EDITORIAL: Don’t let WKU forget about transgender students

Emily Little & Tanner Cole/HERALD

Herald Staff

The Issue: WKU isn’t providing proper support for transgender students.

Our Stance: The administration needs to make transgender students a priority, and students need to continue demanding it.

WKU hosts an incredibly diverse student body, but every student has at least a few things in common. We all had to apply to study at WKU, we all use the bathroom and we all have a gender identity. 

Unfortunately, when a prospective student is filling out their application they have to choose between male, female and no response. When they look for a restroom, they find single-stall utilities labeled by a gender binary. 

The Campus Pride Index recently rated WKU as 2.5 out of 5 stars for LGBT-friendly policies. This is behind every other rated university in the state. 

That rating is at odds with another rating of WKU by advocate.com. WKU was chosen as one of the seven bravest schools in the south due to the prevalence of student activism on campus. Student Identity Outreach, Gender and Women’s Studies and other organizations on the Hill do a great job of demanding policy change. 

These opposing ratings raise a big question. If our students are organizing and clamoring for non-discriminatory policies, why aren’t those changes being made?

Our rating from the Campus Pride Index is based on several factors, but most have to do with the fact that WKU seems to refuse to formalize any policy regarding transgender students. 

There isn’t a formal housing process for students existing outside the binary. Campus records don’t recognize that transgender students exist. Faculty and staff receive no training on the issue, and many have no idea what pronouns to use with their students. Some aren’t aware that it’s even an issue they need to consider.

TopNet should offer students the option to set their preferred pronouns. Professors would receive the information along with their class rosters.

Unfortunately, WKU hasn’t made transgender students a priority yet. President Gary Ransdell recently reached out to Student Identity Outreach President Andrew Salman for advice on improving the university’s policies. It might be a step in the right direction, but we won’t know until changes are seen. 

None of the needed changes would require much effort on the university’s part. These changes should be happening as soon as possible. In fact, WKU could look to the University of Louisville, which received a perfect score of five stars, as a guide for policy changes.

Students need to make sure that Ransdell doesn’t push transgender rights to the bottom of his to-do list alongside pressing matters such as the entertainment of alumni donors. 

This needs to be a priority. These changes need to happen now, while we have the fuel to make them happen. 

Students should take the results of the Campus Pride Index and use them. They should email housing administrators and ask what formalized process WKU has for housing transgender students. When Ransdell emails his requests for tailgate attendance, students should reply with an email asking him to formally recognize that WKU students control their identity.

Do it, because in the United States, 46 percent of trans men and 42 percent of trans women have attempted suicide, according to a study by the Williams Institute and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Compare that to the national average rate of 4.6 percent.

WKU needs to support its transgender students, and the student body needs to demand it.