Profs advised to avoid 'microinequities' in class

Amber Athey
Investigative Reporter

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  • Two universities are offering faculty guides advising professors to “challenge the gender binary” and avoid “microinequities” in the interest of making classrooms gender inclusive.
  • Carnegie Mellon University wants professors to avoid "micrinequities," such as calling on female students less often than males.
  • Cal State-Northridge, meanwhile, is urging faculty to steer clear of the "gender binary" by encouraging students to use "gender-neutral" pronouns.
  • Two universities are offering faculty guides advising professors to “challenge the gender binary” and avoid “microinequities” in the interest of making classrooms gender inclusive.

    Carnegie Mellon University, for one, has produced a guide for creating an inclusive learning environment warning professors that using gendered language, forgetting student names, or other “small unconscious behaviors” in class can make women and minority students feel that they are not valued.

    “The reference to only women and men in the classroom can be misleading, unwelcoming, and discouraging.”   

    To combat the threat of being non-inclusive, professors are told to steer clear of “microinequities,” which are defined as “small unconscious behaviors...that certain groups experience repeatedly.”

    [RELATED: UWM says ‘politically correct’ is no longer politically correct]

    Using examples from a 1982 study, the guide explains how women can be disheartened by the harrowing microinequities, explaining that “women report that instructors tend to interrupt them more often than men, ignore them more often, call on them less often, ask them more recall questions and less analytical questions, acknowledge their contributions less, and build on their answers less.”

    Over time, the guide alleges, these microinequities can “add up” and make students both less productive and less willing to contribute in class.

    California State University, Northridge, meanwhile, has a faculty guide that focuses on making classrooms inclusive for transgender students.

    “Establish guidelines that the classroom will be set in a respectful environment where everyone can participate without fear or hesitation,” the recommendations begin. “Everyone should be referred to by their chosen name and chosen pronoun.”

    Instead of calling roll, for example, professors should instead pass around an attendance sheet or allow students to introduce themselves, being aware that students may choose such pronouns as “they/them/their” or “zee/hir/hir.”

    Using gender-neutral pronouns is just one step to make the classroom trans-inclusive, but CSUN says professors should go a step further and “challenge the gender binary” because it can be “misleading, unwelcoming, and discouraging.”

    [RELATED: U of Nebraska guide says 'gender binary' is 'oppressive']

    “There are many CSUN students, who identify outside of the gender binary of woman/man. Students may identify as genderqueer, genderfluid, or a number of gender identities,” CSUN says. “The reference to only women and men in the classroom can be misleading, unwelcoming, and discouraging to students.”

    To make the classroom a safe space for all students, professors can say “individuals of all gender identities” rather than “ladies and gentlemen,” and can say “partner” as opposed to “husband/wife.”

    CSUN also advises that transgender issues also be included on class syllabi, noting that trans issues “can be found in housing, healthcare, employment, criminal justice, education, public benefits, and legal protection.”

    Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @amber_athey



    Amber Athey

    Amber Athey

    Investigative Reporter

    Amber Athey is an Investigative Reporter for Campus Reform. She graduated from Georgetown University with a B.A. in Government and Economics, and is currently a member of the 2016-2017 Koch Associate Program. 

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