TIME Education

Racist Chant at Oklahoma University Was Ingrained by SAE Frat

The Sigma Alpha Epsilon house at the University of Oklahoma on March. 9, 2015.
Nick Oxford—AP The Sigma Alpha Epsilon house at the University of Oklahoma on March. 9, 2015.

The frat members learned the chant on a leadership cruise sponsored by the national SAE organization

Correction appended, March 30

The racist chant by members of a University of Oklahoma fraternity caught on video on March 7 was part of the institutional culture at the chapter, an investigation by the school released Friday revealed.

The chant, which included at east one reference to lynching, was sung by fraternity members on a chartered bus on the way to the chapter’s annual Founder’s Day event in Oklahoma City.

The university took swift action after the video of the chant emerged, expelling two of the students caught singing it. Sigma Alpha Epsilon also quickly closed the chapter. As part of the university’s response, the student affairs office investigated the origins of the chant and determined it was an ingrained part of the life and culture of the SAE chapter at OU.

According to the investigation, members of the Oklahoma chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon learned the chant on a leadership cruise sponsored by the national SAE organization four years ago. The chant was then taught to pledges as part of the formal pledging process. As part of the chapter’s recruitment on Founder’s Day, about a dozen high school students were on the bus during the chant.

More: 3 Ways to Fix Fraternities

More: Civil Libertarians Say Expelling Oklahoma Frat Students May be Illegal

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly identified the school that investigated the racist chant by members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. It is the University of Oklahoma.

TIME Education

3 Ways to Fix Fraternities

How to prevent problems before they start

Correction appended, March 27, 2015

It’s been a rough school year for fraternity bad-boy behavior.

A spate of high-profile incidents—and the swift response from national fraternity organizations and the universities themselves—suggest that the institutions responsible for these young men are becoming less inclined to say “boys will be boys.”

A video of members at the University of Oklahoma’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter singing a racist chant went viral. Not long after, members of Penn State’s Kappa Delta Rho chapter were accused of sharing images of nude unconscious women on a Facebook page. And a notebook filled with racist and sexist slurs allegedly belonging to members of Pi Kappa Phi was found in a restaurant on campus at North Carolina State. The universities and national fraternities in charge of these men acted fast. SAE closed the University of Oklahoma chapter and two students were expelled, Penn State suspended the chapter in question and North Carolina State disbanded it all together.

MORE Civil Libertarians Say Expelling Oklahoma Frat Students May Be Illegal

But how can fraternities and universities prevent these problems in the first place? Here’s what experts told TIME.

Get rid of alcohol

When it comes to “going dry,” it’s easier for the national fraternities to make the change than it is for the host universities. In 1997, Phi Delta Theta announced plans to ban alcohol in every chapter house across the country by 2000. Skeptics said the move would hurt its ability to recruit new members. But the opposite has been true. Since the change, Phi Delta Theta has grown from 8,500 student members to over 12,000, according to Bob Biggs, the frat’s executive vice president. There have been other positive changes, too. The average GPA for members has gone from 2.7 to 3.1 and liability insurance costs have dropped by half, from $160 per person per year before 2000, to $80.

“We wanted to get out of the entertainment business and into the fraternity business,” Biggs said.

While private colleges can mostly make any policy they like, it can be more difficult for public universities to govern fraternities on campus. But it can happen. Colorado State University made changes to its alcohol policy at fraternities after 19-year-old sophomore Samantha Spady died of apparent alcohol-related causes at a fraternity house in 2004. Today, fraternity houses at Colorado State University are dry.

Bring in the adults

In most on-campus residential life, colleges typically have one staff member for every 15-20 students, according to Mark Koepsell, the executive director of the Association of Fraternity and Sorority Advisors. But when it comes to Greek life, the ratio is one staff member to every 750 students.

The reason for this may be that many colleges don’t want to assume the liability that comes with fraternities. “There’s [variation] across the country between campuses that pull fraternal organizations close and those that put them at an arms length distance,” Koepsell said. “Campus attorneys are of the belief that an arms length distance is better for reducing liability. My personal opinion is that’s the environment where problems occur and it blows back on the university anyway and no one wins. The first advice: Pull them in close.”

