This petition calls on the UCSC (University Community Service Center) at the University of Chicago to create a student leadership position for Kris Rosentel in the upcoming Chicago Bound social-change pre-orientation program. Despite being one of the most committed and passionate members of the Chicago Bound community since its founding in 2012 (they are one of only two students to have been involved with program all three years of its existence) and having numerous qualifications, Kris has been actively excluded from leadership of the program in a move that is unprecedented. We believe that the initial decision to exclude Kris was an act of trans discrimination. Additionally, we believe that the subsequent and repeated failure of UCSC to rectify the situation despite Human Resources determining that Kris was treated unfairly and a majority of the Chicago Bound core program staff repeatedly requesting Kris’s involvement, marks an act of retaliation that was taken because Kris spoke out about and took action against this discrimination. We are disappointed with the UCSC’s decision and view it as part of two disturbing trends regarding a lack of LGBTQ-inclusivity (particularly trans-inclusivity) and a devaluing of student voices; the UCSC and Amy Chan, the center’s director, in particular have a terrible track record in both these arenas with multiple students filing complaints about trans discrimination (all of which cited issues with Ms. Chan specifically) and the UCSC being petitioned and protested for failing to take student concerns seriously. Considering that the Chicago Bound program is currently in need of additional staff support after losing its Program Manager and Kris has a great deal of useful skills, experience, and knowledge, adding them to the Chicago Bound leadership team would not only be the right thing to do but also beneficial to the program and experience of other students. Finally, while there is a great deal more to be done, adding Kris would be a first step toward rectifying the track record UCSC has with being non-inclusive of LGBTQ/trans students and being unreceptive to student input.
As a note, after presenting the UCSC with a draft of this petition, they have agreed to meet with QUIP this Wednesday to discuss the concerns outlined here but have still not agreed to rectify their discriminatory and retaliatory actions by incorporating Kris into the leadership structure. Please sign to help us demonstrate to UCSC and the university administration that these concerns need to be taken seriously and substantially addressed.
More details about the situation are included below:
***More detailed summary of events***
Last spring, Kris sought involvement with Chicago Bound for the upcoming year by applying for one of the student leadership positions. After being rejected, they offered to volunteer their time and energy to support the program in a capacity similar to what two other students had done the previous year. Amy Chan, Director of the UCSC, and Xavier Ramey, who oversees the Chicago Bound program, refused to allow Kris to be involved. This was the first and only time in the history of the program that they refused to involve a former student leader of the program who wanted to be involved again (all 5 other previous student leaders who sought continued involvement this year were included and the staff structure was even modified to accommodate some of them); Ms. Chan had even created new positions in the past for students who had already graduated in order for them to remain involved. Due to the fact that Ms. Chan had made ignorant comments about transgender people on several occasions and consistently misgendered Kris despite being corrected repeatedly, Kris strongly believed this decision was personal and discriminatory so they filed a claim with HR. This HR investigation did find that Kris was treated unfavorably by the UCSC as compared to their cisgender counterparts. However, Ms. Chan and Mr. Ramey as well as the University administration did nothing to correct this unfair treatment and continued to refuse Kris's involvement. Additionally, due to concerns about the program being understaffed after losing the program manager, three student staff members (Robin Ye, Kiran Misra, and Louisa Richardson Deppe), who make up over half the core leadership team of the Chicago Bound program, asked for Kris to be added to the team to fill in some of the existing gaps. In their proposal, they pointed out that, “Without an additional team member to fill [in] gaps we are concerned the program will suffer.“ Yet again Ms. Chan and Mr. Ramey denied the request and attempted to shut down conversation entirely by refusing to meet with these staff members about their concerns. Throughout this process, the reasons Ms. Chan and Mr. Ramey provided for Kris's exclusion have been inconsistent and contradictory which again suggest the decision was based on a personal dislike for Kris—a dislike that stems from Kris' s trans status and the fact that they were vocal about concerns surrounding mistreatment and discrimination.
***Why adding Kris to the program would be beneficial***
First, the Chicago Bound program is in need of additional staff support. Due to restructuring and the loss of the program manager, the leadership team is down three members since last year. Considering that many staff members felt the program was stretched thin last year, this is certainly concerning. Additionally, because of the loss of the program manager, the program has funds in the budget for an additional team member. Furthermore, currently the entire 13-person leadership team of the program consists of no trans members or anyone with significant experience with LGBTQ social change work. Since many incoming students have little to no background with trans-identities or LGBTQ issues more generally and the program has been criticized by alumni for either failing to facilitate adequate discussions and activities on LGBTQ issues, adding someone like Kris who has this background would be incredibly beneficial. Overall, the addition of Kris to the team would help address some of the gaps the program currently faces.
