More than two dozen transgender students at the University of California at Davis have filed a lawsuit alleging they were victims of discrimination after being targeted with sexual and racial slurs at the campus, prompting a new requirement for prospective students, roommates and roommates’ parents to sign documents agreeing to a “risk-based” housing assignment process.
The Anti-Racism and Gender Discrimination Act, which went into effect Wednesday, adds caste to UC Davis’ anti-discrimination policy, which already prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, and race.
A spokesman for the school said Thursday that the new regulation was “simply an update” to the existing policy.
The new “sexual orientation and gender identity” policy adopted in 2014 lists four tiers of sexual orientation based on preference. Toward the bottom of the ladder are heterosexuals, followed by homosexual, bisexual and gay males, lesbians and bisexuals. Lesbian and gay women, and bisexuals are listed between two and five on the rating system.
In the current case, several transgender students, including a 17-year-old high school senior in California who identified herself as a girl living with her mother and older sister, complained of sexual harassment in the housing department. At the top tier on the scale, however, is the exact opposite of the situation the girls encountered: married heterosexuals living with their female spouses or same-sex partners.
The complaints cite instances in which the housing staff asked for paperwork after bed checks to determine whether someone had consumed an alcohol beverage on campus on that day. When they failed to provide documentation, they made gay women say goodbye before their roommate was ready to come to bed.
One 19-year-old woman, who identified herself only as Tab, reported that she was verbally harassed by another roommate during a break-in attempt at her unit. A professor of at least two years accused a football player of posting a photo of his genitals on social media, and another student was harassed and threatened after a conservative news group posted her college ID photo on the right of the news article.
In response to the student complaints, the university hired a consultant for analysis of its sexual orientation and gender identity policy. She interviewed undergraduates and students seeking housing. She also conducted focus groups with students, their families and employers.
The consultant recommended that the student conduct policy for housing be streamlined, reducing the involvement of housing staff in the process, and that students be assigned first to roommates that demonstrate minimum acceptable sexual orientation, gender identity, and the presence of same-sex or close same-sex roommates.
The housing staff, the report said, had been disproportionately concerned with ensuring that prospective roommates adhere to gender roles rather than considering “social sciences research, which implies different ways of interacting and communication between men and women.”
The professor who said the football player posted a photo of his genitals on social media said it violated “the duty to never make sexual or racist comments or actions in retaliation for other students reporting that they were subjected to such comments.” The coach of the football team said he believed the person responsible was a player, and was unclear if the player “believed the student was a member of his family.”