He, she, ze ‘pronoun etiquette’ addressed at university level

He, she, ze ‘pronoun etiquette’ addressed at university level

Vanderbilt University’s campaign to support transgender individuals by encouraging use of proper “pronoun etiquette” has been characterized by a law professor at the Nashville university as the latest manifestation of an intolerant, secularist agenda prevalent in higher education.

“Political correctness, multiculturalism and the redefinition of the pronouns are a form of cultural Marxism,” said Carol Swain, professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt. “It’s part of an aggressive agenda to destroy Western traditions, values and norms. Across America and on the Vanderbilt campus, a small minority wields enormous power when it comes to implementing their agendas for societal change.

“The only acceptable religions” at universities like Vanderbilt “are ones that pose no threat to the godless secularism the university advances as enlightened truth.”

‘What should I call you?’

As students returned this fall, the private university’s Faculty Senate Gender Inclusivity Task Force placed posters on campus with the heading “What should I call you?” They urged faculty and students to share with one another in personal introductions and email signatures whether their preferred pronouns are he/him/his, she/her/hers or a gender-neutral option like ze/zir/zirs, according to an image of the posters posted online by the conservative publication The Daily Caller.

A 5,000-word blog post by Vanderbilt’s Center for Teaching cites “the need to establish university-wide best practices for respecting gender identity and expression” and includes a link to a “pronoun etiquette sheet.” The post references “long-standing misconceptions of gender as a binary construct” and states, “Biological sex is assigned at birth by a medical practitioner.”

The university suggests professors give students an opportunity to state their preferred pronouns on the first day of class and urges instructors to correct pronoun misuse during class sessions.

UA harassment policy

At the University of Alabama (UA), some policies are in place that include explicit language to protect transgender individuals, according to The Crimson White, the school’s newspaper. UA’s harassment policy says it protects against “illegal harassment based on race, color, religion, ethnicity, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability, or veteran status” and was recently updated to include the terms “gender identity” and “gender expression.”

According to Campus Pride Trans Policy Clearinghouse, nearly 1,000 colleges and universities have adopted nondiscrimination policies that include gender identity and gender expression.

In Fall 2015, UA faculty and staff participated in a two-day conference held at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) campus focused on cultural competency, according to UAB director of student health and wellness Jacob Baggot.

Social, medical support

The training focused on social and medical support for transgender students but also touched on guidelines for referring to a student by their chosen name and pronoun, according to Baggot.

At Auburn University, the latest published nondiscrimination policy from September 2014 includes the words “race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, sexual orientation or disability” but does not include the term “gender identity.”

Vanderbilt’s Swain said the university “is advancing a dangerous political agenda that creates an unhealthy learning and teaching environment for students and faculty who disagree with its new direction.

“It is an unhealthy agenda because it seeks to squelch free speech and any ideas that run counter to its worldview. The indoctrination process for students begins as soon as they set foot on the campus,” she said.

While the use of pronouns to advance a pro-transgender agenda is relatively new — the University of Vermont in Burlington established a chosen-pronoun option in its database in 2009 — the debate over gender-neutral pronouns is not.

A blog post by Oxford University Press stated, “Wordsmiths have been coining gender-neutral pronouns for a century and a half, all to no avail. Coiners of these new words insist that the gender-neutral pronoun is indispensable, but users of English stalwartly reject, ridicule or just ignore their proposals.”

Paul Smith, associate professor of Old Testament studies at the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Gateway Seminary in Mill Valley, California, suggested the original Hebrew language of the Old Testament as an instructive parallel for those wondering whether a gender-neutral pronoun is needed in English.

“Pronouns in Hebrew are only masculine or feminine with no other options,” Smith said. “Gender identity and gender roles are part of God’s plan for creation, not a result of the fall,” said Smith, pastor of First Baptist Church, Chandler, Arizona, and vice president of the SBC Pastors Conference. “Any deviation from this plan is a result of the fall and therefore a violation of God’s design and order.” (BP, TAB)