Why this university is asking everyone to please stop using the words 'he' and 'she'
In an effort to embrace gender fluidity and put a premium on inclusivity, the Daily Mail UK reports that the University of Tennessee, Knoxville recently sent around a memo to its staff and students asking them to no longer use the gender binary pronouns “he” and “she” around campus. Instead, the university put forth a set of gender neutral pronouns that the community could use that would make the environment feel “welcoming and inclusive for all.” Below, the conversion table the administration sent out:
“These may sound a little funny at first, but only because they are new,” the university explains on the website. “The she and he pronouns would sound strange too if we had been taught ze when growing up.”
In addition to providing a conversion table, the university also outlines practices the community can adopt while adjusting to the transition of using gender-neutral language.
“In the first weeks of classes, instead of calling roll, ask everyone to provide their name and pronouns. This ensures you are not singling out transgender or non-binary students. The name a student uses may not be the one on the official roster, and the roster name may not be the same gender as the one the student now uses.
This practice works outside of the classroom as well. You can start meetings with requesting introductions that include names and pronouns, introduce yourself with your name and chosen pronouns, or when providing nametags, ask attendees to write in their name and pronouns.”
Later on in the memo, the university emphasizes why it’s so important for the community to support this transition.
“The more we make sharing of pronouns a universal practice, the more inclusive we will be as a campus. When our organizational culture shifts to where asking for chosen names and pronouns is the standard practice, it alleviates a heavy burden for persons already marginalized by their gender expression or identity.”
The university later clarified in a statement that “There is no mandate or official policy to use the language. The information provided in our Office of Diversity and Inclusion newsletter was offered as a resource to our campus community on inclusive practices. We recognize that most people prefer to use the pronouns he and she; we do not dictate speech. We do strive to be a diverse and inclusive campus and to ensure that everyone feels welcome, accepted, and respected.”
Image via University of Tennessee Knoxville