COLUMBIA — Gender identity and gender expression were added to the University of Missouri System's nondiscrimination policy after a 7-1 vote Thursday by the UM System Board of Curators.
While introducing the issue, Curator John Phillips said the curators had received petitions from student governing bodies on all four UM campuses and from two faculty governing bodies in support of adding gender identity and gender expression to the policy.
An investigation by the UM Office of Human Resources also found many other public and private institutions had gender identity or gender expression in their nondiscrimination policies, Elizabeth Rodriguez, vice president for human resources, said.
There are 75 institutions in MU's peer group, according to documents provided by the curators. Of those, 63 have gender identity in their nondiscrimination policies and 38 also include gender expression. There were similar findings for the three other UM System campuses.
According to the GLAAD Media Reference Guide, gender identity is "One's internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman (or a boy or a girl)," and gender expression is the "external manifestation of one’s gender identity, usually expressed through 'masculine,' 'feminine' or gender-variant behavior, clothing, haircut, voice or body characteristics."
Existing UM policy prohibits discrimination of employees and students on the basis of sex and sexual orientation. UM System General Counsel Steve Owens said because the current nondiscrimination policy has the words "sex" and "sexual orientation" in it, it could be considered to cover both gender identity and gender expression as well.
The curators, however, wanted a firmer legal foundation and more inclusive language for the UM policy.
"We're in the position of thinking about the legal risks and our legal advice, as well as what is right, in respect to how to treat faculty and students," Phillips said.
The student body presidents of the UM system campuses said in a news release Thursday they agree with the curators’ decision to expand the system’s nondiscrimination policy.
“I am humbled and very proud to be a part of the institution that was at the forefront of this piece of important institutional change,” Rachel Jenkins, University of Missouri Kansas City student body president said in a news release.
Before this change, the system's policy had not been updated since 2003, when sexual orientation was added.
The curators also approved the 2015 Fiscal Year budget and the MU Master Plan. The budget for the UM System for 2015 is approximately $3 billion, an increase of almost $100 million from the previous year.
The budget includes a 3 percent tuition increase at MU for nonresidents and sets aside funds for various construction and renovation projects.
One of the projects is the construction of the Patient Centered Care Learning Center, which is a School of Medicine expansion project. The cost will be $45 million, with $12 million in funding coming from state appropriations.
One of the goals of the project is to increase enrollment in the Medical School by 128 students by 2020.
Earlier this year, the curators approved $11.5 million worth of renovations to Swallow Hall. The estimated cost of the renovations has since increased to $17 million, and the curators approved the new amount. The increase in funding will come from the Campus Facilities Reserves and a contribution from the College of Arts and Science.
This project will be a complete interior renovation of Swallow Hall. The building will retain its exterior appearance. The estimated costs went up after the design team realized the structural repair and the reinforcements required to do the renovation were more extensive than anticipated.
The UM System currently has a $1.3 billion backlog of facility renovations that need to be completed. MU's campus, including the Red Campus — the historical area centered around Francis Quadrangle — accounts for $586 million of those renovations.
"I don't think we can overstate the importance of the Red Campus. These are some of the most historical buildings in the state of Missouri," Curator Wayne Goode said. "They need to be protected."
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