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December 14, 2015

Summer Links participants divided on claims in QUIP petition

On October 9, The Maroon ran an article about an online petition authored by fourth-year Sara Rubinstein, the founder of Queers United in Power (QUIP), a “LGBTQ activism and social justice RSO,” according to its website. Among its claims, the petition alleged that the University Community Service Center (UCSC), which operates the Summer Links (SL) education and internship program, did not offer gender-neutral housing as an option for 2015 SL participants, and that UCSC staff did not “incorporate” preferred gender pronouns (PGPs) into its introductions when SL first convened as a group in June.

Since that article was published, The Maroon contacted all 2015 SL participants in order to verify these claims. Six of the 22 SL participants returned requests for comment. The interviews found SL participants divided on whether or not UCSC administrators used PGPs. The respondents who lived in on-campus housing during the program said that they occupied single rooms on single-sex floors in International House. College Housing notes on its website that “all of the Houses are co-ed; a few have single-sex floors,” including Booth and Phoenix House in International House. Housing could not be reached for comment for this article.

Open Housing,” as gender-neutral housing is called on the Housing website, offers students the “choice of living with other second, third, or fourth-year students, regardless of gender.” Rubinstein’s petition argued that UCSC’s policies were an issue because they did not offer “open housing” and therefore created a “non-inclusive” environment for “trans and LGBTQ students more broadly,” and that the UCSC’s failure to provide gender-neutral housing constitutes a violation of federal Title IX law, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in educational programs that are federally funded.

A 2014 article published in the Journal of College and University Law, titled “Trans Issues for Colleges and Universities: Records, Housing, Restrooms, Locker Rooms, and Athletics,” agreed with Rubinstein’s conclusion that federally-funded schools must offer gender-neutral facilities, including housing, in order to comply with Title IX. However, Title IX currently specifies “sex,” rather than “gender,” as the subject of the nondiscrimination clause.

For the article published on October 9, Amy Chan, UCSC director, said that “UCSC offers gender-neutral housing for Summer Links...and all of its other residential programs,” and that “staff and program participants use [PGPs] in introductions.” However, in a letter dated December 4 and addressed to Chan and Xavier Ramey, UCSC senior assistant director for social innovation and philanthropy, Rubinstein claimed that both of these statements were “unequivocally false,” and that “[QUIP] is asking for UCSC director Amy Chan to publicly apologize for overtly lying.” Chan has not responded, though the letter asked her to do so by 5 PM on December 12.

Rubinstein was not a participant in the 2015 SL program; to independently verify their claims, The Maroon contacted all 22 SL participants from the 2015 SL program individually via e-mail, and asked for their perspectives on the validity of both of Chan’s statements. On the subject of whether staff and participants “incorporate[d]” PGPs during program introductions, one respondent said that they did, one said that they did not, and the remaining four said that they were either not present for the introductions or did not know. Fourth-year SL participant Anna Tropnikova said that Chan and Ramey stated their PGPs in front of the group.

“I do remember that there was usage of gender pronouns in introductions, and all faculty leadership—Xavier and Amy definitely, though I can’t remember if the undergraduate leadership did this—constantly had them on their name tags,” Tropnikova said.

But third-year SL participant Mari Cohen recalls the situation differently and said that the use of PGPs was entirely student-directed, and was not part of the official UCSC programming.

“I cannot recall being asked to use PGPs in introductions at any point during the program, whether among the group or when meeting community partners. Some of my peers wrote their pronouns on their name tags at our first meeting and final event, and I did so at our final event, but this was their own choice. In fact, I recall seeing the [pronouns] on my friend’s name tag during our first meeting and reflecting on the fact that we weren’t asked to introduce ourselves with PGPs,” Cohen said.

Rubinstein’s claim that Summer Links did not offer gender-neutral housing for its program participants in International House is supported by statements from SL participants Xinyi Ge and Caroline Hutton, both second-years. The other four respondents declined to answer this question, as they lived off-campus. Ge and Hutton said that program participants were placed on different floors of International House, which were separated by biological sex. However, Ge also said that all SL participants had single rooms, and that she believed that the single-sex floors were “an arrangement made by I-House, not UCSC.”

Tropnikova added that “to my knowledge, no one in my own cohort [2015 SL Program] requested gender-neutral housing.”

The SL participants also shared mixed reactions to Rubinstein’s petition. Cohen said that the petition led her to reflect on how her “cis” orientation allowed her to “participate fully with or without these measures [called for in the petition].” She added that she “learned more about measures the UCSC could taking [sic] to avoid discriminating against trans students.”

Third-year and SL participant Dominic Surya suggested that Rubinstein’s petition holds Chan and the UCSC to standards that are perhaps too stringent for an organization that is focused on community service and social justice, rather than on gender and sexuality.

“The UCSC and Summer Links and its people are, like any ‘liberal’ organization, aware and supportive of gender and sexuality. They are not on the ‘cutting edge’ of such issues the way OMSA is...gender, sexuality, [and] identities are not the UCSC’s sole focus...I wonder if some of the seemingly perennial tension around [Amy Chan] relates to her being female and Asian. Both identities are known to be more likely to be taken as impersonal and bossy.”

Author’s note: Deputy-Editor-in-Chief Sarah Manhardt was a participant in the 2015 SL program. She had no involvement with the editing or production of this article, and is counted among the SL participants that declined to comment for this story.

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