Monday, January 04, 2016

Everyone's talking about waivers

Since Erin wrote about Christian-identified colleges asking for Title IX exemptions, the topic has been getting a great deal of attention in the media. As a reminder, these waivers do not permit complete exemption from Title IX and every school can craft its request however it pleases, but waivers can (and have) be(en) used to: expel transgender students and unmarried women who get pregnant, deny transgender persons access to single gender spaces such as bathrooms, locker rooms, and housing, deny married housing to same-sex couples (students, faculty, and staff)

  • The issue of federally sanctioned discrimination against LGBT students in America's institutions of higher learning has US lawmakers taking notice. A group of senators, including Bernie Sanders, Al Franken, Tammy Baldwin, and Barbara Boxer, have asked Secretary of Education for "greater transparency" in the waiver process. They want, at the very least, a public list of the schools that have asked for and received waivers stressing the need for an informed choice by students and parents.
  • The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has seconded that motion (or maybe firsted?--not sure who made their announcement first). The group issued a report asking for a list and that the Department of Education keep (publicly available) statistics about the number of requests and waivers granted. HRC's report included some of these statistics, which document the rapid rise in requests from one in 2012 to over 40 in 2015. About 2 dozen requests are still being considered by the Department of Education, but it has yet to deny a school a waiver.
  • As Erin noted in her original post, there is a list of these schools. But it is being kept and published by an LGBT publication, The Column, out of Minnesota. The Column got the list via FOIA requests and what they have done with the information is very impressive because it is more than just a list of the schools. It has an interactive map, similar to the one HuffPo has been keeping on schools under investigation for Title IX violations regarding the handling of sexual assault. It may be the best source for now if one is interested in knowing which schools have made and/or been granted waivers and what they are requesting.
  • Response by conservative Christian groups to the request for lists has used phrases like blacklisting, public shaming, religious freedom, and stifling diversity. Some groups, like the Southern Baptist Convention and the Christian Legal Society, have been providing training and advice to schools seeking waivers, which is why many of the ones filed in the past year are nearly identical. All of these are available at the link to The Column's piece.