CUNY to teachers: Stop calling students ‘Mr.’ or ‘Ms.’
To avoid gender discrimination, school staffers at the City University of New York were recently urged to cease using “Mr.” and “Ms.” when addressing their students.
An internal memo circulated by administrators to faculty at the university’s Graduate Center described the new policy as part of an “ongoing effort to ensure a respectful, welcoming and gender-inclusive environment,” as reported by the Wall Street Journal.
"I don’t use ‘Mr.’ or ‘Mrs.’ anyway. What’s anyone’s marital status got to do with how we address them? Why should women have to say whether they’re married or not?"
According to interim Provost Louise Lennihan, who signed the memo, eliminating the “gendered salutations” will better “accommodate properly the diverse population of current and prospective students.
Instead of using gendered titles, Lennihan encouraged staff members to begin addressing students by first and last name only.
CUNY spokeswoman Tanya Domi said the policy is part of the university’s effort to “comply with Title IX legal principles,” referencing the 1972 federal law that prohibits gender-based discrimination in higher education.
While Title IX’s purpose is to shield individuals from gender-based discrimination, no portion of the law itself requires the use of gender-neutral titles.
“I love the concept, but they are not mandated to do this,” Saundra Schuster, an attorney and advisory board member for the Association of Title IX Administrators, told the Journal.
Claire Bishop, a professor of art history at CUNY, embraced the new policy for reasons apart from its original purpose.
“I don’t use ‘Mr.’ or ‘Mrs.’ anyway. What’s anyone’s marital status got to do with how we address them? Why should women have to say whether they’re married or not?” asked Bishop, adding that “[t]hat’s increasingly something that our society has got to take into account.”
The New York Daily News objected to the policy in an editorial Wednesday, describing CUNY’s decision to “extinguish discrimination by rewiring the English language” as “no business for a university to ply.”
“Prefixes that have stood the test of time are suddenly forbidden because someone might feel oppressed receiving an envelope addressed to the former Mr. John Smith, now Ms. Jane Smith,” wrote the editorial board.
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