Boston College Faculty Publish Letter Criticizing University’s Trans-Exclusionary Survey

Faculty and staff at Boston College have published an open letter criticizing university officials for being exclusionary of transgender and non-binary people in a campus survey.

More than 225 faculty and staff have signed the open letter, which comments on the “Boston College Faculty & Staff Experience Survey” released two weeks ago. While the survey aimed to gather feedback on whether the community is supportive, the letter states that within the demographics section “a number of questions failed to provide sufficient response options, leaving off numerous intersectional identities.” These errors have “erased the identities” of members. The letter continues:

“In particular, the wording of the question asking about gender in the survey shows an intentional exclusion of the transgender, nonbinary and genderqueer community. The gender question offers only ‘Male’ and ‘Female’ as options, excluding nonbinary, transgender, genderqueer, nonbinary, agender, or any other gender identity. There are also no follow-up questions that would provide space for individuals to indicate that they are part of the transgender community. . . [emphasis in original]

“In not providing diverse response options, Boston College as an institution fails to accurately capture the lived truths of its many diverse community members. What is the purpose of asking these questions and collecting this information if aspects of identity are intentionally excluded? In excluding many identities, the data collected will provide fewer insights to understand the nuances of the BC community. This will make policies, support systems, and institutional structures less equipped with the tools  to be agile in responding to the needs of the BC community.”

The letter notes that this criticism is not the first time university members have raised concerns about the survey. In 2019, ,members of LGBT@BC, a campus organization, asked the administration for “additional options that covered a wider swath of the community in terms of gender and sexuality.” The current letter then comments:

“Rather than take the requests into consideration and amend the survey, a short answer text box was included at the end of the demographic questions as a conciliatory step, to capture any identities the respondent felt may have been missed. No consequential changes to the content or structure of the demographic section of the survey were made. This short answer question is not sufficient overall, as it puts the onus on respondents to list their identities that were excluded in the prior questions.”

At the end of the open letter, suggested language is proposed for the questions on gender, sexual orientation, and marital status. To read the full letter, click here.

In related news, city councilors in both Boston and Newton, the two cities in which Boston College is located, added their names to a 2020 petition asking Boston College to better support its LGBTQ students. Patch.com reported that Newton City Councilors Holly Ryan, Richard Lipof, Victoria Danberg, Emily Norton, and Alicia Bowman joined Boston Mayor Michelle Wu in adding their names. The petition specifically seeks the establishment of an LGBTQ resource center and the include of gender identity in the university’s non-discrimination policy.

While Boston College has made some advances on LGBTQ inclusion in recent years, it lags behind its Jesuit counterparts at Georgetown, Marquette, Fordham, and elsewhere who have more fully embraced the call to equality. Hopefully, university administrators will finally listen to the students, faculty, and staff making these latest proposals.

Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, May 13, 2022

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