LETTERS / Please Stand By Your Statements of Non-Discrimination, President Spellings

Published Monday, May 9, 2016 at 9:38 am

Dear Editor,

On May 4, the US DOJ formally stated to NC and the UNC system what many of us believed in our hearts all along: that House Bill 2 (“HB2”) is discriminatory. Its violation of Title VII, Title IX, and VAWA has prompted DOJ letters to NC state officials, including UNC President Margaret Spellings.

The DOJ demanded President Spellings and UNC to retract guidance issued on April 5th instructing individuals in the UNC campus community to use restrooms and other facilities that correspond to their “biological sex,” as defined by HB2 or take similar action to come into compliance with federal law by Monday, May 9th. The risk that the UNC system takes by ignoring this deadline is monumental: the federal government can withhold $1.4 billion from the UNC system alone.

This situation is unprecedented, so it is difficult to imagine what such a financial loss would mean in concrete terms. How would it impact tuition rates, for a generation of NC students already burdened with overwhelming student loan debt? What about faculty pay and retention, or the ability to draw world-class talent? How will our universities maintain school facilities and infrastructure, including dorms, libraries, and computers? How will they pay and maintain police forces to keep our campuses—our students and faculty—safe? The UNC system risks nothing less than an existential crisis in order to protect a state law that targets workers, the LGBTQ community, and all North Carolinians.

Interestingly, the DOJ letter to President Spellings cites her April 13 statement that UNC will not tolerate discriminatory behavior on the basis of gender identity. She has also said about this law that “it sends a chill throughout this institution for staff, faculty, and student recruitment.” (See April 8 Sarah Brown article: http://www.northcarolina.edu/content/spellings-says-controversial-lgbt-law-sends-chill-throughout-u-north-carolina )

Please stand by your statements of non-discrimination, President Spellings. The US DOJ calls upon you to announce that, in accordance with federal law, individuals are permitted to access UNC restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity. This is not the time to ask the writers and supporters of HB2—the very ones who put our state in this position—for advice. Instead, this can be your defining moment as our leader. Today you stand in a spotlight: you can show UNC students how much you value each and every one of them.

Faculty Forward NC Members Jocelyn Nelson (Teaching Assistant Professor, Music, East Carolina University) and Ralph E. Lentz II (Senior Lecturer, History Dept., Appalachian State University)

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