408 sign petition accusing UCSC of transgender discrimination

Petition alleges that UCSC’s failure to hire transgender student suggests pattern of insensitivity.

By Tamar Honig

An online petition aimed at the University Community Service Center (UCSC) for alleged acts of transgender discrimination has gained 408 supporters after circulating for a month. The petition accuses the UCSC of discrimination for choosing not to hire trans student Kris Rosentel as a program coordinator for its Chicago Bound social-change pre-orientation program. The petition—written by fourth-year Sara Rubinstein, founder of a LGBTQ activism student group called Queers United in Power (QUIP)—alleges that this decision is part of a pattern of insensitivity toward members of the trans community.

UCSC Director Amy Chan wrote in an e-mail, “[L]ike all Campus and Student Life programs and services, [UCSC] greatly values the diversity of our campus and appreciates student input on how best to foster a welcoming community.” She declined to comment on the petition, “as it pertains to a confidential personnel issue.”

Rosentel also declined to speak to The Maroon regarding the petition due to unspecified legal constraints.

University spokesperson Jeremy Manier issued the following statement: “UCSC welcomes students regardless of gender identity and does not discriminate on that basis or with regard to other aspects of identity.”

Rosentel interviewed for two positions at UCSC: program coordinator for Chicago Bound 2015, which entails leading the cohort during its program week in September, and intern for Chicago Bound for Spring 2015, which entails supporting the program during the academic year. Rosentel was not hired for the position of program coordinator, but did accept and briefly fill the latter role in the spring. They left the post within weeks “after complaining about discrimination and harassment in the workplace,” the petition claims. Rosentel and UCSC declined to comment on the circumstances surrounding Rosentel’s departure.

The petition alleges that Rosentel deserved the job because they were qualified for the role and was “one of the most committed and passionate members of the Chicago Bound community since its founding in 2012.” It maintains that the decision that was made constitutes an act of trans discrimination.

The petition also levied wider accusations of a lack of LGBTQ-inclusivity against UCSC. Among the concerns: a devaluing of student voices, lack of gender neutral housing in UCSC programs, and UCSC staff’s failure to undergo Safe Space training.

Chan said that the UCSC associate director and UCSC community service advisor have both already participated in Safe Space training, and that staff members who have not “will do so as soon as new sessions become available.”

She further asserted that UCSC provides gender-neutral housing for Summer Links, the IMPACT Conference, and all of its other residential programs, and added that staff and program participants “use preferred gender pronouns in introductions.”

Rachana Muppa, one of the first-year participants in this year’s Chicago Bound cohort, said that Chan addressed the petition on the first day of the program.

“One of the driving philosophies of Chicago Bound was to ‘beware the danger of a single story,’ one that has no contention,” Muppa said. “We were encouraged as a group to carefully observe the climate for ourselves and decide our stance.”

Editor’s note: Tamar Honig was part of the UCSC Seeds of Justice Program during the 2014-15 school year.