WDI’s Response to Abbott Directive

By: wdi_admin
May 06, 2022

To Our Community,

We see you.
We hear you.
It’s not okay and we will not stay silent in advocating for our community. 

The Women’s Debate Institute mission is to advocate for and facilitate a more gender-inclusive environment that advances educational and professional opportunities for marginalized gender identities in the debate community. After two years of exclusive virtual programming going into this summer, we are very excited to bring programming to our students and to deepen our sense of community in person. For years we had discussed finding a new home for the camp. After countless community members’ input, significant scouting and site visits we selected a site located right outside of Dallas, Texas. While our excitement for the opportunities for programming and natural wonders this new space will provide, we have found our joy greatly undermined these past few weeks by Texas Governor Gregg Abbott’s directive to Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate reports of instances of Texas children being subjected to abusive gender-transitioning procedures. 

While this directive is not a law, fairly limited in scope and applicability and is actively being litigated, we would be remiss if we did not take this moment to speak with and to our community about how this directive is in the opposite direction of our values and mission. Plain and simple, it’s transphobic and it’s not right. The Women’s Debate Institute is deeply reviewing its summer programming site and considering a wide range of issues from multiple stakeholders (board members, alumni, non cis alum, staff, legal professionals, educators). Some of the critical issues that have emerged over the past three weeks’ conversations include:

-Legal enforceability and scope of the directive-Student and staff safety

-Mission and cultural fit

-Mandatory reporting

-Budgetary challenges and logistics concerns

-Site and WDI personnel training

-Directly challenging transphobia of directive-like sentiments

Make no mistake: the location of the camp is one of the highest priorities and choosing any location is done with the input of so many folks in our community. WDI is enmeshed in a difficult and complex decision making process about what to do given this directive. Figuring out our capacity, standing in our values and programming from a place of inclusivity and communal care is of the utmost importance. As you can imagine, coming to a decision is neither simple nor happens overnight, but we are committed to our mission and to ensuring to the best of our ability that all those who come to camp feel welcome and safe.

We have set an internal deadline and hope to share with the larger community the outcome of deliberations on site location and how we plan to support students/staff in the face of this directive by mid May.

The Women’s Debate Institute Board

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