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New College enforces bathroom rules

Written by on Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Campus counsel reminds faculty and staff ‘to promptly report noncompliance’


By Florence Fahringer

Original Air Date: Apr. 10, 2024

Host: The New College administration is apparently trying to make sure to kill any remainder of woke. A campus lawyer sent a message to everyone that seems to have a particularly threatening tone to queer students and faculty, as Florence Fahringer reports.

Florence Fahringer: A year ago, the Florida legislature passed a bill titled the “Safety in Private Spaces Act.” The bill was Tallahassee’s response to one of the key battlegrounds in the war against woke: bathrooms. The bill was limited in scope, only applying to bathrooms owned directly by the state; but within this limited sphere, the legislature planned on delivering a decisive blow to the transgender community. Shortly after the bill passed both houses, Governor Ron DeSantis signed it into law, triggering a countdown for public facilities’ implementation of the new Florida Statute. 

One of those public facilities, the state university New College of Florida, recently let their community know of their plans to implement the new statute. In an email sent by New College’s Chief Compliance Officer, Alexander Tzoumas, he mostly reiterated the contents of the statute, describing it in its own terms, as “provid[ing] restrooms and changing facilities for exclusive use by females or males, respective to their sex, in order to maintain public safety, decency, decorum, and privacy.” Tzoumas ended the email as follows: “In order to comply with the requirements of the Bill, faculty and staff shall promptly report any instances of noncompliance with these requirements to the Office of the General Counsel and to the Chief Compliance Officer […] Please join me in supporting the university’s efforts to comply with the requirements of the Bill.”

Chief Compliance Officer Tzoumas

The statute does not actually criminalize the act of going into a bathroom opposite one’s gender-assigned-at-birth — at least, for faculty and students. Non-affiliates of universities who are asked to leave such a bathroom and refuse to do so can be found guilty of trespassing. Otherwise, the law does require that universities implement some kind of disciplinary procedure of their own, and elaborates in the case of faculty — faculty members can face a suspension or dismissal if they refuse to leave such a bathroom, losing their career and livelihood as a result. 

For students, disciplinary action is left entirely up to the individual university, which is one thing that was notably lacking in Tzoumas’s email; though he announced to the student body that the college can now discipline them should they be caught in a bathroom which does not conform to their gender-assigned-at-birth, he did not let the student body know exactly what the consequences for refusing to leave such a bathroom would be. We reached out to New College to ask for the details of their disciplinary plan, but they have not yet replied by the time of this recording.

Shortly after Tzoumas sent his email, Amy Reid, the faculty chair of New College, sent a reply. Reid had two main questions for Tzoumas, namely: how is someone’s “biological gender” to be determined, and where in the law does it say that college affiliates are required to report violators? 

For the first question, Reid elaborates, “In what way are we to presume to know another person’s biological sex? New College IDs don’t indicate anything besides our names and status as faculty, employee or staff. Surely you’re not suggesting we invade the privacy of another to demand information that really has nothing to do with the educational purposes that bring us together?” One student asked Tzoumas directly about how exactly the administration intended to determine bathroom-goers’ genders in such situations, explicitly asking if birth certificates or genital inspections would be involved. Tzoumas responded with “Thank you for your email” — and nothing else. 

For the second question, it’s true — the law in no way compels people to expel suspected transgender people from bathrooms. In fact, only certain figures of authority — such as police officers or faculty members — are empowered to even ask suspected transgender people to leave bathrooms, meaning students must defer to them if they want another person expelled from the bathroom. If the suspected transgender person is a faculty member or student, they are not even committing an illegal act according to the law, and it is unclear if these figures of authority are empowered to do anything more than ask them to leave. Their refusal to leave can have consequences, such as outright dismissal in the case of faculty members; but in the case of students, the administration has yet to say what those consequences even are. 

Addressing this law directly, the ACLU calls it “complex, confusing, and vague.” It remains to be seen how exactly New College plans on sorting through its complexities, confusions, and vagaries. 

This is Florence Fahringer, reporting for WSLR News.

 

WSLR News aims to keep the local community informed with our 1/2 hour local news show, quarterly newspaper and social media feeds. The local news broadcast airs on Wednesdays and Fridays at 6pm.