Student, professional athletes push for NCAA to pull events over transgender athlete bans

Student and professional athletes joined LGBTQ advocates Friday to ask the National Collegiate Athletic Association to take action against states passing bills to exclude transgender women from women’s sports teams.

“This is a moment of national crisis where the rights and very existence of transgender young people are under attack,” said Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, in a virtual press event. “This year’s state legislative sessions mark the highest number of anti-transgender bills in history — more than 50 — which target the ability of transgender athletes to participate in sports.”

In North Carolina last month, Republican lawmakers filed a bill to bar transgender women from competing against other women at schools and universities. Just this week, they filed bills that target transgender health care, seek to force teachers and counselors to report children who exhibit “gender nonconformity” and legally protect scientifically debunked “conversion therapy” that seeks to cure LGBTQ people.

As North Carolina saw five years ago, during the battle over HB2, the economic and cultural impact of sports organizations withdrawing competitions from states with discriminatory laws can make a difference. In response to that bill, the NCAA moved seven championship events scheduled to be held in the state as other major organizations and corporations boycotted the state. The final economic impact was estimated at nearly $4 billion.

Last month nearly 550 current NCAA athletes from across the nation signed a letter to NCAA President Mark Emmert and the NCAA Board of Governors asking that they reaffirm the organization’s existing non-discrimination policies and pull championship events in states where transgender athletes are banned from competition. More than 700 NCAA athletes have now signed the letter.

Alana Boja, track and field athlete at Washington University.

“We noticed more and more states slated to host championships were putting anti-trans bills on the table but the NCAA was just staying silent,” said Alana Boja, a Washington University track and field athlete who helped spearhead the letter.

“We couldn’t just sit back and watch as the right to play sports was stripped from our fellow athletes,” Boja said.

The bills are a threat to all women athletes, Boja said.

“It’s impossible for women athletes to feel safe and supported in an environment where their personal identity and integrity is questioned,” Boja said. “The reality is many of these bills cannot possibly be enforced without inviting policing and bullying of all student athletes who do not meet stereotypes of gender and could empower any person to force any student athlete to undergo invasive physical exams or hormone tests in order to ‘prove their gender,’ whatever that means.”

Transgender women don’t threaten women’s and girl’s sports, Boja said.

“They’re my teammates, who want to play for the exact same reasons that I do,” Boja said. “To have fun, to improve ourselves, to make friends and be physically fit.”

Boja’s Washington University teammate, Aliya Schenck, said Republican legislators aren’t supporting or protecting women’s sports by discriminating against transgender women. If they want to do that, she said, they can concentrate on funding underfunded women’s sports programs all over the country.

The NCAA has had a policy allowing for the inclusion of transgender athletes since 2011. The organization should treat the current legislation like the threat to its policies and values that it is, Schenck said.

“Trans girls have been competing for a long time without incident,” Schenck said. “The NCAA needs to take action and withdraw all athletic competition from states considering anti-transgender sports bills.”
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Elon Poll: Support for COVID-19 vaccination has grown dramatically

Support for and confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine has grown dramatically in the last six months, according to a new Elon University poll released this week.

The poll, taken from March 30 to April 2, found 63 percent of respondents had already been vaccinated or plan to be.

When Elon began asking about peoples’ vaccine plans in October, only 33 percent answered “yes” when asked if they planned to be vaccinated when that became possible.

Those who are unsure or skeptical remain, however. In the poll 18 percent of respondents said they are not sure whether they will take the vaccine and 19 percent said they do not plan to do so.

“The size of the group of residents saying ‘no’ to vaccines has consistently been around 20 percent for months,” said Jason Husser, director of the Elon Poll and associate professor of political science.

Across four surveys, Elon has found the number of people against taking a vaccine holding steady at about 20 percent.

“This continues to cast doubt in my mind about whether some herd immunity goals will be met throughout all regions of North Carolina,” Husser said.

