American University Moves to Mandate Use of ‘Preferred Pronouns’

American University in Washington, DC, is moving toward making the use of non-binary, preferred pronouns mandatory for faculty when addressing students.
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American University in Washington, DC, is moving toward making the use of non-binary, preferred pronouns mandatory for faculty when addressing students.

The university’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion asks faculty to address students by their “chosen name and pronouns” so as to make gender non-conforming students feel welcome, according to the attentive folks at the College Fix.

The school’s pronoun guide instructs community members to ask others what pronouns they use to describe themselves and to then adopt those pronouns when speaking to or about them.

Nonbinary pronouns “are often used by trans, genderqueer, and gender-nonconforming people,” the guide states. It also explains the pronunciation and conjugations of “Ze,” “Ey” “Per” and “Them” while telling readers to “never argue with or question a person’s gender identity of pronouns.”

The guide also warns the community not to assume that “she/her/hers” are female pronouns, or that “he/him/his” are male.

Even the use of the term “preferred pronouns” is discouraged by the guide, since it can be considered demeaning.

“Many people find the use of ‘preferred’ to describe names and pronouns insulting,” the guide declares. “It is not someone’s ‘preferred’ pronouns, but the pronouns that they use.”

While the university does not have a punishment policy for those who use pronouns incorrectly, offenders can be investigated for failure to respect gender identity through the school’s bias reporting system, the College Fix notes.

The practice of “asking, sharing, and respecting personal pronouns is commonplace on our campus,” said Robin Adams, the Center’s director of educational programs and training, adding that it is in line with the university’s identity and is “basic to human dignity.”

While the guide is “just best-practice” for the moment, said Anna Morrison, coordinator for LGBTQ+ support and diversity programs, “we are currently working on a chosen-name policy for the university and I would like to make this official policy to use [a] student’s chosen name and pronouns.”

American University defines “bias” as “the personal, unreasoned judgment or attitude that inclines an individual to treat someone negatively because of their real or perceived” characteristics, such as “gender identity.”

Failing to use an individual’s preferred name or pronouns may qualify as “bias” under the school’s policy against bias.

Bias-related acts include “degrading language,” “name calling,” and “stereotypes,” which could be include a refusal to address an individual by their chosen name or pronouns, the College Fix said.

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