Koepsell prefers models like the “Greek Village” at the University of South Carolina, where frat and sorority students live in University-sponsored housing, which comes with more supervision.

But it’s also possible for national fraternities to spend more money themselves to ensure better staffing in the houses. In 2000, Sigma Phi Epsilon began creating Residential Learning Communities through some of its chapters, which now exist at 40 of the 227 chapters across the country. As part of this program, some chapters have what is called a resident scholar, a graduate student who gets free room and board and a stipend or a scholarship to live at the fraternity house and provide some structure for the students.

Integrate or eliminate

Eliminating fraternities or allowing women to join is not an option at public universities where students have the First Amendment right to associate. But private schools have more leeway. Last year, Wesleyan ordered its fraternities to admit women. It is now facing a lawsuit from Delta Kappa Epsilon trying to block the move. The case is being closely watched.

Read next: Dartmouth Investigates Frat for Branding Pledges

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

Correction: The original version of this story misspelled the first Greek word in the fraternity chapter at North Carolina State. The correct fraternity is Pi Kappa Phi.

TIME Crime

Bloody Arrest at Virginia School Leads to Order for Reforms

In this photo provided by Bryan Beaubrun, Martese Johnson is held down by an officer Wednesday, March 18, 2015, in Charlottesville, Va.
Bryan Beaubrun—AP In this photo provided by Bryan Beaubrun, Martese Johnson is held down by an officer Wednesday, March 18, 2015, in Charlottesville, Va.

The bloody arrest of 20-year-old Martese Johnson stoked outrage and protests

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued an executive order Wednesday to reform policing by the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, after white officers from the agency bloodied a black University of Virginia student during an arrest a week earlier.

A photo and video of the student, 20-year-old Martese Johnson, lying on the pavement with blood streaming down his face while an officer kneeled over him, went viral, prompting McAuliffe to swiftly order a state investigation into the incident. The results of that investigation are not in, but McAuliffe said “it is not too soon to take proactive steps to improve ABC’s Bureau of Law Enforcement.”

The executive order requires four steps for reform, including retraining of all ABC special agents in “use of force, cultural diversity, effective interaction with youth, and community policing” by Sept. 1. It also calls for an “expert review panel” made up of local and campus law enforcement agencies and sheriff’s offices to complete a review of the ABC and make recommendations for additional changes by Nov. 1.

MORE: Bloody Arrest Puts University of Virginia Back in the Spotlight

 

 

TIME Crime

No Evidence of UVA Gang Rape Depicted in Rolling Stone, Police Say

A story that rocked a campus and drew national attention is cast further into doubt

—The accuser in a high-profile sexual assault case had numerous inconsistencies in her story, police in Virginia said Monday, as they released the findings of an investigation into an alleged fraternity house gang rape that catapulted the University of Virginia into the center of the national debate over college sexual assault.

Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo said investigators were “not able to conclude to any substantive degree” that the gang rape depicted in a Rolling Stone article last year had taken place. He said the accuser, who the magazine had identified in the article only as Jackie, refused “to give a statement or answer any questions” by detectives. Longo pointed to several other inconsistencies, many of which had been revealed by subsequent news accounts, including that there was “no evidence that a party had taken place” at the fraternity house on the date of the alleged crime. And he said the investigation was being suspended pending new evidence.

“We’re not able to conclude to any substantive degree that an incident [happened] that is consistent with the facts in that article,” Longo told reporters. “That doesn’t mean that something terrible didn’t happen to Jackie… we were not able to gather facts on what that meant.”

Some students were disheartened that the police inquiry couldn’t offer more answers. “Just because this first round of evidence didn’t bring anything new to light, that doesn’t mean that there’s not something worth investigating,” says Ashley Brown, a senior at UVA who leads One Less, a sexual assault advocacy group at the university. “I would urge the public to be patient, to explore every option and then some before we write this girl off.”

Monday’s news conference came after another difficult week for UVA, with the violent arrest of black 20-year-old student Martese Johnson by white law enforcement officers prompting more outcry and protest on campus. Video of the arrest, which showed him shouting “you f–king racists” as officers slammed him onto the ground and blood streamed down his face, went viral.

