St. Thomas is aware of the video that recently circulated on social media showing portions of a meeting involving one of our Residence Life representatives. The individuals asking questions of our staff member in the video intentionally misrepresented themselves, misled her and unethically used a hidden camera to record the conversation without her knowledge. Finally, it appears the video was edited to satisfy a specific agenda. The behavior of these individuals is unacceptable, and the scenario being propagated online - which outlines a specific safety concern at our university - is completely hypothetical.
At the University of St. Thomas, we respect the dignity of each person and value the unique contributions they bring to our university. We want all students – including our transgender students – to feel a sense of belonging, connection and inclusion. We strive to provide a safe, welcoming environment for all.
Here are the facts of St. Thomas’ practices as they relate to providing housing for incoming transgender students within our residence halls – which are consistent with those of other Catholic universities: Students are assigned to housing based on their legal sex. Over the years, a minimal number of students (0-2 per year) have indicated a gender identity different than their legal sex, and we have worked to accommodate them so that they feel safe and comfortable. In our experience, private rooms with private bathrooms are often the best options.
While student privacy laws prevent us from sharing a student’s gender identity without their consent, our Residence Life team works personally with all resident students requesting accommodations. Hypothetically, if a student were to voluntarily disclose their transgender identity and ask to have a roommate, our Residence Life team would take steps to make sure all students involved are comfortable with the living arrangements, while abiding by privacy laws.
Regarding general privacy concerns within our residence halls, it’s important to note we have single-user bathrooms in all our new and remodeled residence halls, and community bathrooms and showers have privacy stalls around the showers and toilets.
In terms of prioritization, single rooms are first assigned to students who are granted single-room housing accommodations through Disability Resources. Once those assignments are made, Residence Life then assigns the remaining available rooms based on student requests, considering their personal needs.
Some students who need special accommodations (whether due to medical reasons, disabilities, transgender identity or other factors) may be assigned single rooms instead of double occupancy rooms. In certain cases, the standard double occupancy rate for that specific residence hall may be available to students instead of the more expensive single-room rate.
Regarding St. Thomas’ Catholic identity, we recognize Church teaching on the nature of the human person. We are also trying to live in the world as it is and meet people where they are. The Catholic Church and Catholic institutions are charged with accompanying people, while providing welcome and friendship. As a Catholic institution, St. Thomas will live this conviction and stands by its commitment to creating an inclusive campus for all.