State law could put universities’ Title IX funds at risk

Private universities reaffirm their commitment to diversity

North Carolina's new Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act (HB2), which deals with bathrooms, discrimination, and minimum wage, may jeopardize the state's Title IX funds and recruitment efforts. 

The law was introduced as a bill at a special session and signed into law less than 12 hours later. It requires public colleges and facilities to segregate bathrooms by biological birth gender, meaning transgender people may not use restrooms that reflect their identities unless they have taken legal steps to change their birth certificates. 

The law also updates which types of discrimination people are protected against statewide: religion, race, color, age, handicap, national origin, and biological sex as listed on a birth certificate. And it prevents local governments from passing their own antidiscrimination laws—which could expand that definition. 

Private companies and businesses may keep and develop their own nondiscrimination policies. However, under the law, lawsuits cannot challenge those policies in state court—they will be regulated to the federal system.

The law also prohibits cities and counties from setting minimum wage floors for private companies.

Critics express concern for Title IX, recruitment

According to critics, HB2 is at odds with the federal Title IX law, which in school programs prohibits discrimination based on many characteristics, including gender identity and "failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity." North Carolina's new law could end up costing the state $4.5 billion in federal higher education funding, according to Shane Windmeyer, the executive director of an advocacy group for LGBT students.

Some professors and faculty members say that the legislation signifies the state's intolerance of gay and transgender people, which may deter prospective students and instructors from coming to colleges and universities in the state.

Public university leaders consider their response

Several private colleges in the state condemned the law and reaffirmed their commitment to inclusive environments. Leaders of public universities have so far been mostly quiet.  

Create gender-inclusive restrooms on campus

"We are still digesting, studying, and trying to understand the law," says Buffie Stephens, a University of North Carolina at Charlotte spokesperson. "When someone goes into the bathroom, we're not monitoring what gender goes into the bathroom. We monitor behavior—if there's inappropriate behavior we would deal with that no matter what gender in any bathroom."

"We remain fully committed to making sure that our campuses are welcoming and inclusive places for students, faculty, and staff of all backgrounds, beliefs and identities to live and learn and work alongside one another," says Joni Worthington, a UNC system spokesperson.

The American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal, and Equality North Carolina filed a lawsuit against the state on Monday over HB2 (Gordon et al., Charlotte Observer, 3/26; Logue, Inside Higher Ed, 3/28). 

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