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Murray State Adds 'Gender Identity' to Nondiscrimination Statement

Matt Markgraf, WKMS

'Gender identity' is now part of Murray State University's nondiscrimination statement. The Board of Regents voted on Friday to approve the change for the university to be more inclusive and to protect federal contracts. 

President Bob Davies explained the origins of the change date back to the executive order President Lyndon Johnson signed in 1965establishing equal opportunity in hiring and employment practices related to federal contractors. The order has seen several amendments over the decades, including in 2014, when President Barack Obama added that federal contractors and subcontractors are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Merriam-Webster defines gender identity as "a person's internal sense of being male, female, some combination of male and female, or neither male nor female."

"You have to have these terms within your nondiscrimination statement, specifically stated," Davies said.

Murray State added in 2014 'sexual orientation' as part of their nondiscrimination statement, but not gender identity.

"We receive quite a few federal contracts," Davies said, particularly in the Breathitt Veterinary Center. While the university has been able to maintain those contracts through "various mechanisms," Davies said, "We are in jeopardy of losing those contracts."

Davies said the university has spent the last 18 months working to add the words. Some of the work entailed determining potential changes involving admissions, housing, application forms, facility changes, athletics, academics and communicating 'understanding' and 'kindness' components to the campus and community.

As explained in the meeting, changes would occur in phases, such as, timelines for which application changes need to be implemented. Housing applications would need to be ready by early August this year for Fall 2019. The Blackburn building on campus is under renovation and with the statement in effect, the committee involved in this effort would meet to determine possible changes to facilities in the building.

As for federal contracts, Associate Provost for Graduate Education and Research Robert Pervine said the university was not able to obtain some contracts due to not having gender identity in the statement. He said the university could not accept a $1.3 million contract, but was fortunate to find a workaround through a state agency that could allocate the funds. However, the university lost $70,000 in the process (as that was the agency's cut).

Pervine said a federal subcontractor reached out to a faculty member in the Institute of Engineering, but the university did not conform with the federal law. "That potentially could have been a six-figure amount of money that we lost," he said. He added Breathitt Veterinary Center has also struggled with U.S. Department of Agriculture contracts for not conforming, namely billing workarounds with the state during the avian flu outbreak in 2017.

Prior to the vote, Chief of Staff Renee Fister reiterated, "It's more than just the dollars. It's about the inclusiveness that we need to provide. So that's equally a major point."

The new statement reads as follows:

Murray State University endorses the intent of all federal and state laws created to prohibit discrimination. Murray State University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, age, veteran status or disability in employment or application for employment, admissions or the provision of services and provides, upon request, reasonable accommodation including auxiliary aids and services necessary to afford individuals with disabilities equal access to participate in all programs and activities.

Matt Markgraf joined the WKMS team as a student in January 2007. He's served in a variety of roles over the years: as News Director March 2016-September 2019 and previously as the New Media & Promotions Coordinator beginning in 2011. Prior to that, he was a graduate and undergraduate assistant. He is currently the host of the international music show Imported on Sunday nights at 10 p.m.
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