Additionally, Kris has a lot to bring to the table in terms of commitment to the program and qualifications. They are one of the most involved members of the Chicago Bound community having participated in its inaugural year, taken part its internship program during their second year, and served as group leader in its third. They also took a position last spring as the program intern to create and provide programming and mentorship to alumni of the program, but were forced out of the position after complaining about discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Even after being pushed out of this position and excluded from future leadership, they continued to demonstrate their commitment to the Chicago Bound program and community by providing mentorship to program alumni, helping out with events, and assisting program staff with planning without compensation or recognition. Kris also has a number of qualifications that would make them an asset to this program. For instance, they have engaged with social change through non-profit work, research, community organizing, politics, government, business development, artistic creation, and activism. During their time at the University they have served as a leader of three organizations that work toward creating change (two of which they founded and one of which is currently undergoing the process of becoming a nonprofit). Furthermore, the have a great deal of experience with mentorship and facilitating engaging discussions with students. The depth of their commitment to social change is reflected by the fact that they were named a finalist in the competitive Truman Scholarship Competition and were accepted to the University of Chicago's School of Social Work Administration as a third year undergraduate.
***The UCSC and Amy Chan’s Poor Track Record with LGBTQ Inclusion***
The actions Ms. Chan and Mr. Ramey have taken to exclude Kris fall into a larger pattern that has existed at the UCSC under Ms. Chan's direction; the office has been a non-inclusive and at times hostile space for trans and LGBTQ students more broadly. This past spring alone, three separate students brought complaints about LGBTQ-discrimination and harassment at UCSC to HR all of which cited issues with Ms. Chan specifically. Additionally, the UCSC was and continues to be in violation of Title IX by failing to offer gender neutral housing accommodations for Chicago Bound during its first two years (only offering it after Kris pushed for it) and continuing to not offer these accommodations for the Summer Links program or IMPACT Conference. Furthermore, most of the UCSC staff, including both Ms. Chan and Mr. Ramey, have not undergone Safe Space training at the Office of LGBTQ life; Ms. Chan is one of the only Deans of Student Life to have not undergone this training.* Additionally, since Ms. Chan has been at the University, the UCSC has lost long-standing relationships with LGBTQ organizations in the city of Chicago such as Affinity Community Services. Finally, Ms. Chan has demonstrated apathy toward addressing these inclusivity and harassment issues at UCSC; in a 6/19 email, she refused to meet with students who have complaints about transgender-based harassment and lack of inclusivity at UCSC. Rather than listening to their concerns and working with them to make improvements, she instructed them to go through a formal complaint process. Additionally, Ms. Chan admitted to "overlooking" the requests of students to make announcements about the availability gender-neutral restrooms at site visits so that trans students could plan accordingly. Even after admitting this, she made no plans to incorporate this small accommodation in the future for any programs. In a similar vein, despite several students repeatedly asking for PGPs be incorporated into introductions, this practice is rarely done and is often met with resistance by staff, especially Ms. Chan. The discrimination and retaliation Kris has faced did not occur in a vacuum but is in fact representative of much larger, deeply-rooted issues around diversity and inclusion at the UCSC.
***The UCSC and Amy Chan’s Poor Track Record with Student Input***
The exclusion of Kris from the Chicago Bound program also falls into a larger pattern of the UCSC failing to take student input seriously. Only last year, the UCSC came under fire for making sweeping changes to the Summer Links program without seeking the input of students and program alumni. These actions resulted in a petition that received over 1,000 signatures, student demonstrations, and a good deal of press coverage in the Maroon.[2,3,4] Rather than listening to the sentiments of these concerned students and working with them toward compromise, Ms. Chan instead shut them out and labeled their actions “counterproductive.” The UCSC has also been repeatedly criticized for cutting out student voices by failing to be transparent about their decision-making processes.[5,6] Due to these concerns, in fall of 2013 Student Government established an advisory board for the UCSC which was made up of students, faculty, former staff, and community members who had all previously been engaged with UCSC.7 However, Ms. Chan refused to meet with the board saying it was just a “power play” and their concerns about transparency were invalid; instead she created her own board where she could hand-pick its members. Furthermore, this past spring, in the course of investigating Kris’s claims, HR did find that transparency was an issue, telling Kris that “from investigating it appears the UCSC does need to be more upfront and transparent about how they make decisions.” In this case, by both cutting out Kris, a student who has raised concerns about inclusivity and harassment, as well as failing to address the concerns of their student staff about needing an additional staff support, Ms. Chan has demonstrated once again that she does not value student perspectives that differ from her own.
***A Logistical Note About Timing***
We expect that the UCSC will try to claim that it is too late in the game to incorporate Kris into the leadership structure. We firmly believe this is not the case. With the loss of Chris Huff, the program manager, gaps have arisen that need to be filled. Additionally, considering the program no longer needs to pay for the program manager position as originally intended, there is certainly funding available. Furthermore, the student program coordinators, Robin, Louisa, and Kiran, have met and been in communication with Kris about program planning and development throughout the summer so there would be little to no need for Kris to play catch up. Finally, adding someone at this point in the program is hardly unprecedented; last year, two members of the Chicago Bound core leadership team were added around this time.
*Edit 9/1/15: this sentence previously read "the UCSC is one of the only Student Life Offices to have had no staff members undergo the university’s LGBTQ Safe Space Training program", which has been corrected since 2 staff members underwent the training at the very end of the 2014/15 academic year.