansion of these bathrooms.

“It is our mission to make sure every single student on campus is receiving equal opportunities,” Konrad said. “The expansion of gender-inclusive bathrooms throughout campus is an obvious measure for our mission.”

For those who are exploring their identity or identify as queer or transgender, Counseling & Psychological Services offers group therapy for transgender students called TransForm, which is led by Beth Zimmermann.

“Our group is designed as a confidential space for folks who are exploring gender identity or who identify as gender non-conforming, non-binary, genderqueer or trans,” Zimmermann said.

It is an ongoing support group that requires no pre-group meeting.

“Our group is thriving and folks are always welcome to join by contacting CAPS for additional information,” Zimmermann said.

The main point that OSU wants to put forth is that students in the transgender community have no reason to feel any more unsafe or discriminated against than any other student, according to Brubaker-Cole.

“I received a large number of emails from OSU community members expressing thanks for the email that Scott Vignos and I sent to campus on Feb. 24,” Brubaker-Cole said. “It was heartening to receive these heartfelt expressions in support of this commitment.”