University of Arkansas Adjusts to Transgender Students

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May 25, 2012; Source: Inside Higher Ed

The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith (UAFS) is formulating policies that would allow transgender students to use restrooms that match their gender identity. Although UAFS recently made gender-neutral restrooms available on campus to accommodate transgender community members, it had to rethink its approach after Jennifer Braly, a junior, complained to the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which sent a letter to the university’s lawyers. While the college would not make the letter publicly available, DOJ spokesperson Xochitl Hinojosa said UAFS was not directed to take any specific action.

R. Mark Horn, vice chancellor for university relations, said the institution is doing its best to meet the needs of transgender students and had considered gender-neutral restrooms the most viable solution. “We did what we thought was reasonable accommodation,” Horn said. “We were trying to be fair on both sides to students who are not transgendered (sic) as well as to this student.”

Braly explained that she had been using both women’s and gender-neutral restrooms and encountered no problems until she started lecturing about being transgender at the invitation of several psychology professors. Soon thereafter, at least one student complained about having to share facilities with trans people. UAFS administrators requested that Braly limit herself to gender-neutral restrooms but she countered that there were no such facilities in the buildings she frequented. The university then placed Braly in a single dorm room for the coming fall semester instead of with roommates, which finally spurred her to contact the Justice Department.

Shane Windemeyer, executive director of Campus Pride, said that “it sounds like the campus has not done a good job taking responsibility for creating a welcoming, safe space for trans-identified students. It is unrealistic to ask anyone to go across campus in between classes to be able to use the restroom.”

“Frankly, this is new turf for us,” Horn said. “We welcome all students. The issue of accommodating transgender student needs has been a threshold that we had never had to go up to before. It’s been a learning curve for us, both in terms of the law and what gender identity disorder is in the first place.”

As more transgender students courageously come out in our campuses, colleges and universities need to establish policies that welcome and adequately meet the needs of all students. – Erwin de Leon

  • Shane Windmeyer

    Mr. Horn,

    Campus Pride has several resources on transgender issues. Plus we have a national benchmarking tool that can help you — We have been around for over ten years now. I visited your campus a year ago and spoke to your students (very small crowd attended, no administrators). Our phone number is 704.277.6710. Our website is

    Every summer we have a professional LGBT advisor/professional academy that administrators can attend to learn more about trans and LGB student needs/issues. Learn more online at

    Now is the time to become educated — you and your other staff, administrators, etc. When it comes to the safety of any student, I have a low threshold for excuses by administrators. My hope is that you are willing to call us and find the resources you need to become better with trans student populations.

    Thank you.

    Shane Windmeyer
    Campus Pride

  • Wayne

    It’s a complicated road which we are asking society to navigate. And with all of the opposition we get from those unwilling to tolerate the differences that we LGBTQ people bring to the mix, we should have some compassion for those who are willing to take steps, albeit ones that aren’t helpful.

    I have a low threshold for anyone who has no patience for those who are trying. I would suggest that instead of scolding the administration like Mr. Windmeyer does in his comment/letter, we should be offering help. Diplomacy can go a long way.

    Personally, I have always tried to see things from the other person’s perspective. Being gay myself, it occurs to me that straight guys might feel a little uncomfortable being in the same restroom as me. I can also understand a woman being in the same restroom as a trans woman, or a lesbian. If we want acceptance to continue to grow, we have to stop and think about how to accommodate not only ourselves, but the rest of society.

    And before someone says I’m not tolerant of trans individuals, I have worked with one who came out, and our company I think did a great job of preparing everyone for the transition. I also sit next to a good friend in my choir who is a trans woman. I am well aware of the issues. We need to ALL be tolerant here.


    This is the most stupid and un moral thing I have heard in a long time.
    Soon sex in the street will be free expression of art