While the poll found a split in attitudes by political party, a majority of both Democrats (76 percent) and Republicans (54 percent) were in favor of vaccination. Among those who belong to neither party, 57 percent were in favor.

Dramatically more Republicans (28 percent) said they will not be vaccinated compared to Democrats (9 percent). Among those belonging to neither party, 22 percent said they would not be vaccinated.

The poll found modest variation on the issue by race, with 64 percent of white respondents saying they were already vaccinated or planned to be vaccinated and 63 percent of respondents of other races answering the same way. The poll found 59 percent of Black respondents had already been or planned to be vaccinated.

A greater variation was found according to level of education. The poll found 10 percent of those with a bachelors degree or higher said they would not be vaccinated. Among those with less than a bachelors degree, that number was 24 percent. The poll found 55 percent of those with a bachelors degree or higher said they had already been vaccinated while 31 percent of those with less than a bachelors degree said they had.

Among those who have already been vaccinated, 92 percent said they are glad they took the vaccine.

The poll found 80 percent describing the experience  of vaccination as “very easy” or “somewhat easy,” with two-thirds reporting they no negative side effects.  Of those who did experience negative side effects, 69 percent said it was no more than “a minor disruption.”

 

The poll was a representative online survey of 1,395 North Carolinians. The overall results have a credibility interval of +/- 2.8 percentage points, according to information released by the school.

Read the full report, including more information about methodology, here.

UNC-Chapel Hill asking for new names for buildings named for white supremacists

Demonstrators protesting buildings named for slave owners and white supremacists on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill.

Last year UNC-Chapel Hill’s Board of Trustees lifted the self-imposed moratorium on renaming buildings on campus, allowing the school to address decades of pressure from students, faculty and community members to replace the names of slave owners and white supremacists. Now, the school is looking to rename three buildings before students return for the Fall semester in August.

In a message to the campus late last week, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz issued an open call for new names.

“We have previously received names for consideration which are included in our Honorific Naming Registry and we invite you to submit additional names,” Guskiewicz said. “We will keep this process open for a two-week period, closing the registry at 5 p.m. on April 9. The committee will receive all submitted names and conduct an initial vetting process to narrow a list of possible options to six names for consideration. I will consider those names for submission to our Board of Trustees.”

Guskiewicz laid out criteria for the new names, saying they should:

  • Represent the values that define our University: excellence and an unwavering commitment to teaching, research and public service.
  • Have traditionally been underrepresented on our landscape.
  • Have a demonstrated positive impact on our campus and in our community.

 

The buildings at issue are the Aycock Residence Hall, the Carr Building and  the Daniels Building.

The Aycock Residence Hall was named for Charles B. Aycock, the white supremacist governor of North Carolina from 1901 to 1905. In his famous speech “The Negro Problem” Aycock set out his explicit segregationist and white supremacist views.

“I am proud of my State…because there we have solved the negro problem,” Aycock said. “We have taken him out of politics and have thereby secured good government under any party and laid foundations for the future development of both races. We have secured peace, and rendered prosperity a certainty.”

The Carr building was named for Julian Carr, a UNC alum and industrialist who supported the Ku Klux Klan and celebrated lynchings, including the 1898 Wilmington Massacre. Carr gave a speech at the 1913 installation of the Silent Sam Confederate monument on the UNC campus in which he bragged he once “horse-whipped a negro wench” in public for disrespecting a white woman and praised Confederate soldiers for saving “the very life of the Anglo Saxon race in the South.”

The Daniels building, which houses a student store, was named for Josephus Daniels.Daniels, a former publisher of Raleigh’s News & Observer newspaper, was a prominent white supremacist who used the paper’s influence to promote racist policies. Infamously, he stoked racial hatred that helped lead to the 1898 Wilmington Massacre, in which white supremacists killed at least 60 Black Wilmington residents while overthrowing the town’s elected mixed-race government.

