NASHVILLE – A private university in Tennessee that was founded by the Methodist Church will soon begin covering transgender-related surgeries under its student insurance plans, drawing sharp criticism from a local congresswoman.
Vanderbilt University is a private school in Nashville, Tennessee. For the first 40 years of its existence, Vanderbilt was under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. However, the school and the church severed their ties with each other in 1914.
According to a report from Vanderbilt’s student newspaper, the school will soon begin covering transgender-related surgeries under the student insurance plan. Medical documentation obtained by Christian News Network shows that the operations will be covered just like “any other eligible service” once the policy goes into effect at the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year, meaning students will not have to pay for the surgeries out of pocket.
Over 70 colleges and universities across the U.S. currently provide similar services to their students. Evidently, a small number of activists at Vanderbilt convinced university officials to include sex-change surgeries in the insurance plan.
“The change was proposed by Dr. Louise Hanson, director of the Vanderbilt student health center, after she met with several student patients who wanted to pursue the operations but couldn’t afford them,” the student newspaper’s report said.
Hanson said she was upset that some students could not afford sex-change surgeries and urged the university to finance the operations.
“It came out of feeling limited in our ability to take full and complete care of our transgender students,” Hanson told The Tennessean. “It really came out of our frustration.”
Cynthia Cyrus, vice provost for learning and residential affairs at Vanderbilt, was part of the committee that considered Hanson’s proposal. She said they swiftly approved the proposition without much deliberation.
“It was relatively non-controversial on our side,” Cyrus said, according to reports. “It was maybe a two-paragraph conversation, not deeply debated in any way.”
Although university officials are downplaying the controversial nature of the policy change, at least one local lawmaker is criticizing the school’s decision. In a statement on her website, U.S. Representative Diane Black said the move lacks common sense.
“Let’s be honest, this decision is not about the health and wellbeing of Vanderbilt University students, it is about the political agenda of liberal university administrators,” said Black, who represents Tennessee’s 6th Congressional District. “Our institutions of higher learning exist to graduate students who are career ready and are prepared to compete in the global economy, not to play politics by providing insurance coverage of medically unnecessary procedures while raking in federal grants.”
“With this stunt, Vanderbilt University has shown itself to be completely out of touch with the values of most Tennesseans, and has surely alienated more than a few students, parents, and donors,” she continued. “I’m especially concerned that, by the university’s own admission, this decision was ‘not deeply debated in any way’—showing just how little thought went in to such a far-reaching policy. For all the advanced degrees that exist among Vanderbilt University’s senior administration, there is a painfully obvious lack of commonsense.”