BISMARCK, ND (KFYR) — The president of the University of North Dakota hosted a press conference on Friday to discuss concerns about a proposed policy raised by the Catholic Conference of North Dakota earlier this week.
UND administrators say there are good reasons for the school to implement a new gender-neutral policy.
“Every student or employee has the right to be protected from harassment or discrimination. The draft policy is intended to affirm our support for our LGBTQ+ members, and in particular our transgender and non-binary members,” said UND President Andrew Armacost.
The Catholic Conference of North Dakota sent a letter to Catholic high school students urging parents to consider the proposed policy when looking for colleges.
Part of the letter read:[The proposed policy] embraces and demands acceptance of a particular gender and language ideology that is contrary to Catholic teaching and infringes on freedom of expression and religious rights.
The Catholic Conference agrees with the University on the issue of prioritizing student safety from harassment. However, they believe that the proposed policy is too broad.
“The intention was to draw attention to the constitutional issues as they move forward on this project so they can resolve it. Because, if the intent of (the policy) is to prevent student harassment on campus, that’s laudable. But politics went way beyond that,” said NDCC executive director Christopher Dodson.
One of the concerns in the letter relates to accommodation: the Catholic Conference has expressed concern that students may be forced to share a room with a student of the opposite sex. But, according to President Armacost, this is not the case.
“That is not true. The draft policy does not address the specifics of the housing allocation process. The wording of the draft policy is intended to provide assurance that trans and gender non-conforming students will have access to a accommodation consistent with their gender identity,” Armacost said.
President Armacost says the housing office will work with students whose legal sex is different from their gender identity, and this will enable a lifestyle where they will do best.
After the press conference, the NDCC said that while they appreciated clarification on the issue of housing, “students should not, however, have to rely on obtaining an exemption from the on-campus housing policy or on the request for a change of roommate to ensure that the student is placed with a person of the same sex.
According to Armacost, the policy will not be implemented for several months.
After Friday’s press conference, the NDCC said in a statement that its original letter was not addressed to UND, its students or parents of students. Rather, it was intended to inform Catholic high school students as they made decisions about college plans.
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