Last year Daniels’ family voluntarily removed his 8-foot statue from its place in Nash Square in downtown Raleigh, where it overlooked the former News & Observer building.

“This is an exciting time for our University as we celebrate and remember the people who have pushed our University forward by serving its people and our mission,” Guskiewicz said in his message. “In doing so, we are taking concrete steps to build our community together. I am grateful for the students, faculty and staff who have advocated for change. I am confident that we will have plenty of worthy honorees who have been instrumental in our shared history.”

Policy Watch will continue to follow the renaming process for these and other buildings on UNC System campuses.

Editorial blasts “arrogant and shortsighted” chancellor search at Fayetteville State

New Fayetteville State chancellor Darrell Allison

If you get chance, check out today’s excellent lead editorial from the Greensboro News & Record about the embarrassingly political hiring process that the UNC system recently concluded for a new chancellor at Fayetteville State University. As Policy Watch investigative reporter Joe Killian has reported in great detail, the Board of Governors and system president Peter Hans selected a person for the job — conservative education lobbyist Darrell Allison — who wasn’t even a finalist when FSU’s Board of trustees vetted numerous applicants.

This is from today’s editorial:

To say his hiring was a shock is an understatement.

According to reports from at least two news outlets, Allison was not among the finalists for the FSU post, which attracted a national field of more than 60 applicants.

He has no administrative experience in higher education.

He has no teaching experience.

He has little apparent support among faculty and students.

He does have plenty of opposition. Students, alumni and faculty have staged protests. The FSU National Alumni Association has threatened legal action. An online petition to remove him from the job had gathered 2,500 signatures as of last week.

After explaining that Allison has professed to be unfazed by the criticism he has received, the editorial rightfully observes:

Even if Allison eventually should win friends and influence people in Fayetteville, the process used to hire him is fundamentally flawed and does not serve the best interests of the UNC System.

The “process” to which the editorial refers, of course, the Board of Governors’ recently adopted policy that, in effect, gives the system president the power to supersede the recommendations of campus trustees and select whomever he or she cares to choose. This, the editorial concludes, is absurd:

Given the heavily weighted vote it now bestows on the UNC Systems president, why even bother with a search? And why even bother to apply if you weren’t suggested by Hans?

…Politics has always threatened to poison chancellor searches, but this process (if you want to call it that) opens the toxic floodgates.

The Fayetteville students, faculty and trustees have good reason to be angry.

And the rest of the UNC campuses have good reason to be concerned.

The bottom line: The conservative majority at the General Assembly — the politicians who are ultimately behind this whole mess — has been  wreaking havoc in the UNC system for years and one can only hope that some sort of rescue can be effected before the damage becomes irreparable.

Bill seeks to prevent transgender women from competing on women’s athletic teams

A new N.C. House bill seeks to ban transgender women from competing on women’s athletic teams at public schools in North Carolina.

LGBTQ advocates are calling the bill part of a wave of anti-transgender legislation pushed by conservative groups and lawmakers across the country.

House Bill 358 (the “Save Women’s Sports Act”), filed Monday, would compel all public schools and universities to have sports teams designated male, female or co-ed. Under the bill “sex shall be recognized based solely on a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth.”

The bill would also prohibit any “governmental entity, licensing or accrediting organization, or athletic association or organization” from opening an investigation or taking adverse action against a school for maintaining separate teams.

The bill claims that transgender women have inherent advantages in sports and says it aims to ensure “women are not forced to compete against men playing on women’s sports teams.” The bill lays out causes of action and remedies for women who believe they have been deprived of opportunities by anyone violating the act and institutions that believe they are subjected to “retaliation or adverse action” as a result of reporting violations.

The bill would also cover charter and private schools if they are part of a state-level association including the North Carolina High School Athletic Association.

