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June 11, 2015


envelopePitt progress on transgender issues “unacceptable at best”

To the editor:

In reading your May 14, 2015, article, “Opinion: Making changes to make Pitt more welcoming to all” (by Provost Patricia Beeson and Senior Vice Chancellor Kathy Humphrey), I felt far more frustration than I did relief. As a transgender person, a member of Pitt alumni, a former worker at the University and a friend of LGBTQ people who still are in danger behind its walls, I find this progress unacceptable at best. It is a sidestep of the issue, rather than a step in the right direction.

I want to begin by reminding the reader that “media coverage” referred to in this article is a horrific story of the University of Pittsburgh ruining Seamus Johnston’s life over his use of a male locker room. This included not only barring him from using locker rooms and bathrooms, but having him arrested, expelled and charged with indecent exposure (an offense which, if it had not been dropped, would have put him on a sex offender registry with people convicted of rape and child molestation). Pitt’s response to this man losing a lawsuit against the University due to the transphobic musings of a neo-conservative judge appointed during the second Bush administration? “Because it is never our intent to violate anyone’s rights, we are pleased with Judge Gibson’s decision.” This one sentence response to the ruining of someone’s life and career, draining his finances, charging him with bomb threats, and traumatizing him with arrest by police, was spoken by John Fedele, senior associate director of News for Pitt. This statement is a lie. Any human being can see massive violations to the rights of not only Johnston, but all of the other trans people at the University who wonder, “Will I be next?”

To this day, Johnston has received no reparations from the University for this ordeal. But they’ve spent plenty of time and money silencing him. To anyone who thinks this is not a problem, I want to ask: How many times do you use the restroom each day at work or school? What if you couldn’t?

Let’s say that all of this is in the past for argument’s sake alone. Perhaps Pitt has changed its tune and is learning? Based on the Opinion article, this is not the case. The solutions put forward are based on segregation. They hide the reality of what the University is doing to continue to prevent trans students from accessing basic needs. They still allow the University to take the exact same steps if a trans person uses the men’s or women’s restrooms or changing rooms (not the few and far between gender-neutral options that are sporadically placed in some University buildings). This is a blatant case of segregation and othering of trans people. It still creates a climate of fear. And now, on top of that, every time they have to use the bathroom or changing room, they also have to use one that will plaster their trans identity into the mind of anyone seeing them use it. This puts people in danger from not only the University staff and faculty who are ignorant, uneducated or malicious towards trans people, but anyone else who may be as well.

Rather than placing the responsibility where it is deserved — on the University — it places all effort onto trans people to hide more, stress more, travel further and so on. Why? To use the restroom. Something that most people take for granted day in, day out. Because of policies like this, trans people are at risk of everything like the horrors that happened to Seamus Johnston, health problems (like the fact that half of trans people studied recently reported dehydration, urinary tract infections, kidney infections and kidney problems due to lack of access to bathroom use), or even attacks and sexual assaults. Furthermore, do you know how much statistical evidence there is of trans people attacking or harming people by using restrooms? ZERO.

Many universities allow ALL of their students to use the restroom. Pitt needs to come out of the archaic times it’s stuck in, stop acting like this is a difficult decision and do what is right.

Creating a separate but not equal space for trans people to have basic human needs met is not a solution. It just creates another problem for us to solve and overcome.

Adrien Mellori

Editor’s note: The writer graduated from Pitt in 2007 with a BS in psychology and worked at the Learning Research and Development Center 2006-10.


Local 95 operating engineers object to new workplace rules

To the editor:

We, the men of the University of Pittsburgh Facilities Management Local 95 Operating Engineers, feel we have been placed in a very difficult position. As members of the University community we understand that we are obliged to follow the policies of the University of Pittsburgh as well as the contents of our collective bargaining agreement. We have absolutely no issues in doing so, but we were recently given a set of “workplace rules” by Assistant Vice Chancellor of Facilities Management Dan Fisher which we have several issues with.

First, they were not negotiated and agreed upon by the members of our union.

Second, we consider many of the rules to be harsh and heavy-handed. This is consistent with the style of management we currently endure.

Finally, we feel it is discriminatory to place such rules that apply to only some members of the University of Pittsburgh community, only some members of the Facilities Management work group, only some members of the University collective bargaining staff, and only some of the members covered by the Local 95 collective agreement. Strangely, these people feel discriminated against and immersed in a hostile work environment.

In our work environment the normal process to resolve issues is to file a grievance. A grievance is generally a three-step process to determine if there has been a violation of contract or agreement. We have filed a grievance on this matter, which at the time of this letter is at step 2. We are not optimistic of good results. Mr. Fisher is the exclusive reviewer of steps 1 & 2 and plays the leading role in step 3, creating a rather challenging situation in which to seek justice.

There are 37 pages of these workplace rules and it would be difficult to print these in the University Times without a special issue. I have included a couple of the rules I feel are obviously heavy handed.

Appropriate Workplace Behavior

1. Employees should refrain from engaging in non-work-related conversations with other employees or the public during working time. Friendly and courteous service includes limiting conversation with others, including work-related discussions.

Personal Appearance

8. Sunglasses are not permitted with the exception of prescription-tinted glasses when a copy of the prescription is on file or while driving a University vehicle.

9. Men shall be clean-shaven unless they are growing or have a fully grown beard/mustache. Beards and mustaches shall be kept neat and trimmed.

It has been said that most abuse starts with first isolating the victim; we appreciate the opportunity to shine some light on our situation.

Rodney Allen
Steward, Local 95




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