Montana college students lobby for nondiscrimination policy

2013-01-04T07:00:00Z 2014-04-06T18:38:39Z Montana college students lobby for nondiscrimination policyBy MARTIN KIDSTON of the Missoulian
January 04, 2013 7:00 am  • 

Students lobbying the Montana University System to change its nondiscrimination policy have upped the ante by launching a new social media blitz they hope results in change.

Dubbed “703 Equality,” the new campaign uses Facebook, Twitter and Blogspot to take aim at the Montana Board of Regents and its policy on nondiscrimination, which includes 12 protections covering everything from race to political ideas and national origin.

While the policy has served the Montana University System since it was adopted in 1976, students would like to see it modernized to cover gender identity and sexual orientation, or preference.

Student leaders from the University of Montana and Montana State University lobbied regents for the changes in November, and they don’t all feel the board has given their request its full attention.

“We think they’ve been disengaged, and we wanted to reaffirm that there’s public support for this,” said Topher Williams, a member of the UM student senate. “We’re encouraging them to take action on this policy this semester so students, faculty and staff in the university system are guaranteed equal protection.”

Neal Moisey, a tenured professor at UM and the interim deputy commissioner for academic research and student affairs, said the Montana University System is taking the request seriously and is researching policies across the system.

“Any time we do a change in board policy, there’s certain due diligence we have to go through to understand what the implication of those policies are,” said Moisey. “We don’t take it lightly.”

Moisey said legal counsel for the MUS met recently to review Policy 703, as it’s known in the books, and is working to summarize its findings.

Officials are also reviewing individual policies on each state campus. UM and MSU have already added sexual orientation to their nondiscrimination policies, though they haven’t added gender identity.

While the state’s two flagship universities represent nearly 70 percent of all Montana students, Moisey said the board must decide whether the discussion should be extended to other campuses, and if changes should be localized or system wide.

“They (students) probably want this now, or yesterday,” said Moisey. “The process we’re going through is looking legally at what the issues are, what state law is, what the policy is, and what the policies are on each of the campuses.”


Kiah Abbey, president of the Associated Students of MSU, brought the issue to the Board of Regents in November, asking them to create a task force chaired by a student.

Abbey said she feels confident that regents will eventually address the policy issue, though she suggested this week any solution needs to take place centrally and not be left to each individual campus.

“One of my biggest concerns is the way the policy is set at the system level – that it’s simply complying with state and federal regulations,” Abbey said. “The policy should be centralized instead of waiting for each of the campuses to change their policy.”

Policy 703 was originally adopted in 1976. It was revised in 1991 and again in 1999 when changes switched “institution” to “campus.”

Kevin McRae, associate commissioner with the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, said current policy language is based upon the statutory civil rights language for protected classes.

The language hasn’t been updated in awhile, he admitted, and it’s possible the board could discuss adding sexual orientation at one of its meeting in March or May.

“We appreciate and view the comments that have been submitted as being part of the respectful, decent and dignified motivation behind this,” McRae said. “This (campaign) is a normal extension of student interests being expressed.”

The Facebook page launched by the 703 Equality campaign includes petitions that visitors can sign and links to submit comments to state officials. The social media sites also provide supporters a place to unite behind the campaign.

“A safe living, working and learning environment should not be left to circumstance or personal opinion,” said Williams. “It should be guaranteed to all within our university system.”

Reporter Martin Kidston can be reached at (406)-523-5260 or martin.kidston

Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(7) Comments

  1. Montana DAD
    Report Abuse
    Montana DAD - January 31, 2013 4:40 pm
    I recently noticed proposed changes to the equality policy to accommodate the LGBTQIA community and write to request consideration for inclusion of all sexes as men must be afforded the same protections as women, besides, the LGBTQIA is equal parts men and women!
  2. Curmudgeon
    Report Abuse
    Curmudgeon - January 15, 2013 3:23 pm

    Straw man alert! Straw man alert! (1) "...even going so far as to demand that heterosexual males should be willing to date them, etc...." Roger, where have you been reading or hearing about all those "some of these people" who "believe" what you state? (2) "...I suppose not much can be done about that..." Actually, Roger, modern medicine can do a great deal about that --- where've you been? The unreasoning fear engendered by wilfull ignorance is a sad thing to behold.

  3. Roger
    Report Abuse
    Roger - January 05, 2013 9:06 am
    If someone feels as if he's a woman stuck in a man's body, I suppose not much can be done about that - the problem is, some of these people believe that others must accept them for what they believe they are, even going so far as to demand that heterosexual males should be willing to date them, etc. when the fact is, heterosexual males are not seeking another male to dance with, date, or hook up with. That's just not realistic.
  4. listen
    Report Abuse
    listen - January 05, 2013 7:34 am
    I think they should add discrimination based on ignorance. You know...getting bad grades because you're ignorant or stupid. Even though you tried to study and learn "stuff" it's not your fault you can't read or comprehend anything. Everyone should go to college! Oh...wait....EVERYONE does. LOL LOL
  5. Curmudgeon
    Report Abuse
    Curmudgeon - January 04, 2013 3:34 pm
    In Re: Transexuals. As I understand it, these are people who feel they were born as a woman in a man's body, or as a man in a woman's body. They go thru lots of pain and stress growing up, and eventually apply to medics for "sexual reassignment", via hormone therapy, actual surgery, etc.

    I've read conservative arguments that this shouldn't be allowed, because "God doesn't make mistakes."

    Okay, let's use that argument: A child is born blind. A certain surgery would enable the child to see. The surgery should not be done, because "God doesn't make mistakes."

    Or a child is born deaf, etc., etc.
  6. Dub
    Report Abuse
    Dub - January 04, 2013 11:20 am
    They need to get back to class. If they have all this free time, take some more classes.
  7. Rational Citizen
    Report Abuse
    Rational Citizen - January 04, 2013 11:08 am
    "Officials are also reviewing individual policies on each state campus. UM and MSU have already added sexual orientation to their nondiscrimination policies, though they haven’t added gender identity."

    And that's because thinking you are a male, when you are actually a female, and visa versa, is a state of madness. You are who you are. If I said I was a shark, I'd be thrown into a mental institution. These people are socially awkward and discrimination is what everyone does at every moment of their lives. Discrimination based on qualifications, history, and behaviors is how one decides who they are to hire. I'm sorry, but if I had a choice to work next to someone who was sane and knew they were a man or woman, or work next to someone who was insane, and thought they were a woman, when they were so obviously a man. I think I'd chose the one who knew who they were. Why should I be punished because I know who I want to work next to. This is ridiculous. You can't get rid of discrimination, it is in all of us, and we use it every time we make a choice.
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