LGBTQ+ students push for preferred pronouns in Chattanooga

Students at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga have created a petition requesting that the university respect the gender preferred names of students.

The petition from Spectrum, a student-led LGBTQ+ organization at UTC, “ Respect Preferred Names for UT Chattanooga Students,” requests that the university respect the “right” of students to self-identify and not use gender specific terms to refer to students.

“We believe that the most basic level of self-identity is the ability to self-identify,” the petition states. “Through over a hundred years of UT Chattanooga history, this fundamental personal liberty has not been afforded to students who are transgender and gender-nonconforming. In order to create an affirming, inclusive and wholesome learning environment for ALL students at UT Chattanooga, we believe that the needs of our community should be meaningfully and immediately addressed.”

According to the petition, students “wish” for a UTC campus “where no more students will have to suffer a professor who disregards their name and gender identity.”

The petition pushes for changes to policies that include student’s first names, Spectrum president, Jefferson Hodge, said in a statement to Campus Reform.

“These policies often include first names for students on class rosters and student emails,” Hodge said. “Students in our organization have often experienced professors, advisors, and peers who have not respected a verbal indication of a preferred name. This occurs even when other cis-gender students are allowed to use nicknames. That is discriminatory.”

According to the petition, the student organization believes that every student has a “right” to determine their own pronoun.

“The ability to use a preferred name is a matter of safety and respect,” he told Campus Reform. “It is also a matter of the freedom of the individual to determine how they are identified on campus and in the classroom.”

Hodge pointed to Vanderbilt University, which offers two options for students wishing to change their names in university systems.

“They certainly have more flexibility at Vanderbilt,” Chuck Cantrell, a UTC spokesperson, told Campus Reform. “We are a publicly funded university, [and] they are private. So they could have more flexibility on this issue. But we are willing to move forward to be as accommodating as possible to all students.”

Cantrell said that if the petition was to become policy, “professors would have to abide by the university’s policy.”

At time of publication, the petition had more 110 signatures.

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