Charlottesville police began their sexual assault inquiry after the November story in Rolling Stone depicted the alleged gang rape of a student at the hands of seven men at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house while two men looked on in encouragement. The story described in painful detail a horrific scene, a rape that Jackie said ended with her leaving the fraternity house while a party was still going on, her dress spattered with blood. The extraordinary nature of the crime described in the story sparked wide attention to the problem of campus rape.

The story rocked the campus at UVA, causing hundreds of students and faculty to march through Charlottesville in protest against what they called the university’s mishandling of rape allegations brought by students. The fraternity suspended the campus chapter of Phi Kappa Psi. UVA President Teresa Sullivan put a halt to all social activities at Greek organizations on campus and promised to fix the university’s problems with sexual assault.

But it wasn’t long before the story’s veracity was thrown into doubt, with the Washington Post, among others, pointing to discrepancies in Jackie’s story. Rolling Stone eventually questioned the story itself and commissioned an external review by the Columbia University School of Journalism, the results of which are expected to be released in the coming weeks. “In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced,” the magazine said. (It amended the statement after criticism that it was blaming Jackie.)

Sullivan nevertheless promised to move forward to reform UVA’s response to sexual assault. “Even though the facts in the Rolling Stone story are in dispute, sexual misconduct does occur and it has no place at our University,” she said in December. “We will continue our efforts to improve our policies and practices.”

MORE: The Sexual Assault Crisis on America’s Campuses

In January, the Charlottesville Police Department cleared Phi Kappa Psi of involvement in the rape and the fraternity was reinstated at UVA.

Sullivan and the fraternities on campus reached an agreement that month to add security personnel at the door for parties, eliminate kegs and mixed alcoholic drinks, and limit drinking to beer served in the original can and wine poured by a sober fraternity member.

MORE: Bloody Arrest Puts University of Virginia Back in the Spotlight

TIME Crime

Bloody Arrest Puts University of Virginia Back in the Spotlight

In this photo provided by Bryan Beaubrun, Martese Johnson is held down by an officer Wednesday, March 18, 2015, in Charlottesville, Va.
Bryan Beaubrun—AP In this photo provided by Bryan Beaubrun, Martese Johnson is held down by an officer Wednesday, March 18, 2015, in Charlottesville, Va.

A tough school year continues on the Charlottesville campus

Just when the national spotlight seemed to have shifted away, the University of Virginia is reeling again.

Students took to a campus amphitheater Wednesday night and to social media Thursday in protest after the violent arrest of a black student by white law enforcement officers was caught on video that depicted the incident in bloody detail. It comes just months after the university found itself at the center of a national firestorm over a Rolling Stone report about an alleged gang rape at a fraternity house—a report whose veracity has since come into question but nevertheless had the school in crisis mode for weeks.

Now the arrest of Martese Johnson, a 20-year-old member of the school’s prestigious Honor Committee who shouted “you f–king racists” as officers slammed him onto the ground, has students and administrators in Charlottesville on edge again.

“The picture really is quite haunting,” Nicholas Hine, a student who serves with Johnson on the Honor Committee, told TIME of the graphic image, which shows Johnson, blood streaming down his face, looking up as an officer kneels over him. “The feeling on campus is sort of across the board that people are appalled and upset by the way Martese was treated.”

“Martese is a respected student leader, a great friend, and a valued member of Honor Committee,” Hine added. “I know that he is a guy with an upstanding character and I’m as shocked as anyone that this has happened.”

It’s been a difficult school year for the University of Virginia. Last fall, the university community suffered from the disappearance and murder of student Hannah Graham, two student suicides, and the Rolling Stone controversy.

And now this.

UVA President Teresa Sullivan moved quickly to contain the situation with a statement Wednesday in which she said “every member of our community should feel safe from the threat of bodily harm and other forms of violence.” She asked Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to investigate (it was agents from the state-run Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control who arrested Johnson early Wednesday morning outside an Irish pub in Charlottesville). McAuliffe has directed state police to probe the matter.

“I felt it in my stomach,” Sullivan told local TV station WTVR. “Seeing the blood run down that young man’s face. I wanted to know what had happened and why it had happened. And I have to say, I also thought about his mother.”

The arrest also raised new questions about the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, which settled a lawsuit in 2014 brought by a student after agents arrested her, mistaking sparkling water for alcohol.

