Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Cambridge college changes rules to allow women to wear trousers and men skirts at formal dinners after transgender student's campaign

A Cambridge college has changed its rules to allow women to wear trousers and men to wear skirts during formal dinners, following a campaign by a transgender student.

St Catharine's, which was founded in 1473, has always insisted that male students wear a jacket, tie and smart trousers to the occasions. Women have had to wear a blouse and skirt or a dress.

But college officials have agreed to rewrite the rules after a campaign by 25-year-old Charlie Northrop, who began transitioning from male to female in January.

It is believed that the college will be the first at the 800-year-old university to change the formal dress code.

According to the new rules, male students will be able to go for dinner in a dress, while women will be allowed to wear suits. Students who do not define themselves as male or female can chose either outfit.

Ms Northrop, who is studying for a PhD in Classics, said: 'I'm over the moon, it's absolutely wonderful that it's now been passed.

'It wasn't that there was much resistance - it's just the new wording had to be sound and there was a lot of conversations between the college and the committee.

'We had to come up with a way of proposing a new dress code that would omit gender specification but would still keeping formality.'

She added: 'Everyone has been so helpful and it's been great to make a new change.

'I've been speaking to students from other colleges now who hope to make the change across the university.'

The new dress code on the Dean's Notice states that '"Smart dress" is defined without reference to considerations of gender identity or expression'.

It adds: 'Formal Hall is an occasion on which all members of St Catharine's should wear gowns.

'Members and their guests must be dressed in suitably smart dress. This means a suit (or trousers and jacket), a shirt with a collar, a tie, and shoes (not trainers or sandals), or equivalently formal dress.

'The staff are instructed to refuse admission to anyone coming to Formal Hall improperly dressed.'

Two years ago the rules on graduation dress were rewritten to include no reference to gender but this did not extend to formal dinners at the colleges.

Ms Northrop, who used to be known as Charles, grew up in Richmond, Indiana.

She studied classics at the John Cabot University in Rome, Italy, for five years before moving to Cambridge three years ago. She has since gained a masters and an MPhil in classics.

Her father Charles Northrop, 55, a technologist in a hospital medical lab, and mother Sarah Northrop, 55, a church secretary, have been supportive of her transition.

She added: 'I always felt wrong with the sex I was but it's hard to explain in words. It was when I was 18 that I began the real process of realising I wanted to transition.

'It was when I got to Cambridge that it really became possible. The university is inspiring and full of such supportive people.'

She added: 'When I was an undergraduate I didn't do much campaigning, it's something I started while I'm here.

'It's quite expensive to transition so it's a slow process which I started at the beginning of the year. My friends and family have been so supportive throughout it all.'

St Catharine's College was founded for postgraduate study in 1473. Undergraduates were not admitted until the 16th century. 


The latest excuse for black underperformance

 Kids in low-income communities statistically do poorer in terms of school performance near the end of each month, in part, because “they start getting hungry” as their food stamps “start running out,” said President Barack Obama at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Santa Monica, Calif., on Thursday.

“Too many of our kids still go hungry in this country,” said Obama.  

“I was looking at some statistics, because we're looking at policies around hunger and the SNAP program, and the performance of children in lower-income communities in school dips at the end of the month in a statistically significant way,” he said, “in part because they start getting hungry as their food stamps for their family start running out which then affects how they perform in school.”

The fundraiser where Obama spoke was held at the home of actor, playwright, and songwriter Tyler Perry.

According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture timeline, the food stamp program changed its name in 2008 to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and it apparently “lifted 5 million Americans, including 2.2 million children out of poverty in 2012.”

The timeline also claims that for every $1 spent in SNAP benefits, it generates $1.80 in economic activity.

As reported earlier by, a record 20% of American households, one in five, were using SNAP in 2013, according to data from the USDA.

The numbers also show there was a record number of individuals on food stamps in 2013 and that the cost of the program was at an all-time high.

The USDA says that there were 23,052,388 households on food stamps in the average month of fiscal 2013, an increase of 722,675 from fiscal year 2012, when there were 22,329,713 households on food stamps in the average month. also reported in January that the number of beneficiaries on SNAP had topped 46,000,000 for the 38th straight month, according to USDA data.


NC School District Okay With Gay Marriage Fairy Tale for Third Graders

A public school district in North Carolina is allowing the use of a controversial fairy tale about gay marriage to be read in its elementary schools despite widespread community opposition.

Omar Currie, a former 3rd grade teacher at Efland-Cheeks Elementary School, read King & King - a book about two gay “princes” who fall in love and get married - to his third grade students in April after he said one student teased another by calling him “gay” in gym class.

Currie resigned this week after the parents of three students filed written complaints to the school media review committee. Meg Goodhand, the assistant principal at the school who loaned Currie her copy of the book to read to his third grade class, also resigned.

However, after several heated public debates attended by hundreds of people - in which Orange County sheriffs were on hand to keep the peace - the school review committee upheld the use of the book.

Two parents appealed the committee’s decision not to ban the book to the Orange County school superintendent. But a meeting scheduled for Thursday night, which was expected to draw hundreds of attendees, was cancelled early Thursday morning.

A spokesman for the school district said that the appeals were withdrawn for unknown reasons, and that the school’s decision to allow the book to be read to elementary school students will stand.

However, the school’s principal created a new protocol that teachers must submit a list of books they intend to read in class to parents in advance.

Currie objected to the new policy. "This egregious policy creates an undue burden on teachers, and it hurts students," he said at one of the public meetings. "Here in Orange County, I repeatedly heard from school officials that the book might have been appropriate to read in a more progressive area without parental consent, but in Efland we need time."

This is not the first time King and King has caused controversy. In 2006, parents in Massachusetts sued their school district after the book was read in class. A judge dismissed the lawsuit.

 “I was told that it’s controversial, which means all LGBTQ families are controversial,” Currie said in an interview with The Raleigh News & Observer. “How insulting it is for those families.”

Alhough he was not disciplined for reading the book in class, Currie told the Associated Press that after discussing the issue with his same-sex partner, he decided he could not stay at a school where he felt unsupported. Since resigning, he has interviewed for five teaching jobs, including one with the Durham Public Schools.

Dozens of parents and community members on both sides let their opinions be known at the public meetings.

“(You're) infiltrating young minds, indoctrinating children into a gay agenda and actively promoting homosexuality to steer our children in that direction,” one reportedly said.

But a Currie supporter said: “I appreciate the fact that the teacher was willing to address this issue and was willing to approach this topic in his classroom.”


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