“In North Carolina, girls deserve to again compete on a level playing field,” said Rep. Mark Brody (R-Union), one of the bill’s primary sponsors, in a statement Tuesday. “Instances of males competing in women’s sports exemplify the immediate need to act before fair competition and women’s athletic opportunities are destroyed. The Save Women’s Sports Act is the solution which ensures that all female athletes will be assured a level playing field to compete and win.”

Rebby Kern, education policy director for LGBTQ advocacy group Equality NC, denounced the bill in a statement Tuesday, referencing the HB2 fight of five years ago and negative publicity the international boycotts it sparked against the state.

“Five years after attacking transgender North Carolinians through the devastating impact of House Bill 2, NC House Republicans are once again targeting our transgender community,” Kern said. “It’s beyond disheartening to see that the North Carolina General Assembly has not learned the lessons of five years ago.”

“Young people all across this state, regardless of gender identity, deserve the opportunity to experience the benefits of being part of a sporting community — especially when trans youth already face disproportionate barriers to success in learning environments,” Kern said. “Equality NC believes that we can find a way to protect transgender youth and ensure that all youth, regardless of gender identity, have the opportunity to learn teamwork, sportsmanship, leadership, self-discipline, and all the other lessons that sports provide. We call on the NCGA to do their part in protecting all youth by passing clear nondiscrimination protections for youth in sport and beyond.”

James Michael Nichols, communications director at Equality NC, said the bill is part of a new wave of anti-transgender legislation happening across the country.

In a statement Tuesday, Equality NC called the bill “rooted in invasive and inappropriate questions about the sex assigned to young people at birth and outdated generalizations about male and female bodies.”

“Now that gay, lesbian, and bisexual people have achieved a baseline level of cultural acceptance in America, anti-LGBTQ politicians have moved on to a more vulnerable target: our transgender brothers, sisters, and siblings,” Nichols said. “Trans people have always been at the forefront of the fight for LGBTQ rights and acceptance and borne the brunt of violence, discrimination, and targeted attacks against our community. Now, politicians want to limit the ability of young, trans folks to experience camaraderie and teamwork at a crucial developmental stage of life. It’s up to all LGBTQ people to show up for trans youth right now when they need us most.”

In a Tuesday statement, the Campaign for Southern Equality pointed out the bill would preempt what the group said are existing, reasonable regulations from the North Carolina High School Athletic Association that allow transgender students to participate in sports in a way that is consistent with their gender identities.

From the NCHSAA statement on its policy:

“The NCHSAA allows participation in interscholastic athletics for all students, regardless of gender or gender identification. It is the intent that all students are able to compete on a level playing field in a safe, competitive and friendly environment, free of discrimination.  Rules and regulations are intended to provide every student-athlete with equal opportunities to participate in athletics.

The NCHSAA regularly reviews all its policies. Prior to enacting the Gender Identity Policy, the NCHSAA engaged in a lengthy process of reviewing policies from other states, speaking with experts in the field, and seeking input from various stakeholders. This policy aligns the NCHSAA with other state athletic associations across the country while promoting the NCHSAA’s mission of inclusive sports participation in North Carolina.”


Allison Scott, Director of Impact & Innovation at the Campaign for Southern Equality, said North Carolina is already beyond such legislation.

“This anti-transgender bill is an outlier in North Carolina, and it doesn’t reflect where we are as a state,” said, who is transgender. “We have come so far since the days of HB2, and we’re better off for it: LGBTQ people feel safer, business leaders are becoming more comfortable investing here, and our communities are more inclusive and respectful. It pains me to see some lawmakers, egged on by extreme anti-transgender activists running a coordinated national attack on trans youth, trying to drag us back into an era of discrimination.”

“The truth is that transgender youth deserve the same access as any other student to the many benefits of participating in school sports, including the physical, social, and emotional impacts,” Scott said. “To categorically deny transgender students the freedom to play alongside their peers is at odds with lawmakers’ duties to care for and protect our youth. To all of the transgender youth feeling attacked by this bill and others like it nationwide, I want to be sure you understand that you are loved, you are seen, and we are fighting with you.”