“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” These words spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (originally written by Theodore Parker, a 19th century Unitarian minister and prominent American Transcendentalist who called for the abolition of slavery) serve as a mantra for me. And, while many issues from 2018 continue into 2019, including the threat of another federal shutdown, our collective efforts are making the world a better place, in large and small ways, each and every day.
One sign of progress is the Gender Recognition Act (SB 179), which became effective January 1. I’ll touch on that in this month’s Expresso, along with information that’s good to know if you’re considering becoming a parent. I also have a very important update about the status of our negotiations with Elsevier and our access to journals.
Please read on:
- R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Find out what it means to me
- It’s Not All Apparent: UC policies and benefits applying to birth parents and adoptions
- Elsevier Negotiations: February update
Another topic that’s near and dear to my heart is our students, many of whom face anxiety and depression at alarming rates. The effects can be personally and academically debilitating – if not life-threatening. Faculty and staff who work with students are often the first to know when a student is experiencing emotional or psychological distress. You are also in a unique position to give students supportive guidance and help them identify university resources for assistance.
To further support student well-being and success, Student Health and Counseling Services (SHCS) is hosting two important forums – one on March 4 (Parnassus) and another on March 18 (Mission Bay) – entitled “Promoting Student Mental Health and Assisting Students in Distress.”
Finally, let me know what’s on your mind and write to me at [email protected].
R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Find out what it means to me
I open this story with an oft-used quote by E.E. Cummings, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” No truer words can be expressed about the life journey of transgender and nonbinary people.
What can the UCSF community do to demonstrate to our transgender and nonbinary students and colleagues that they are welcome, included, and valued? The UCSF Pronouns Matter campaign, led by the UCSF LGBT Resource Center, is a great first step to honor and respect all gender identities. Another more recent and significant advancement that applies to the entire state of California is the Gender Recognition Act (SB 179), which made California the second state to include a nonbinary gender marker on state documents. And on January 23, Chancellor Sam Hawgood and Vice Chancellor Renee Navarro wrote all of us about the Supreme Court decision to uphold the Trump Administration ban on most transgender people serving in the U.S. military. They confirmed UCSF’s “…long-standing commitment to all gender identities.”
How do we shift our thinking to challenge generations of socialization grounded in binary categorization, not to mention preconceptions around gender and sex? To gain more insight into the challenges of being transgender and nonbinary, I’d like you to hear from a few colleagues leading our efforts to help the UCSF community become more inclusive and sensitive to the needs and concerns of the transgender and nonbinary populations.
Our first stop is with Madeline Deutsch, associate professor in the Department of Family Community Medicine. Madeline guides many of our efforts related to caring for transgender and nonbinary patients. She is the medical director of UCSF Transgender Care, has cared for more than 2,000 patients, and is a leader nationally and internationally in establishing standards of care.
Despite common use of the outdated word preferred when talking about pronouns, Madeline affirms that there is no preference. “I don’t use the term ‘preferred name’ or ‘preferred pronouns,’ because it’s not preferred. It’s just that it is what it is,” she says. “You prefer an aisle seat when you fly. But if there’s only a window, you’ll still take the flight. But people don’t prefer to be called ‘she’ or, say, ‘Jane.’ That’s their name. So I think that it’s incumbent upon not only faculty, but everyone within the university community, to make every attempt possible to refer to people using the right name and pronoun.”
In addition, Madeline says, the concerns of nonbinary people “require some extra exit from one’s comfort zone, to not only be comfortable with people who have a gender identity that is neither male nor female, but also to integrate the use of ‘they/them/theirs’ as a singular pronoun. For example, ‘They are coming in late to work today because they had a flat tire.’”
While UC has a policy concerning inclusive restrooms that has been implemented at UCSF, bathrooms and changing rooms still present challenges. Madeline explains, “Even though by law, nonbinary people are allowed to use whichever bathroom they feel most comfortable in, they often experience discrimination from people who are using the bathroom and may say, ‘Hey, are you in the wrong bathroom?’, or just give them looks. And they are then relegated to having to use single sex bathrooms or changing rooms that often are on a different floor, or even in a different building.”
