App State requests gender-inclusivity disclaimer on papers

Appalachian State University’s Writing Center now advises students to include disclaimers on academic papers indicating that they are using gender-neutral pronouns in an effort “to be inclusive.”

According to a guide on “Inclusive Language and Gender Neutral Pronoun Use,” the pronoun “they” has become an acceptable, and even appropriate, alternative to “he or she” under the American Dialect Society’s standards, a move App State’s Writing Center praised as “a language change in line with social progress.”

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“You often see writing that uses ‘he/she’ or ‘he or she’ when the author is unsure of gender, but that still leaves out those who identify with a gender other than male/female,” the guide elaborates, calling “they” an “acceptable third person solution to allow all readers to feel included in what you have written, regardless of their gender identity or personal pronouns.”

Accordingly, the guide offers two suggestions for making sentences “all gender-inclusive,” the first being to “rephrase” statements in such a way that makes “the subject plural” so that the “subsequent pronouns are too,” providing a switch from “a student” to “students” as an example.

The second suggestion, though, recommends changing the pronouns “he or she” to “they,” explaining that sentences such as: “If a student comes to the university writing center, a consultant must work with him or her,” would actually be more appropriately phrased as: “If a student comes to the university writing center a consultant must work with them.”

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If a student elects to utilize the second option, “they” is advised to include a disclaimer on the bottom of assignments informing the instructor that “This paper uses ‘they’ as a singular third-person pronoun to be inclusive of all genders.”

Director of University Communications Megan Hayes informed Campus Reform that the guide is just “one resource provided by Appalachian to assist students with their academic success,” and merely “offers one suggested practice to assist students in this regard.”

Hayes also noted that professors would not necessarily be expected to uphold the standards laid out in the guide, saying the school “has no university-wide practice or policy related to penalizing students for grammar use.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AGockowski