EXCLUSIVE: 'Action could be taken' against students using wrong pronouns at PPU

Point Park University students recently received an email outlining the school's anti-discrimination policy, which states that 'action could be taken' if a complaint around 'misgendering' or 'pronoun misuse' is filed.

Multiple students told 'Campus Reform' they disagreed with the policy, which references the student-made 'Pronouns and Inclusive Language Guide.'

On September 13, the Office of Equity and Inclusion notified the student body of Point Park University (PPU) that “action could be taken” against individuals who do not use their classmates’ preferred pronouns. 

Campus Reform obtained a copy of the email.

The university’s Misgendering, Pronoun Misuse, and Deadnaming Policy states that “any individual who has been informed of another person’s gender identity, pronouns, or chosen name is expected to respect that individual.” If a complaint is filed regarding this policy, “action could be taken,” the email reads. 

”While the University recognizes the aspect of intent versus impact, we must recognize that regardless of the intent, if an individual is impacted in a harmful way, action could be taken if a complaint is filed,” the email states.

The email served to notify students on the university’s anti-discrimination policy for the 2021-2022 academic year. 

“The Office of Equity and Inclusion would like to welcome in the 2021-2022 academic year with information on current policies that exist through our office and information regarding the Preferred Name Policy, instances of misgendering, pronoun misuse, and deadnaming (the use of a person’s legal “dead” name instead of using the person’s chosen or preferred name), as well as resources on microaggressions and additional training,” the opening of the email reads. 

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The Preferred Name Policy allows a student or faculty member to use their preferred name when a legal name is not required. 

Additionally, the email linked to the Pronouns and Inclusive Language Guide, which was created by a former student. The guide explains the importance of using “gender inclusive language” to avoid causing “trans and gender non-conforming folks to feel isolated.” 

The guide also suggests changing “boyfriend/girlfriend” to “partner,” “ladies and gentlemen” to “students and guests,” “he or she” to “they,” etc. 

Louis Corsaro, Point Park University’s managing director of university marketing and public relations, told Campus Reform, “Point Park University expects every member of its community - students, faculty and staff - to treat each other with respect.”

The exact nature of the “action” that might be taken is still less than certain. 

Point Park University’s Student Government President Dennis McDermott said he did not know the “exact details of the policy.”

“I would imagine any violation (in this case misgendering, misuse of pronouns, or incorrectly using someone’s deadname when you are aware of their preferred name and pronouns) would result in a similar action to any act of discrimination against students on campus” McDermott told Campus Reform. 

McDermott also provided a statement directed to students who “do not believe in these rights covered under [the] non-discrimination policy.”

He said, “I, of course, respect the beliefs of others and their right to express those beliefs, but those beliefs, no matter what they are, cannot impede or harm the rights of others, in this case the right of a student to be respected in their use of their preferred name and pronouns.”

To conclude, McDermott adds, “This is a fundamental belief not only I and Point Park University share (imagine that), but also the United States Constitution asserts.”

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Not everyone at Park Point University, however, shares those beliefs. 

Caitlin Wiscombe, a student, told Campus Reform that her sense of choice is not being respected regarding the implementation of these policies. 

“I understand what the university is trying to do, to be more inclusive and make those people feel more involved and maybe less separated and more respected, but by asking me to do this instead of just allowing students to do it themselves is making me feel uncomfortable and making me feel like my choice isn’t being respected,” Wiscombe said. 

Tyler Hertwig, a sophomore and track and field athlete, does not support the university’s policies either.

“I think it’s unreasonable to expect the 99.99% to compromise for the 0.01%,”  Hertwig told Campus Reform. 

“We live in a place where we have the opportunity to meet at least one person a day if we choose to give them our time,” he continued. “Out of the thousands  of people you’ve met in your life, how many times have you asked for their gender versus how many times you’ve asked for their name?”

“To expect people to completely rewire how they interact with others is nuts. All for what, that 1 in 50 million chance of them possibly running into someone that’s ‘not’ a male or female,” Hertwig concluded. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @logandubil