Univ. of Iowa faculty encourage students to set pronouns online

Starting this fall, students at University of Iowa will be able to include their preferred names and gender pronouns in their school records.

Three years ago, the university became the first in the nation to allow students to identify as transgender on their admissions application, and is now encouraging students not to “try to figure out a way to not use pronouns,” advising that once a student knows a classmate’s pronouns, to use them, The Telegraph-Herald reports.

The university has ramped up its efforts to provide an “inclusive” campus in the past few years, even going so far as to dedicate an entire semester to promoting social justice through an art exhibit displaying offensive and racist imagery in order to bring the “consequences of injustice to light” and that the objects and images at the exhibit highlight “so much intolerance” that it would help them “see what acceptance looks like”.

[RELATED: Univ. of Iowa social justice-themed semester to feature racist art exhibit and more]

The video, which was published on the University’s YouTube channel, features a variety of campus faculty and students specifying their pronouns, and a chart including the pronouns “ze”, “zem” “zir or hir”, “zirs or hirs”.

The video also explains why it’s important to use correct names and pronouns.

“Trans identified students have to carry the burden and stress of disclosing their gender identity or risk being misnamed or misgendered,” the Assistant Director of Contracts and Assignments says.

Another student reports having to email all of their professors during their first year at the university to tell them that the name the university was given wouldn’t match up with theirs and to specify their pronouns.

Towards the middle of the video, a faculty member suggests that, in order to avoid misgendering, you can “just ask” or professors can “have students create name cards in class or meetings with their names and pronouns listed.”

Students are also told that if they “make a mistake” when deciding which pronoun to refer to someone as, to “own it, and move past it”.

The video is topped off with a message to not “make assumptions” and to help “make the University of Iowa as inclusive and affirming as possible.”

Students are then provided a link to visit in order to set their pronouns.

This year, the U.S. departments of Education and Justice jointly released guidance clarifying that transgender students are protected from discrimination under federal civil rights law known as Title IX. Iowa colleges and universities risk losing federal funding if they don't comply with requirements for transgender students, according to the guidance.

The policy change is not required under the federal guidance, but UI officials said it is a step toward making the university more open and accessible to all students, Iowa City Press-Citizen reports.

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