The department said in a statement shortly after the incident that agents “observed and approached [Johnson] after he was refused entry to a licensed establishment. A determination was made by the agents to further detain the individual based on their observations and further questioning. In the course of an arrest being made, the arrested individual sustained injuries.”

“Virginia ABC is restricting the special agents involved in the incident to administrative duties while the investigation is underway,” the department added.

Against the backdrop of multiple incidents of police use-of-force against black men that have drawn national attention since last summer, students are using the latest episode to address issues of racism they say persist in Charlottesville.

“Over the course of the past year, members of our community have expressed dismay and frustration at national events involving the excessive use of force by police officers. Now this issue lands closer to home,” the UVA Student Council said in a statement to students . “In this difficult time, we must continue working to build a community that does not tolerate these types of actions.”

And a group of UVA students were using the Twitter hashtag #BlackUVaDemands on Thursday, seeking action from the university. “ the acknowledgment that UVa is not currently a mentally or physically safe space for black students,” read one. “ UVa Administration acknowledge that simply establishing a diversity office to address social issues is not enough,” read another.

Abraham Axler, a sophomore and the incoming student council president, said the student council is currently focused on how law enforcement in Charlottesville treats students, particularly minorities.

“I think it would be short-sighted if we didn’t take the opportunity to look more broadly at how law enforcement treats black students,” Axler said.

Charlottesville Police, whose officers weren’t involved in the arrest, planned to send representatives to a meeting of students Friday afternoon to discuss the matter.

“We have to vigorously engage with law enforcement on how they are treating young black men.” Axler said. “This kind of discomfort that this community is feeling—this is what they feel every day as minority students.”

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME portfolio

Meet the New Generation of Gender-Creative Kids

Lindsay Morris photographs a rural retreat where kids are free to be themselves

Raising a child who doesn’t conform to gender roles is a minefield, for even the most supportive parents. How do you let your children be themselves while also protecting them from bullies? That question led a number of parents to organize an annual four-day camp in the wilderness for their kids.

The result was an annual long-weekend camp that serves nearly 30 families, many of whom met several years ago through a therapy group for gender-nonconforming children in Washington, D.C. It started in a few hotel rooms in D.C. and evolved into a real camp usually held at religious retreats in various rural settings around the country. The children, ages 6 to 12, attend with their parents and siblings.

In 2007, Sag Harbor photographer Lindsay Morris began attending camp. She took pictures of the children and their families to document their camp experience. But as the years passed and her photo library grew, Morris thought about doing something more with the pictures. In 2012, thanks to the courage of some of the families, Morris’ photographs appeared in a cover story for the New York Times Magazine. The book, titled You Are You, is an expansion of that project.

At camp, the children do all the typical camp things. They canoe, they craft, they roast marshmallows. Almost all of the children are biological boys who like to wear girl’s clothing. The weekend culminates in a fashion show with the works: red carpets, a runway, and fans to blow the kids’ hair back. “We try to make them feel fabulous,” says Morris, “I think it helps carry them through the year — the memory of their parents and siblings in the audience clapping for them.”

The kids in Morris’ photographs fall across the gender spectrum. But they are too young to know which category they will grow into — if they fit into a category at all. Some will grow up to be transgender, others will be gender-conforming adults. Still more may decide to embrace a more fluid concept of gender. “Living with ambiguity can be very hard,” writes one of the parents in a reflection in the book. The beauty of the camp is that it allows the kids to live comfortably in the middle, a difficult space to occupy during the rest of the year.

Morris had many goals with the book. She wanted to illustrate gender-creative children in a joyful, supportive setting to counteract the painful things we associate with children who don’t conform. She wanted gender-variant kids and the adults who advocate for them to see that they are not alone. Along with the images and reflections, she has included a list of helpful books and support organizations available to families.

But her work’s greatest value may be in teaching us to see the potential joy of children who are allowed the freedom to be themselves.

For more information about the project and events, visit lindsaycmorris.com and youareyouproject.com.

TIME Law

Civil Libertarians Say Expelling Oklahoma Frat Students May Be Illegal

Free speech at issue

The University of Oklahoma’s decision Tuesday to expel two students who played “a leadership role” in singing a racist chant that went viral after it was caught on video may assuage critics. But civil liberties experts say it could also be unconstitutional.

