Conflicting views, conflicting statements at board meeting

During the Board of Trustees meeting Feb. 26, the conversation of restroom policies at MCCC made a return with more than just students feeling a concern for safety.

President Kojo Quartey said he reached out to GSA advisors following the Jan. 22 meeting, receiving no response. During that meeting several members of the community complained about the college’s restroom policy while students and faculty came in support. 

Jenna Bazzell and Melissa Grey, GSA co-advisers, disagreed with Quartey. 

“The GSA co-advisors have never received an invitation from you to meet about this,” Grey said. “You reached out to a GSA co-chair, who has replied to you.” 

Bazzell then emphasized Quartey’s lack of communication. 

“But you have never reached out to its advisors,” Bazzell said. 

Aaron Mason, chair of the Board, took the floor and referenced the Jan. 22 meeting while addressing the board made it clear that all members including President Kojo Quartey had looked into the concerns previously raised. 

Mason proceeded to share his own brief understanding of the topic, stressing that his words were his own and not the board itself. “Regardless of your personal views, interpretation of where case law was before this moment or how you may have solved the problem better. Our legislators and governor have decided to codify into law a gender identity based right to access,” Mason said. 

Later describing that the definition of gender may be seen differently based on the person however when it comes to restrooms the label of woman or man is determined by what each individual most closely identifies as. 

During this short speech, Mason also expressed a desire for employees to be trained on the matter of gender identity, as well as making changes on campus directed toward the comfort of every student and faculty member. 

“I told Dr. Quartey that I would be interested in knowing whether there are any other achievable facility possibilities that would offer more privacy such as ways to reduce gaps in stalls,” he said. 

Mason also made a point that it is important for gender neutral restrooms to not be seen as a substitute, rather an option for everyone to maximize safety and comfort. 

Though it was his own words, this brief summary of understanding allowed listeners a bit of insight on the discussions surrounding these concerns. 

He ended this summary acknowledging Quartey’s effort to navigate the situation, admitting awareness for divide within the community surrounding this subject as well as a need for more to be done given concerns regarding safety and discrimination. 

Mason then gave a final call for closing delegations, inviting members from the audience to speak one by one as they were called to the microphone. 

Out of the 12 who participated in delegations, 11 were in regards to the restroom policy at MCCC. 

Students of varying gender identities took turns sharing their concerns when it came to harassment and discrimination on campus. 

Referencing Nex Benedict, a 16 year old transgender student who was brutally beaten in a public restroom at their high school in Oklahoma, later dying from their injuries. 

“This anti-trans rhetoric against people using the bathroom of their choice leads to discriminatory crimes against LGBTQ+ individuals,” said Sydney Godfrey. 

Multiple students spoke up about their experiences, many of which recounted being mistreated by their peers, being asked to leave the restrooms, questioned on their belonging, and glared at. 

One student, Spencer Lyke, brought to light the unique issues intersex students face in public restrooms given that people who are intersex are biologically both sexes. 

Lyke referenced Quartey’s reaction when recounting the harassment they faced. 

“Dr. Quartey approached me and asked me to tell him the situation, I described the entire event to him,” Lyke said, “rather than help me file a report or give me instructions on how to do so, he gave me the location of other gender neutral bathrooms on campus and recommended I use those instead.”

After the first board meeting where Lyke had referenced this harassment, they had been approached by Scott Behrens, vice president of enrollment management and student success.

“I was told an investigation would be open to discover why my experience wasn’t reported, since then I have heard no confirmation of the investigation opening and have not been contacted by either Title 9 Coordinators,” they said. 

Jenna Bazzell and Melissa Grey, co-advisers of the GSA, spoke to the board not as faculty but as members of both the Monroe and LGBTQ+ community. 

“Our concerns are beyond signs,” Grey said. 

Claimed that the administration has not confronted transphobia and instead colluded with baseless fears. The two pointed out that the administration has taken down signs and banners that called for inclusivity and an end to harassment. 

Only one of the commenters concerned over policies was against inclusivity for trans students, Sanda Bedee. 

Bedee had been present for both meetings where this topic had been discussed. Actively speaking against the inclusive restroom policy during the first meeting, and returning to ask for updates on a separate meeting on Feb. 16. 

“I really didn’t wanna speak but like I figured you guys would cover that. What we discussed February 16th. Do we have.. Anything?” she said. 

It was later revealed that while Quartey was able to meet with Bedee, a citizen who has openly expressed her disagreement with inclusive policies, he was unable to meet with GSA. 

Quartey claimed to have reached out to GSA advisors, receiving no response. Bazzell and Grey, after being permitted to approach the board, shared their perspective. 

This perspective points out contradictions made by Quartey. “The GSA co-advisors have never received an invitation from you to meet about this” Grey said. “You reached out to a GSA co-chair, who has replied to you,”

“But you have never reached out to its advisors,” said Bazzell. 

Mason had stepped in at this time, bringing public comment and the discussions that followed to a close, with the president giving a last reply before the board moved on. 

“I’d like to meet with GSA,” said Quartey.