Emerson joins schools in coalition to defend transgender rights

Emerson vowed to defend transgender protections in Massachusetts last month. The school joined a campaign that opposes a ballot initiative to repeal transgender protections.

The college has yet to publicize their commitment on social media or through the Office of Communications.

The 2016 law Emerson supports bars discrimination on the basis of gender identity in public accommodations and supports transgender people’s right to use public restrooms consistent with their gender identities. Voters will be able to vote on the ballot initiative in November.

According to its Facebook page, the campaign, Freedom for All Massachusetts, is committed to upholding the state’s non-discrimination laws protecting transgender neighbors, family, and friends at the ballot this November.

Neither Sylvia Spears, social justice center vice president, nor Robert Amelio, director of diversity and inclusive excellence, were available to comment at this time

“The cynical side of me, is like, ‘they’re just doing it for the publicity’ but then again … I have not heard it from Emerson itself,” Kyle Eber, freshman and treasurer of Emerson’s Alliance for Gays, Lesbians, and Everyone, said.

Emerson joined a coalition of twelve Massachusetts colleges and universities, including Harvard University, Northeastern University, Tufts University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to oppose the potential repeal.

Freedom for All Massachusetts spokesperson Matthew Wilder said in an email statement that the organization is proud to have the school join their coalition.

“Emerson joins the hundreds of other insitutitions … who understand that transgender people should have the same basic protections as everyone else—to live with their lives with safety, privacy and dignity,” he wrote in the email.

Sophomore David Fadul sent emails to President M. Lee Pelton about announcing the college’s support. Fadul said he did not want to stay silent about the ballot.

“I encourage Emerson to be loud and clear about this action and any other action it does,” he said.

According to emails provided by Fadul, he asked Pelton to take the college a step further and “join the fight to protect these transgender laws statewide,” and the Massachusetts Freedom for All higher education coalition.

Fadul sent the email Feb. 18. Pelton did not respond. However, the organization published a press release on Feb. 28 that said Emerson officially joined the coalition.

Pelton then responded to an email of gratitude Fadul sent on March 11.

“Thanks for your support and encouragement,” Pelton wrote. “As you probably know, it was an easy decision to make. It represents the enduring values of our college.”

On campus, Eber noted that the college took past action to support transgender students, such as checking preferred names and pronouns and the enactment of gender-neutral bathrooms.

The college employs staff to assist students who wish to update email addresses, academic class listings, and identification cards with their preferred names. The college also designated multiple single-stall and multi-stall restrooms across campus as gender-neutral restrooms.

“I think they just have to continue to put the thoughts of the students first,” Eber said.

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