While we have greater awareness and understanding today than ever before about many of the issues facing transgender and nonbinary people, we still have a long way to go. Madeline notes that a study seven years ago revealed that one in two transgender people had to teach their own provider about their medical care, and she’s observed that little has changed.
Madeline also refers to the ban related to serving in the U.S. military and adds that in too many states, it continues to be legal to deny housing or employment to someone on the basis of their gender identity. In addition, transgender people experience a great deal of discrimination and distress when they're not able to get their identity documents to reflect their felt and lived identity. Madeline relies on the Human Rights Campaign website for continuously updated maps of the legal protections state by state.
With the passage of SB 179, California is one of only a few states taking the lead in addressing the issue of obtaining identity documents. Madeline speaks movingly from firsthand experience with changing her own documents and also from helping more than 1,500 people change theirs. She sees SB 179 as solid progress.
Klint Jaramillo, director of the UCSF LBGT Resource Center, and Sue Forstat, UCSF health care facilitator, co-lead the SB 179 Task Force that was established to ensure that UCSF properly implements SB 179, and both agree that we all must work to effect the culture change necessary to help everyone be seen as their true selves. The task force will work through this year, conducting trainings and continuing to educate people about gender recognition. This applies to everyone: faculty, staff, patients, students, and trainees, and aligns with our UCSF PRIDE Values.
Sue adds that while SB 179 will go a long way toward helping, it won’t transform how people behave. “The bigger change is culture, and people changing how they act, how they see things,” she says. “That’s the harder part – changing a system. You can enact laws, but that won’t change personal interactions in classrooms and work environments. Just changing the system to allow for nonbinary identification is not automatically going to make someone feel welcome, included, supported, and visible. It's really how we all interact in that environment that’s key.”
It’s Not All Apparent: UC policies and benefits applying to birth parents and adoptions
An Expresso reader wrote me with a few questions related to pregnancy leave, and I know that there must be more than one person interested in this information.
Fortunately, we have some answers, and plenty of resources to help navigate current policies and benefits. And, the good news is that there is movement afoot to review and improve some of the said policies and benefits!
One interesting piece of guidance to birth parents is in reference to disability insurance. Judy Rosen, disability manager in Human Resources for the campus and the health system, pointed me to APM 760, in the UC system-wide Academic Personnel Manual, which is the policy that speaks to Family Accommodations for Childbearing and Childrearing.
Judy explained that the use of the word “disability” in the policy relates to the period of medical recuperation for the birth parent. “Your pregnancy is not a disability until your health provider says it is.” APM 760 is currently under review, and I plan to propose adding language that clarifies the difference between a temporary disability of pregnancy versus an uncomplicated pregnancy.
Some people get time off with pay when they become a parent. Some of the nuts and bolts of these policies are available on UCNet, and others are spelled out on a UCSF-specific site. The term disability appears here too because the language is aligned with the disability insurance benefits. It also aligns with the rights and protections outlined under California state law, which entitles employees to protected time away from work in the event of pregnancy, childbirth, loss of pregnancy, and related physical or mental conditions.
Several laws have made these benefits possible and require employers, including UCSF, to offer leave. Judy points out that this represents a great improvement over the old days, when pregnant women and new parents faced discrimination. The laws not only allow for time off to have the baby, but also for bonding, which we here in the health sciences know is critically important. The laws apply to all the ways people become parents these days, whether through adoption, foster care, surrogacy, or other means.
If you want to explore the alphabet soup of these rules, you’ll learn all about PDL (Pregnancy Disability Leave), CFRA (pronounced “siff-rah,” the California Family Rights Act), and FMLA, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. These laws apply to all UC employees – and everyone who works in California.
But benefits, such as paid leave and extended unpaid leave, can differ depending whether you’re faculty, staff, a resident, or a postdoc; so you’ll want to be sure to check with HR. If you plan to tap into these benefits, HR offers workshops for staff and non-faculty academics, as well as individual leave-planning. Details and more information are on the Human Resources website as well as on PeopleConnect. Judy also sings the praises of Campus Life Services’ MyFamily page, which has information on lactation rooms, child care, and lots of other services for parents.
