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UND to respond to North Dakota Catholic Conference letter about university's gender inclusion policy

The letter urges parents with children set to attend a university to consider “the campus environment and whether it is conducive or hostile to not only the Catholic faith, but also the truth about the human person,” when choosing which school to attend.

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UND will hold a press conference on Friday, Jan. 15, to respond to a letter penned by Christopher Dodson, executive director and general counsel of the North Dakota Catholic Conference, about the university’s proposed gender inclusion policy.

The letter, dated Jan. 10 and posted on the Catholic Conference’s social media page , was written by Dodson on behalf of Bishops David D. Kagan and John T. Folda. It urges parents with children set to attend a university to consider “the campus environment and whether it is conducive or hostile to not only the Catholic faith, but also the truth about the human person,” when choosing which school to attend.

The letter singles out UND due to a proposed policy that would require students, administrators and others on campus to use names, gendered references and pronouns that match a person’s stated gender identity.

Previously the Herald reported on the proposed policy , which would make intentionally misgendering a person to be an act of discrimination.

President Andrew Armacost, at a virtual UND Townhall event on Wednesday, informed faculty and staff of the letter. He said UND did not act on its own in proposing the policy, which remains in draft form, but said it is necessary to comply with a number of federal and state rules.

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“The draft policy on gender inclusion was not a case of a campus going rogue,” Armacost said, to more than 400 people attending the online event. “... we began drafting this gender inclusion policy to implement federal law, Supreme Court rulings, state Department of Labor and Human Rights policy and the State Board of Higher Education policy.”

Armacost said the policy is intended to protect transgender UND students from harassment and discrimination, in accordance with those laws and rules.

Dodson’s letter made a number of claims about the policy, including:

  • Its “rejection of any assumption of a binary or biological-based gender.”
  • Statements about UND’s housing policy, which the letter claimed would have students staying in dorm rooms with other students whose “expressed gender” is other than their biological sex. UND policy requires freshmen students to reside on campus.

“A freshman female, for example, could be assigned, without any prior knowledge or approval, a roommate who is a biological male, but 'expresses' as a female,” wrote Dodson.
He continued: “Indeed, it would appear from the proposal that asking about the roommate’s biological sex or asking for a different roommate would be prohibited.”

Armacost said those claims are not true, and said the university is “firmly committed to free religious expression,” but said administrators can’t exclude the rights of one group while addressing the rights of another.

Armacost concluded speaking about letter and proposed policy with a statement in support of both the campus’ LGBTQ+ and religious communities:

“No human being should be denied the right to education or employment at UND on the basis of any legally protected category,” he said.

Information about when the press conference would be held on Friday was not available on Wednesday afternoon.

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ND Catholic Conference letter.jpg
A letter penned by Christopher Dodson, executive director of the North Dakota Catholic Conference.
Submitted / UND

Related Topics: UNIVERSITY OF NORTH DAKOTA
Adam Kurtz is the community editor for the Grand Forks Herald. He covers higher education and other topics in Grand Forks County and the city.

Kurtz joined the Herald in July 2019. He covered business and county government topics before covering higher education and some military topics.

Tips and story ideas are welcome. Get in touch with him at akurtz@gfherald.com, or DM at @ByAdamKurtz.

Desk: 701-780-1110
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