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Gage Skidmore | CC BY-SA 2.0

The leaders of three major U.S. universities urged Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to protect students identifying as transgender in a letter published late last week

"As presidents and chancellors of leading American research universities, we write to express our deep concern and dismay at reports of possible withdrawal of federal agency protections for transgender people," states the letter, which is addressed to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. "We appeal to you to do everything you can to prevent such action and to uphold the dignity of all persons."

The letter, signed by the leaders of Princeton University, Rutgers University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, came in response to recent news that the federal government may change its stance on the legal status of transgender individuals. The White House is currently considering a proposal that may define gender as a biological, unalterable condition determined at birth, sending fears to gender nonconforming communities across the country, including many on college campuses. 

Penn's University spokesperson Stephen MacCarthy and LGBT Center director Erin Cross have denounced the proposal. On the same day the three universities reached out to Secretary DeVos, The Washington Post also reported that some of the nation’s leading companies — including Google, Facebook, and Apple — sent similar statements to President Trump.

In their letter, the three school administrators raised the potential ramifications of strictly defining sex as male or female, particularly for those who identify as transgender. The letter specifically calls on DeVos to follow her moral and federal duty to support transgender students nationwide. 

“These [current] protections are important because transgender Americans in all parts of the country, including students and others on our campuses, have faced discrimination, isolation, and harassment," the letter read. "Providing these protections is fully consistent with basic principles of fairness and respect for others [...] This is no time for the country to turn back on these valued members of our communities.”

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