Is there another Y2K on the horizon?

Oregon goes “non-binary”.


Let’s connect a couple of dots today …

First, the White House recently announced  that it would eliminate dozens of paperwork requirements for federal agencies.

Included was an obscure rule that requires agencies to continue providing updates on their preparedness for a bug that afflicted many computer systems when the calendar turned on January 1, 2000 – more than 16 years ago.

Tech note: In the 1900’s, to save tape and disk space, most computer programs coded years in 2-digits, e.g. ‘1988’= ’88’.

But, coding ‘2000’ as ‘00’ would cause many problems since computers would think the ‘00’ would mean 1900, e.g  a baby born on January 1, 2000 would be 100 years old at birth.

Date-dependent programs were affected, and the fixes were both costly and time-consuming. But, the job got done!



Seven of the 50 paperwork requirements that were eliminated dealt with the Y2K bug.

OMB estimates that the changes could save tens of thousands of man-hours across the federal government.


The second story comes from the state of Oregon:


Oregon became the first state to allow residents to identify as “nonbinary,” neither male nor female, on their driver licenses and identification cards.Beginning July 1, Oregonians will be able to choose “X” for sex Instead of “F” or “M” on their licenses and identification cards.

Most Oregonians favored the change.


So, what’s the problem?


A friend of mine works with university administrations … specifically CFOs and CIOs.

He has been appointed to a committee to recommend what universities should do to handle non-M/F coding of sexes.

It’s more complicated than just allowing an ‘X’ in the box.

For example, there are systems in place to handle the administration of Title IX.

Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 is a federal law that states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Here’s what my friend is dealing with:

How should universities count the Xs?

Should they be counted as Ms or Fs for reporting purposes … or, do they constitute an entirely  new group?

If a new group, what rights and protection should be awarded to them?


Should the X group be further divided

According to my buddy, his committee has already identified more than 50 sub-groups.


Should a student be able to manage disclosure of their self-classification?

For example, some ‘X’ students don’t want their parents knowing that they (the students) are uncomfortable being classified M or F.  Should students be allowed to specify selective disclosure of their sex declaration?


Should students be able to self-declare other demographic variables, e.g. race?

Again, what are the implications for system changes and university policies?


Bottom line: This non-binary coding makes sense … but has the potential to be another Y2K.



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One Response to “Is there another Y2K on the horizon?”

  1. John Milnes Baker Says:

    Government jobs in federal agencies might be cut but I think that there will be a need for a lot more psychiatrists in the coming years. As long as they’re not on the government payroll it might be an open field for young people who don’t know what they want to be when they grow up.

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