Chancellor's Blog: Affirming support for our trans community

| Chancellor James Schmidt

As I walked across campus last week, the banners outside Davies Center reminded me of the importance of making visible the history, perspectives and diversity of our campus. The banners celebrate the ethnic and cultural heritage months of the year by featuring the names and faces of pioneers and leaders in the civil rights, LGBTQIA+ and social justice movements.

In addition to reminding us of the continuing struggle to assure equity and inclusion on our campus and in our nation, they provide an opportunity to celebrate what has been achieved and to look forward to the work yet to do.

Last week I also had the privilege of attending a vigil held in honor of transgender individuals who have suffered violence and death because of their gender identity. It was a moving ceremony, and it was an honor for me to affirm my support for the trans community at UW-Eau Claire. I want to especially thank Chris Jorgensen, Kallie Friede and the students in the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center for making the vigil possible.

I'd also like to point faculty and staff to an upcoming opportunity to better understand the experiences of the transgender community. UW-Eau Claire Continuing Education will hold its "Growing Up Transgender" program in Eau Claire on May 17, and UW-Eau Claire faculty and staff may attend at a reduced rate of $99. The first 10 faculty and staff to register will attend free thanks to scholarships sponsored by our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and Student Affairs Division and the UW-Eau Claire Foundation. Learn more and register for this program, which is taught by our colleague Chris Jorgenson and UW-Stout faculty member Alex Hall.

In closing, I feel it’s important to share with you the remarks I gave during the recent vigil on campus. Our voices — raised in support and solidarity — are vital to creating a campus community that welcomes, celebrates and advocates for our trans colleagues and students.

Chancellor Schmidt remarks at the Trans Day of Remembrance Vigil
Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018

Thank you all for being here this evening.

It is important for me to be here tonight, because UW-Eau Claire is committed to supporting our LGBTQIA+ campus family and the many identities that acronym represents.

Our goal as an institution isn’t just to provide you with a quality education and assure that you graduate as Blugolds. We also strive to ensure that your identities and unique points of view are considered in all aspects of our university life. It is our hope that when you graduate from UW-Eau Claire, you leave confident in the myriad ways you positively impact those around you, within this community and around the world.

I am the first to admit that we don’t always live up to that important value and we don’t always get it right. We have much more to do. But we continually strive to learn and improve and listen.

But tonight isn’t about UW-Eau Claire. It’s about community — community here and community that stretches beyond these walls and into the hearts of those who value our transgender family.

I know that many of you have concerns about the recent memo from the Department of Health and Human Services urging government agencies to narrowly define gender “as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.” I join with you in denouncing this incorrect and harmful definition, as well as attempts to further block access to health care, legal protections and other services for the transgender community — especially at a time when violence continues to increase, particularly for trans women of color.

So tonight I want to affirm UW-Eau Claire’s commitment to you, our transgender, intersex, gender non-binary, and gender non-conforming students, faculty and staff. We see you. We hear you. We honor your lived experiences and your tremendous contributions both on and off campus.

Please know that you have numerous resources throughout campus willing to listen, advocate and provide support in any way that we can. Your safety is important to us. You can find those resources on your programs this evening.

Thank you for this important evening of remembrance and of community.

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