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March 31, 2016

Working group will evaluate transgender practices

As part of a settlement with a transgender man who sued the University in 2014, Pitt has agreed to establish a working group to continue to study, evaluate and make recommendations on implementing best practices for transgender individuals on campus, “particularly with respect to transgender individuals’ access to gender-specific spaces in accordance with their gender identity.”

Pamela Connelly, associate vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, will establish the working group, which is to include student leadership.

The action was announced in a March 29 joint statement from the University and Seamus Johnston, a former student at Pitt-Johnstown.

Johnston, who was born female but identifies as male, was banned from the UPJ campus in 2011 and later expelled for refusing to stop using the men’s locker room and restroom facilities. (See Jan. 9, 2014, University Times.)

In a federal lawsuit, Johnston claimed sex discrimination and retaliation under the Constitution’s 14th amendment equal protection clause and under Title IX, as well as discrimination under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act and the Pennsylvania Fair Educational Opportunities Act. (See April 16, 2015, University Times).

On Feb. 19, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ordered the parties to finalize a settlement within 45 days.

In the joint statement, the University noted that, “independent of the lawsuit,” it recently made available gender-neutral housing in Ruskin Hall, and that the University’s website now provides that faculty, staff and students may use “any restroom that corresponds to their gender identity.”

—Kimberly K. Barlow 

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