“The impulse to expel is understandable, but the decision is on constitutionally questionable ground,” said Ken Paulson, the President of the First Amendment Center and Dean of the College of Mass Communication at Middle Tennessee State University. “A public university is subject to the free speech guarantees of the First Amendment and may not punish students because they hold offensive views.”

The University of Oklahoma did not respond to multiple requests for comment Tuesday on the potential legal implications of its decision.

The video, posted online by the OU black student group Unheard, showed Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity members on a bus singing a chant that included a racial epithet, described lynching, and was explicit that people of color would never be accepted into OU’s chapter of SAE. The national Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternal organization took unusually swift action and closed the Oklahoma chapter almost as soon as the video appeared.

In a letter to the expelled students released by the university on Tuesday explaining the reason for their expulsion, University President David Boren faulted the students for creating a “hostile” environment. It seemed like a nod to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits educational institutions that receive federal funds from allowing a “hostile” environment on the basis of race to persist.

“You will be expelled because of your leadership role in leading a racist and exclusionary chant which has created a hostile educational environment for others,” Boren wrote. “If you disagree with this decision you have the right to contact the university Equal Opportunity Officer to be heard by close of business Friday, March 13, 2015.”

The letter advised the students that they could be represented by legal counsel.

“It appears the university is trying to recast free speech as conduct, characterizing it as creating a hostile educational environment,” Paulson said. “If that’s upheld, any politically incorrect statement made on campus and amplified by social media could be punished.”

MORE Racist Video Not the First Scandal for Troubled Fraternity

Private institutions like private colleges or the national Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity have wide leeway to discipline or expel students for racist speech if it violates their codes of conduct. But the University of Oklahoma is a public research university, and civil liberties groups say it should be treated as an arm of the government.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonprofit organization that focuses on civil liberties in academia set out the difference in a statement: “As a private organization, the SAE national fraternity is free to punish the chapter, as it has done. Other citizens and groups are free to refuse to associate with the fraternity members based on their expression, and students, faculty, and administrators may of course condemn it. If the expression itself is evidence of other unlawful activity, such activity may be investigated. But the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled time and time again that government institutions like the University of Oklahoma may not punish people for expression protected by the First Amendment.”

The video and Oklahoma’s response are part and parcel of a tension between freedom of speech and hostile educational environments that has been mounting in higher education for several months. Last spring, students at Smith, Rutgers and Brandeis succeeded in driving away graduation speakers who had held views students found offensive.

The university’s Student Rights and Responsibilities Code’s section on “abusive conduct” describes it as “unwelcome conduct that is sufficiently severe and pervasive that it alters the conditions of education or employment and creates an environment that a reasonable person would find intimidating, harassing or humiliating.” It also says “simple teasing, offhanded comments and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) will not amount to abusive conduct,” though it doesn’t define “extremely serious.”

“Universities are one of the primary battlegrounds for learning about free speech and understanding how to combat bigotry,” Ryan Kiesel, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Oklahoma, said in a statement that neither condoned nor condemned the expulsion. “The best antidote to hateful speech is the exercise of peaceful speech in return.”

Read next: University of Oklahama President Condemns ‘Disgraceful’ Fraternity After Racist Video

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Education

Racist Video Not the First Scandal for Troubled Fraternity

Sigma Alpha Epsilon in the spotlight again

The swift action by a national fraternity to close its University of Oklahoma chapter after video surfaced of members chanting a racial slur was just the latest controversy for the troubled men of Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

“We apologize for the unacceptable and racist behavior of the individuals in the video, and we are disgusted that any member would act in such a way,” Sigma Alpha Epsilon said in a statement early Monday after the video surfaced showing local members using a racial slur to chant that African Americans would never get into the frat. “Furthermore, we are embarrassed by this video and offer our empathy not only to anyone outside the organization who is offended but also to our brothers who come from a wide range of backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities. This type of racist behavior will not be tolerated and is not consistent with the values and morals of our fraternity.”

