Duke Student Government urged the University to include sexual reassignment surgery in student and employee health care plans.
The DSG Senate unanimously passed legislation calling for expansion of the current health care plan to better fit the medical needs of the transgender community. Currently, 36 universities cover sexual reassignment surgery, including Brown University, Stanford University, Harvard University, New York University, Emory University and the University of California system.
“Sexual reassignment surgery is crucial for the health of the transgender people everywhere,” junior Jacob Tobia, senator for residential life, said. “We just want to make sure that Duke student and employee health benefits are in line with the recommendations of the medical community.”
He added that the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association and World Professional Association for Transgender Health have declared that comprehensive health care for transgender individuals must include mental health care, hormone therapy and sexual reassignment surgery.
Under the current University student health plan, transgender students have access to mental health care, hormone therapy and breast augmentation and reduction surgery, Tobia said. But the policy does not include gender reassignment surgery. Tobia added that Duke employee health insurance plans do not provide adequate medical coverage for transgender employees.
The terms of the student insurance plan and the employee insurance plans are renegotiated with the University’s insurance provider, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, every year before the beginning of the Fall semester.
Including gender reassignment surgery coverage in the healthcare plan will likely not increase the rates that students are charged because the procedure happens so infrequently, Tobia said. He added that there was no premium increase when Brown extended full transgender coverage to its students.
“We are currently in conversations with the Office of Student Affairs and the administration about making the change, and we don’t expect there will be any problems,” he said.
Tobia added that implementing this change will further Duke’s commitment to being an inclusive community for all of its students.
“This is not just a minority issue, it is an issue that effects every student on campus,” he said. “It is about equality.”
In other business:
Executive Vice President Patrick Oathout, a junior, and Senator for Services Lavanya Sunder, a freshman, introduced legislation to urge Duke Dining to increase student access to zabiha and halal food on campus. The terms refer to meat that is lawful and acquired through humane slaughter per Islamic beliefs and customs. Oathout said extending food options for practicing Muslims on campus is an important step for the University to reaffirm religious tolerance and diversity. Sunder added that the Fix My Campus service had received many student requests for increased halal options on campus.
The legislation passed unanimously.
Sophomore Ray Li, senator for academic affairs, introduced legislation to add questions about curriculum coding to the new course evaluation forms. Current course evaluation forms do not contain questions regarding the appropriateness of modes of inquiry and areas of knowledge designations, he noted. Adding a space to comment on curriculum coding for each course will provide valuable feedback on how well the course addresses the credits that students would receive.
“Some classes give an area of knowledge credit in what would seem to be the wrong area for what students are actually taking away from the course,” Li said. “Feedback would be important in making sure course codings are accurate.” The legislation passed by unanimous consent.