Central Washington Univ. adds gender identity to nondiscrimination policy

Central Washington University has became the third university in the state of Washington, and one of 25 nationwide, to ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression.

With little fanfare after more than a year of consideration, the board of trustees voted March 4 to add gender identity and expression to the school's nondiscrimination policy, which already covered sexual orientation, race, color, creed, religion, and other group identifiers.

"We want to make Central a community where people feel welcome and are not intimidated," said Nancy Howard, the school's equal opportunity chief. "It also sends a clear message to our university community that individuals are not to be singled out and treated poorly because of these characteristics."

Other universities in the state that specifically ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity are the University of Washington in Seattle and the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. "It's one of the most oppressed populations on college campuses across the state," said Leslie Webb, director of Central's diversity education center, which sought the change.

Next month Central hosts the first tristate lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender conference, titled "The Power of One: LGBT Leadership Conference," which is expected to draw about 200 college and university students and staff from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was added to the Central's policy about 10 years ago, Howard said. The policy change allows those who feel they have been subjected to discrimination or harassment to turn to the university's informal and formal grievance processes.

"The idea is that we want Central to be a place where employees can pursue their careers and be successful, and students can come and study and have a social life without worry that these type of incidents occur," Howard said. (AP)

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