All motions passed at Board of Trustees Meeting

Aubreanna Miller, News Editor

The Nebraska State College System’s Board of Trustees met at Wayne State College on Nov. 11 to discuss and vote on an array of topics from new minors and majors offered at Chadron, Peru and Wayne, to a passionate discussion about two policies regarding anti-harassment and chosen name and gender identity.

A call to order and a welcome from President Marysz Rames kicked off the meeting. The members of the board had meetings and tours around campus on Wed. and on Thurs. before the meeting to gain a sense of all the amazing events happening at WSC this semester.

Following President Rames’ welcome, a public discussion section ensued, centering around the motion “Approval of Revisions to Board Policy 5007; Anti-Harassment/Discrimination Policy and New Board Policy 5012; Chosen Name and Gender Identity.”

The revisions to Board Policy 5007 included the addition of definitions of all types of prohibited discrimination, according to the meeting agenda. It also added pregnancy as a matter for which a person can be discriminated against. The list of protected classes follows previous actions implemented by other public and private higher education institutions across Nebraska. The definitions and language used stem from federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines on protected classes.

The addition of the New Board Policy 5012 stirred the most controversy. The policy does not explicitly mention the use of restrooms; however, many students and a few community members spoke out against this policy regarding which bathrooms people have permission to use. According to the meeting agenda, Policy 5012 addresses chosen names and gender identity issues for employees, following a policy that was adopted for students in July 2021. Wayne, Chadron, and Peru have already adhered to a similar protocol for students during this fall semester.

Additionally, the PeopleSoft SAP program, which the college system uses for Human Resource Information, added the ability for employees to give a chosen name, preferred pronouns and provide their gender identity. Policy 5012 addressed these changes. The agenda stated the Board recognizes that some employees in the NSCS community use chosen names and may align with a gender other than their sex, which raises the need to create a respectful and inclusive working environment.

Kaye Karmann, a concerned attendant from Columbus, NE, approached the board and gave a speech asking the board two questions before giving an ultimatum.

“Why do you want to remove the safeguard boundaries that are there to protect our daughters from rape?” Karmann said. “This isn’t about transgender people it is all about keeping our girls safe, whether they are transgender or not. My next question is what do you say to the parents of a raped child that resulted because you would not listen to the voice of the Nebraska taxpayers? I personally feel that if a rape would occur on the school grounds, you all should be charged with rape as well as the rapist, because you have ignored our voices and so I give you three choices: you either scrap the crap, resign, or be fired by the taxpayers. Thank you for your time.”

A few WSC students also gave their input, including Student Senate President Blake Aspen. Aspen highly criticized both policies saying they were “not very good policies and it endangers more that it protects.” Aspen and other students expressed their concern about an increase of sexual assaults from predators claiming to be transgender just to use a certain bathroom. They also voiced unease with the definitions of protected classes as the understanding of the definitions may vary between people, causing the poor handling of situations.

This action fell under the Academic and Personnel section of the meeting where the board discussed and voted on it. Before this, however, they first unanimously passed the first and final round approval of Revision to Board Policy 4440; Professional Development Courses which the board updated to allow NSCS employees who are not faculty to still instruct Professional Development courses.

Kristin Divel, General Counsel & Vice Chancellor for Employee Relations, provided reasons for the amendments to Board Policy 5007 and the New Board Policy 5012 as well as presented the importance of the implementation of these two policies into our college system.

“I’ll talk first about the reasons that we brought forward the amendment of Board Policy 5007,” Divel said. “The revisions started with changes to incorporate state law protections that were articulated. To be clear, the NSCS protections for sexual orientation and for gender identity are not new. These protections were added into Board Policy 5007 back in March of 2015. In the NSCS, all three of our institutions have followed the federal guidance on interpreting and complying with those protections since 2015.”

Divel added that the University of Nebraska system, community colleges across the state and many private institutions including Creighton and Hastings all follow the same list of protected classes. Also, Divel made clear that the policy graphs were not intended to stir up controversy or be political, these policies were just intended to be transparent about the working conditions of employees. She went on to say that it has been made clear to her that embracing these policies is what the federal government expects college systems across the country to do.

Next, focusing on Board Policy 5012, which addresses chosen name and gender identity issues for employees, Divel reiterated that the policy closely resembles provisions already instituted for students in Policy 3660 which the Board passed in July of this year.

“As a reminder, the Nebraska State College System has the same human resource system, the People Soft SAP platform, as does the University of Nebraska,” Divel said. “We work through many PeopleSoft Sap platform options in conjunction with the University. Our policy 5012 mirrors almost identically what the University system already adopted in September of 2020 through their Executive memorandum No. 40.”

Divel closed with a reminder that the NSCS believes that all employees should be treated with respect, which the policy ensures by simply providing a way for employees to articulate their chosen name and gender identity for use in the workplace. The motion passed with only two members voting no during a roll call vote.

Other business during the Academic and Personnel section, which all passed unanimously, included authorizing the chancellor to explore deficit appropriation opportunities and approving several certificates, options, minors and field endorsements in Chadron and Peru and a 3 + 1 Dual Degree BS/BSN Program Agreement between Wayne State College and Creighton University.

The Board started off the next section, entitled Student Affairs, Marketing and Enrollment, with approving revisions to By-Laws and adding New Board Policy 2100 which addressed boundaries that student trustees face. According to the meeting agenda, the policy added a $1,000 stipend, paid over the 12-month term, the option for transportation, reimbursement for expenses and mileage and more.

The final motion in this section included a first and final round approval of revisions to Board Policy 3675; College Diversity and Multiculturalism. The revisions aimed to update the language used in the policy and ensure that the colleges are providing a welcoming environment for all students.

The concluding section, Fiscal, Facilities and Audit, administered allocations from 2016 bond funds to the Chadron State College Stadium Project and approved actions for design and construction for the Wayne State College Athletic and Recreation Project Program. The board also passed revisions to Board Policy 7003; Standard Four Information Protection, Section 4.3.2 Account Creation and Access Modification, which changed the number of days those new employees have to set up their NSCS employee account from 42 days to 56 days, about two months, to allow more time to become acquainted with the technology. Other revisions included the renumbering of several policies surrounding travel, lodging, meals and reimbursement. An agreement for a stronger cyber security service and an acceptance of the revenue bond audit report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2021, were also passed.

The meeting ended with a few informational items from each college and updates about college events and sports from the three student trustees serving on the Board. Jackson Richling represents Wayne State College, Panashe Jacha currently serves as the Peru State College Student Trustee and Ruth Mencia represents Chadron State College on the Board.

The NSCS Board of Trustees will meet again in Lincoln, Nebraska on January 11 and 12 of 2022. All descriptions of motions and policies can be found on the Nebraska State College System website.