About 40 students protested on Tuesday at Salem College, calling for the school to oppose the state law limiting protections for lesbians, gays and transgender people and demanding that the college extend its policies to protect its LGBT students, faculty and staff members.
The demonstrators held signs stating “HB2 Takes Us Back to 1772” and “Salem Do Better!” and shouted “we oppose HB2” and “trans lives matter” in front of the campus student center. The women’s college was founded in 1772.
Christina Novaton, a senior from Miami who helped organize the protest, said that college administrators haven’t publicly opposed the law. There are many transgender students at Salem College, and demonstrators want the college to protect their rights, Novaton said.
The law requires transgender individuals to use public restrooms that match the gender on their birth certificates. It also excludes sexual orientation and gender identity from the state anti-discrimination law and bars local governments from expanding anti-discrimination rules.
Novaton pointed to a statement issued last week from Stephen G. Jennings, chairman of the college’s board of trustees, and President Lorraine Sterritt, regarding the law.
Jennings and Sterritt said in part that the law “will not necessitate any changes in Salem Academy and College’s policies and procedures in terms of protected rights and bathroom and changing facilities.”
Novaton said that the statement by Jennings and Sterritt was inadequate.
“I don’t think it was a strong enough statement at all,” Novaton said. “It was a stance to appease us for the moment.”
Novaton and other organizers said they planned to present their five demands to Sterritt at a college faculty meeting later on Tuesday afternoon.
The demands include the college issuing a public statement opposing HB2, outlining how Salem officials will protect its LGBT students, faculty and staff members and creating a policy that is inclusive of transgender students who may apply for admission and protective of transgender students at Salem.
In response to the students’ protest, Sterritt issued a statement saying that, “since the circumstances regarding the new law remain fluid, we are continuing to evaluate the situation, and we are engaged in conversation with our students and faculty.”
Opposition to the law also has spread to Appalachian State University, where about 50 students have occupied the lobby of the school’s administration building since Saturday in their protest against the law.
A protest organizer said that students will keep occupying the building until Chancellor Sheri Everts denounces the new law. College campuses across the state have seen protests against the law.
In a related matter, the UNC board of governors is moving its meeting from Asheville to Chapel Hill this week because of planned protests surrounding a visit by UNC system President Margaret Spellings.
The students oppose the naming of Spellings, a former U.S. education secretary under President George W. Bush, to the position.
The board had planned to meet at UNC Asheville on Thursday and Friday.