Harvard University, the oldest institution of higher learning in America, has announced it will be adding gender identity to its non-discrimination policy, safeguarding transgender students and faculty.

“Harvard’s step forward will ensure that its students and staff continue to represent some of the best this country has to offer,” said Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese.

“Colleges and universities are increasingly aware that to attract the best and the brightest, they need to ensure equal treatment regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. By ensuring protection for all students and staff, Harvard is continuing its centuries-long tradition of advancing understanding and nurturing national leaders.”

On U.S. News and World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges 2006,” Harvard ranks first. Harvard’s inclusion of gender identity means that half of the Ivy League schools now have gender identity in their non-discrimination policies, which includes Brown, Cornell University and University of Pennsylvania.

“Not only does this send a signal to students and staff, but it also aligns the university with the workplaces many of these students will join after graduation,” added Mr Solmonese. “Just 15 minutes away, Raytheon’s employees have had the same protections for the last year that Harvard’s students and staff secured this week. Corporate America is leading the way when it comes to gender identity protections and institutions of higher learning are smart to keep up.”

In July 2005, Raytheon, a Massachusetts-based Fortune 500 company, became the first aerospace and defence giant to add gender identity to its equal employment policy. In 1997 only one Fortune 500 company protected transgender employees. Today, 82 ensure equal protection on the job.

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