Stacks Image 25

UND's Flawed Gender Proposal

By Christopher Dodson
Executive Director
North Dakota Catholic Conference
January 2021

Last fall the University of North Dakota quietly advanced a “gender inclusion” policy that could infringe upon constitutional rights and create troubling housing situations for students.

The university claims it followed the usual process for adopting new policies, but even campus members did not hear about the proposal until it was revealed by a statewide columnist. By that time, only a few days were left in the official comment period.

The proposed policy adopts a system of “gender inclusion” that requires faculty, staff, students, student clubs, and even campus visitors to use an individual’s preferred pronoun and accept the individual’s “expressed gender.” It also requires that all communications on campus refrain from language that assumes a gender binary.

Before discussing more details about the proposed policy, let us review Catholic teaching and basic truths about the human person. Human beings are created male and female from conception. Our sex is an objective truth that cannot be changed. To deny it denies the dignity bestowed on us by God. The idea that gender can be separated from biological sex is false. The concept that gender is subjective or fluid is a man-made ideology contrary to objective, biological reality and disrespectful of nature and human dignity.

There exist individuals for whom their perceived gender does not conform to their biological sex. They should be treated with respect and the university should foster a respectful learning environment.

UND’s proposal, however, goes beyond setting mere rules for administration respecting a person’s preferred name and pronoun. It embraces and demands acceptance of a particular ideology — a false one at that — and imposes it on the entire campus.

Faculty, staff, students, and campus visitors would have to use an individual’s “preferred pronoun” and affirm an individual’s “expressed gender.” Failure to do so would violate campus policy and subject the violator to penalties.

The policy even applies to student clubs, including religious clubs. In fact, religious clubs could not use signs or other communications that “assume” gender is binary.

Students and faculty do not lose their First Amendment rights when they enter the doors of a state university. The proposed policy by UND amounts to unconstitutionally compelling speech and a particular viewpoint. In fact, one court has already found a similar policy unconstitutional as applied to faculty. The court stated: “[T]itles and pronouns carry a message. The university recognizes that and wants its professors to use pronouns to communicate a message: People can have a gender identity inconsistent with their sex at birth.” This was impermissible compelled speech.

But the problems with the proposed policy are not limited to infringements upon religion and free speech.

The proposed policy also applies to on-campus housing, which UND requires for all freshmen. According to the proposed policy, an individual will be assigned housing according to their “expressed gender” rather than their biological sex. In fact, apparently no one can inquire about the individual’s actual sex. A freshman female, for example, could be assigned, without any prior knowledge or approval, a roommate who is a biological male but “expresses” as a female. Indeed, it would appear from the proposal that asking about the roommate’s biological sex or asking for a different roommate would be prohibited.

On October 25, 2021, the North Dakota Catholic Conference sent
a letter to university officials discussing some of the problems with the proposed policy and how it violated constitutional rights, North Dakota law, and university policy. It never received a reply.

Some legislators met with university officials to express their concerns, but it appears as though the university is moving forward. In newspaper stories and discussions with legislators, university representatives have given several justifications for the proposal. They claim that it is only meant to address intentionally using the wrong pronoun, but the proposal clearly goes beyond that. They have claimed that the policy is needed to address administratively what happens when an individual changes his or her name, but according to the university website, the administration already has a policy for that. They have claimed that the policy is needed because of a U.S. Supreme Court decision and rules from the Biden Administration. If that were true, however, every campus in the nation would be enacting such a policy. A spokesperson for the state university system has said that UND’s policy would be the only one among the state’s eleven campuses.

UND is a state university. It is supported by the taxpayers of North Dakota. Catholics should contact UND officials, starting with President Andrew Armacost (, 701.777.2121), and ask them to reject UND’s proposed “gender inclusion” policy.

What We Do

The North Dakota Catholic Conference acts on behalf of the Roman Catholic bishops of North Dakota to respond to public policy issues of concern to the Catholic Church and to educate Catholics and the general public about Catholic social doctrine.
Stacks Image 11
Contact Us

North Dakota Catholic Conference
103 South Third Street, Suite 10
Bismarck, North Dakota
Contact Us