It’s far from the first time SAE has had to apologize, though both it and the university — whose president condemned the frat as “disgraceful” Monday — moved notably fast, even for a time when reports of sexual assault at campus frat houses have the larger community of Greek organizations sensitive to scandal. Dave Westol, a risk-management consultant for Greek organizations, says he’s noticed national fraternities have generally been quicker to close chapters in recent years. “The tolerance at universities for boys who will be boys has diminished considerably,” he says.

And SAE, by some measures, has one of the worst reputations in the country.

In 2013, Bloomberg published an investigation showing that SAE led national fraternities in the number of hazing deaths. From 2006 until December of 2013, SAE saw nine fraternity-related deaths, according to the report. One of the deaths involving a freshman at California Polytechnic State University resulted in a settlement that required SAE to publish a list of disciplinary actions taken against the fraternity by universities.

SAE’s website lists 133 health and safety incidents from 2010 until now, including three incidents already in 2015. Last month, SAE suspended one the oldest chapters with nearly 150 years of history at Furman in South Carolina for “hazing through forced alcohol consumption during bid-night activities,” according to a statement.

Founded in 1856 at the University of Alabama, SAE has 219 chapters and some 200,000 living alumni. In 2013, the national president of SAE, Bradley Cohen, announced the frat would shorten the weeks-long pledging process to a matter of hours, in an attempt to eliminate hazing. “Our insurance premiums have skyrocketed and, as a result, we are paying Lloyd’s of London the highest insurance rates in the Greek-letter world,” Cohen wrote in the statement. “Universities have been denying us the opportunity to colonize on their campus, and we have had to close 12 chapters over the past 18 months for hazing or hazing-related situations.”

The worst abuses in the Greek system at SAE and elsewhere result from a poor management structure, says Douglas Fierberg, an attorney who specializes in fraternity misconduct and won the settlement for the family of the student at California Polytechnic State University. “It’s a fundamentally flawed management system,” he says. “All chapters are basically managed by themselves. Fraternities have an extreme belief in self-management, and that means removing ability of national leaders to manage the day-to-day affairs of the chapter.”

In the statement early Monday, Cohen said he was “not only shocked and disappointed but disgusted by the outright display of racism in the video. SAE is a diverse organization, and we have zero tolerance for racism or any bad behavior.”

Read next: University of Oklahama President Condemns ‘Disgraceful’ Fraternity After Racist Video

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Military

U.S. Army Makes It Harder to Dismiss Transgender Troops

US-MILITARY-GENDER
NICHOLAS KAMM—AFP/Getty Images Transgender US Army Reseve Captain Sage Fox speaks during a conference entitled "Perspectives on Transgender Military Service from Around the Globe" organized by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Palm Center in Washington on October 20, 2014. Transgender military personnel from 18 countries who allow them to serve openly, gathered to talk about their experiences and discuss whether the US military could join them. After Separtating from the military as a man, Fox legally changed her gender, and was invited to join the reserves as a woman. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

As a larger change in policy to accept openly transgender troops looms

The U.S. Army just got one step closer to allowing transgender soldiers to serve openly.

The army announced Friday that it will elevate the authority to discharge transgender soldiers from local unit commanders to the Assistant Secretary of the Army, USA Today reports, a move that would make it more difficult for transgender soldiers to be discharged because of their gender identity. The move looks similar to actions taken in the final months of the Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell policy that prohibited gay soldiers from serving openly, according to a SPARTA, an organization of LGBT people who serve or have served in the U.S. military.

The army’s decision has no bearing on the other service branches such as the Navy and the Air Force.

“Today’s action by the Army helps over 6,000 transgender soldiers serving in silence” Allyson Robinson, a former Army captain and SPARTA Director of Policy, said in a statement. “While transgender service members welcome this step, they recognize it is only a stopgap measure aimed at making a failing policy fail less. What they and their commanders need is a comprehensive, Department-level policy review.”

The announcement came on the same day that a court ordered the Army to refer to Chelsea Manning, the convicted national security leaker, as a woman. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter recently made comments suggesting that the U.S. military was becoming increasingly open to the prospect of transgender service. “I’m very open-minded about [it] provided they can do what we need them to do for us,” he said, “And I don’t think anything but their suitability for service should preclude them.”

Changing the policy will require an official review by the Department of Defense.

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