While reading these resources, you will see terms such as “birth parent” and “non-birth parent,” examples of language that has been updated from a generation ago, when we would see words like “mother” and “father.”
And I can’t end this piece without saying that becoming a parent is one of the most meaningful and exciting times in life. Those of us who are parents can vouch for a host of truisms that you can’t fully appreciate until you have children of your own:
- “You’re only as happy as your unhappiest child.”
- “Puberty marks the end of the pre-game warmup – prepare yourself.”
- “Parenting – the greatest uncontrolled experiment of life.”
Elsevier Negotiations: February update
On December 10, the UCSF Library and Academic Senate co-sponsored a town hall focused on the goals of UC negotiations with Elsevier and potential issues concerning access to Elsevier journal content if we failed to reach an agreement by the end of 2018. Subsequent to the town hall, they published an open letter on this topic. No doubt you understand that the negotiations and outcome could potentially have an impact on the way you access new articles published by Elsevier journals (including Cell, The Lancet, Neuron, and American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology).
In the January installment of Vice Chancellor for Research Lindsey Criswell’s ReSearch ReSource, we learned that UC and Elsevier agreed to extend our access to Elsevier journals through January 2019, in a good-faith effort to conclude negotiations by this time.
Currently, Elsevier and UC have agreed to continue their discussions and for now, access is expected to continue. Should we learn of any changes to access at UC, we will notify our community.
Why is UC negotiating with Elsevier?
As the current contract with Elsevier comes to an end, UC is working to hold down the rapidly escalating costs associated with scholarly publishing and to align our journal contracts with UC’s goals of disseminating its scholarship more openly.
Notably, the Office of the President is working systemwide to pursue a new, transformative agreement with Elsevier that would make it easier and more affordable for UC authors to publish open access. Given that Elsevier is UC’s most expensive journals contract, and that UC accounts for nearly ten percent of all US publishing output – the most of any public educational institution in the country – you can see how a successful open access agreement will have a significant impact.
Two of the main goals that UC is seeking are:
- A single, integrated contract that would cover both subscription charges for all content to which we currently have access, as well as open access publishing fees, making open access the default for any article with a UC corresponding author.
- A more fair and stable price structure. Journal publishers such as Elsevier charge more for subscriptions every year, and a quarter of UC’s journal budget is spent on Elsevier journals alone. On top of this, Elsevier also collects open access fees without offsetting those costs against our subscription payments. In effect, we are paying for some of the same content twice.
What will happen if UC’s negotiation with Elsevier is successful?
If successful, then:
- UC scholars will continue to have access to Elsevier content through its ScienceDirect platform. UC faculty may continue to publish in and support any journal of their choice regardless of the outcomes of these negotiations.
- UC corresponding authors will have the option to make their articles open access by default, or they can opt out and publish their work as subscription access only. The libraries will negotiate a lower price to publish open access and then also pay a portion of the open access fees.
- UC authors with grant or other research funding would be asked to contribute to the new, lower article processing charges (APCs), as they do now.
- If authors don’t have funding, the university will cover the entire APC. Author workflows would be similar to what they are now, without any added burden.
The Library will keep us all posted on any potential changes to journal access and what to expect in the coming months. Receive direct notices by joining the UC journal negotiations email list.
Dan’s Tip of the Month
“Deep work” – a fascinating concept designed to bring more focus and concentration into our daily life despite the noisy world we inhabit. Also the title of a book by Cal Newport (who coined the term), deep work is the topic of a recent interview with Newport in the New York Times Smarter Living newsletter. Technology is intrinsically neither good nor bad, but its distraction quotient can easily skyrocket off the charts, sapping our capacity to focus on cognitively demanding tasks. Given that true concentration is a superpower in most work pursuits, I found the conversation illuminating and pragmatic – definitely a worthwhile diversion!