Suffolk County Community College will send its Sharks men’s baseball team the National Junior College Athletic Association Championship after determining the school is not covered by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s ban on state travel to North Carolina over its transgender bathroom law.
The college’s board of trustees voted unanimously to authorize the team’s trip to the Division III national championship in Kinston, North Carolina, from May 28 to June 2 after consulting with the governor’s office Wednesday.
College officials say Cuomo’s ban is not applicable to Suffolk because it is not a New York State-operated campus of SUNY, like four-year schools such as Stony Brook University. They say the school’s sponsor is the Suffolk County government, not the state. In addition, they said that ban does not apply because the team’s trip would not be funded by state tax money, but rather a student activities fee that goes to a college association that runs and pays for student clubs and sport programs.
Dani Lever, a Cuomo spokeswoman, said the college is not covered by the executive order “since they are not subject to state or SUNY oversight.”
“There was some general concern because the team has such a good season and we are all about giving students opportunity,” said Christopher Adams, vice president of student affairs, adding, “We’re all opposed to the [North Carolina] ban and all for diversity and inclusion.”
He said the Sharks were champions of the junior college association’s Region XV, which takes in community colleges in downstate New York. He added that two other state community college baseball teams — from Herkimer and Niagara — also qualified for the championship.
The issue arose after Cuomo in late March signed an executive order banning all travel to North Carolina by state agencies, departments, boards and commissioners that is not essential to the enforcement of state law or public health or safety.
Cuomo issued the ban after the North Carolina legislature passed a law barring transgender individuals from using restrooms appropriate to their gender identities. “As long as there is a law in North Carolina that creates grounds for discrimination against LGBT people, I am barring non-essential state travel to that state,” Cuomo said.
Adams said the college has no formal campus policy in place yet, but a task force was formed to deal with the issue and students are free to use a bathroom appropriate for their gender identity. He also said the college intends to set up at least one gender-neutral bathroom on the Selden, Brentwood and East End campus for students seeking privacy.