ZOEY LIU/THE OBSERVER
The matter of transgender rights at Fordham Lincoln Center (FLC) has long been a point of contention. From years-long negotiations about access to gender-neutral bathrooms, residential life housing policies and ‘dead names’ being used by the university to refer to students, transgender students have felt like they have been forced to fight for their respect on Fordham’s campus.
Many students view the administration’s silence as another example of how the university disregards transgender students and their rights. Now, more than a month after their most recent push, student activists and the LGBTQ community at Fordham are still waiting to hear from the university.
In response to the Trump administration’s intentions, FLC students staged a rally in support of transgender rights on Oct. 31, on the Lincoln Center Plaza.
At the end of the rally, students marched in silence to the vice president’s office and delivered an open letter addressed to senior Fordham administrators with a list of demands to better support and protect transgender rights on campus.
Samantha Norman, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’18, stated that “one request in the open letter was for President McShane to issue a University-wide statement in support of our TGNCI community members, ensuring their safety. The Office of the President has not issued any sort of statement, nor has any other VP-level office issued a public statement.”
On Nov. 1, Senior Vice President of Student Affairs, Jeffrey L. Gray, confirmed the delivery of this letter. “I will review your letter and the related requests it contains, discuss these matters with my staff colleagues, and we will then follow up with those students in your organizations who we are in contact with,” he said.
Gray told The Observer on Nov. 13 that his and the administration’s consideration of the letter “will take us some time and constructive dialogue to work through.”
However, with still no update from the administration, Jack Bugbee, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’19, said that the university’s “silence has been deafening”.
On Nov. 15, Students for Sexuality and Gender Equity and Safety, one of the groups that organized the rally, released a statement over email: “It has been 21 days since we sent our open letter to President McShane. It has been 15 days since our rally for trans rights. Although VP Jeff Gray said he’d speak with his colleagues and issue a response, we have heard nothing.”
In a post on their Facebook page, the group told it’s followers that “We are angry and we’d like you to support our plea for trans rights at Fordham, enacted through tangible policy change and substantive administrative action.”
Bugbee said that “the refusal of the administration to respond in any way to the demands that were made at the rally is very telling.”
Moreover, he said that “the failure of the university to uphold the rights of transgender students damages those students and makes them feel unwelcome in a place that is supposed to be their home.”
On Nov. 1, Bugbee discovered a defaced Trans Rights Rally poster in a Lowenstein building bathroom. The poster was scribbled over with the phrases like “Trump 2020,” “There are 2 genders,” “social justice = communism” and “2020 Make America Great! Keep America Great!”
Bugbee reported the poster to the Office of Public Safety, who said they could not provide any additional information until their investigation was complete on Nov. 2.
Norman explained that the “threats” to the LGBTQ community “have gone unacknowledged and our report wasn’t taken seriously enough to send a warning to the rest of the Fordham community.”
Public Safety has not responded to further request for comment.
The Office of Residential Life, whom the transgender community has charged with enforcing transphobic and harmful rooming policies, referred back to their standard position on the issue. “In the Office of Residential Life,” Senior Director of Residential Life Jenifer Campbell said, “we work individually with students who inquire about housing accommodations related to their gender identity.”
Gray told The Observer that currently, he has no further comments on the matter.
The issue of transgender rights on Fordham’s campus directly affects both the mental and physical health of Fordham’s transgender students. “Many people come to college seeking a place where they can be themselves and Fordham has policies in place that make that goal unattainable for trans students,” Bugbee said.