Institute administration attend the GSU’s TransMIT grievance community meeting

Chua: “Timely solutions are needed for this problem.”

On May 15, the Graduate Student Union (GSU) held a “grievance community meeting” for its transgender individuals in response to the Institute’s current policies on legal sex versus gender within its databases. The MIT administration requested the meeting to fully grasp the current policy’s impact on the community. 

The administration was represented by Kate Trimble from the Office of the Vice Chancellor and Lauryn McNair from Assistant Dean of Intercultural Engagement for LBGTQ+, Women and Gender Services. Both serve as co-leads for the Gender Identity Initiative under the MIT Institute Community and Equity Office (ICEO).

In an email to The Tech, the GSU wrote that they “initiated the formal grievance procedure process in early March and have since met with MIT at the Step 1 and Step 2 levels.” The grievance stemmed from an incident in late January where a graduate student who had changed their legal sex through the Registrar’s Office found the change “propagated through many systems unrelated to federal reporting and benefits.” 

During the Step 1 procedure, Lauren Chua G, the GSU’s Area Chief Steward for School of Engineering and College of Computing, claimed that “MIT categorically denied the existence of any contract violation.” The GSU also escalated to Step 2, which occurs if the grievant is still “dissatisfied with the answer at Step 1,” inviting other transgender individuals to request MIT to resolve the issues that “affect their daily working conditions and benefits.”

Chua wrote that the “legal sex fields were being conflated with gender data” in the Institute’s information database. Chua noted that the issue was of importance for transgender individuals because “their legal sex marker was not reflective of their gender.”

The GSU stated that legal sex markers affect medical coverage because “legal sex on medical records must be consistent with that on health insurance.” With the case of the aforementioned graduate student, insurance claims cannot be filed because the sex on the health insurance does not match the one present on their medical record.

Trimble stated that the administration will strive to ensure student confidentiality. However, she cautioned individuals to not expect “extreme confidentiality” because there are limits to how much MIT can reliably secure their information. 

Trimble proposed a few solutions to rectify the issues raised by the GSU, including an authentication process for accessing private information and data aggregation that would allow the Institute to answer questions regarding graduation rates or grades without accessing individual records. 

Trimble reassured the assembled students that the Institute is there to provide solutions, and that she will be “happy to listen” about any concerns.

Chua said that although the Institute’s “systems are complicated and decentralized,” that should not be an “excuse to not do the work to maintain data records correctly.” She stated that “timely solutions are needed for this problem” because “simple education on data stewardship does not suffice to maintain an inclusive work environment for trans community members.”

“As a result of our grievance procedure and the community attention on this matter, things are starting to change,” Chua wrote. “There are new sex/gender marker change forms, and newer more definite timelines for improving data systems than when we began this process.”