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Grand Forks Mayor calls UND's proposed gender inclusion policy, 'a sad day'

Mayor Brandon Bochenski went on to say, 'this spits in the face of everything we believe in.'

Brandon Bochenski.jpg
Mayor Brandon Bochenski sits at his desk in city hall Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, to discuss his opposition to UND's gender inclusion policy.
Ryan Longnecker / WDAY News
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GRAND FORKS — The University of North Dakota is working on something no other state university in North Dakota has tried: A gender inclusion policy.

Many people did not know about the proposal until the North Dakota Catholic Conference brought awareness to it with a letter to parents this week.

"UND does a really good job of getting information out, but I did not know about this," said UND student Olivia Helland.

"I think, from what I see, mostly people are being treated fairly, but I don't see the whole story," said UND student Carter Danielson.

The proposed seven-page gender inclusion policy has apparently been in the works since the summer, and there was a public comment period, but even city leaders say they were unaware.

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Grand Forks Mayor Brandon Bochenski said that was the intent of his post on his city hall Facebook page, saying that the policy, "spits in the face of everything we believe."

He also suggests the school focus on academic rigor and a sad day for his alma mater.

"I don't think it's a stretch, as a former UND alum and as a leader of the city, to be able to give my input and give it publicly," Bochenski said.

Similar to a letter issued by the Catholic bishops earlier this week, the mayor expressed concerns about the policy allowing students to live in dorms with the gender that they identify with. He also questioned the level of accountability for comments that may be taken the wrong way. He believes the school's code of conduct already addresses these issues.

"We get kind of tired and just worn down of being told that we're not inclusive, we aren't accepting, and we have a campus there that is very inclusive, very accepting," Bochenski said.

The mayor said UND President Andrew Armacost called him shortly after the Facebook post, but did not want to divulge details of the conversation.

President Armacost is expected to talk publicly about the proposal Friday morning, Jan. 14.

Mayor Bochenski does not believe this squabble will impact the relationship between the city and university.

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"Show me where this problem exists before you create a policy based on perception instead of intent," said Bochenski.

President Armacost and the office of Student Diversity and Inclusion at UND declined to comment.

Matt Henson is an Emmy award-winning reporter/photographer/editor for WDAY. Prior to joining WDAY in 2019, Matt was the main anchor at WDAZ in Grand Forks for four years. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia and attended college at Lyndon State College in northern Vermont, where he was recognized twice nationally, including first place, by the National Academy for Arts and Science for television production. Matt enjoys being a voice for the little guy. He focuses on crimes and courts and investigative stories. Just as often, he shares tear-jerking stories and stories of accomplishment. Matt enjoys traveling to small towns across North Dakota and Minnesota to share their stories. He can be reached at mhenson@wday.com and at 610-639-9215. When he's not at work (rare) Matt resides in Moorhead and enjoys spending time with his daughter, golfing and attending Bison and Sioux games.
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