A form given to Elon 101 instructors about proper pronoun usage, which provides guidelines for professors so they can be more inclusive in classrooms, discourages them from taking roll out loud and using gendered phrases like, "You guys."

"If you read names off the roster like 'Stephen' and suddenly a student raises her hand and says, 'It's Stephanie,' then you might have unintentionally outed a trans student to the entire class," the form reads.

The sheet reflects how Elon University and the Gender & LGBTQIA Center (GLC) are making efforts to be inclusive to all students.

Brooke Barnett, associate provost for Inclusive Community and professor of communications, said pronouns are helpful in making sure all students are treated respectfully.

"Elon includes pronouns and correct names on class rosters because we want to make sure we address students accurately," Barnett said. "We believe it is common courtesy and a sign of respect to call a person by their correct name and with a pronoun that matches their gender identity."

The fight to strike a balance between inclusivity and hypersensitivity has been a prevalent area of debate on college campuses, and Elon has proven to be no exception.

Michael Skube, associate professor of communications and former Elon 101 professor, described his initial reaction to the form in just two words: "Beyond parody."

"We either believe in free speech or we don't," Skube said. "But we should decide. We can't honor it in the abstract and deny it in concrete reality."

Though the GLC was unavailable for comment, Barnett said the GLC provided a short training to Elon 101 professors about pronouns and shared the handout. She said the form was designed to raise awareness about pronouns.

"The handout was a way to provide some context on gender identity to instructors and answer questions that the GLC often receives," Barnett said in an email. "It is in no way a limit to speech, but rather an effort to help create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all students."

Sophomore Amy Belfer, Resident Assistant of the Gender and Sexuality LLC and the Hall for Change, said conversations about gender pronouns started to gain traction after the passage of House Bill 2, a bill passed by the state legislature that, among many things, requires people to use restrooms of the sex on their birth certificate. 

The bill received much backlash at Elon and motivated students like Belfer to make it clear Elon was truly inclusive.

Shortly thereafter, conversations about gender pronoun usage turned into action. 

Incoming freshmen were instructed to provide their preferred pronouns throughout New Student Orientation. For example, someone might have said something along the lines of, "My name is Mike and my preferred pronoun is he/him." 

"It can be really, really hurtful to someone if they're boxed into a category where they don't feel like they fit or where they don't fit," Belfer said. "If you're referring to someone by the wrong gender pronoun or the wrong gender identity, that can really damage their self-esteem. We just want to make sure that we're including everyone and accepting everyone for who they are."

Though several exercises were intended to make students feel comfortable, some questioned the necessity of using pronouns.

"I'm very politically incorrect to some extent," said freshman Keeva Schneider. "I've learned in my first three days here that it's a very politically correct place. ... We got here and it immediately was, 'Let's hear your pronouns, let's hear your name,' and it was for each class. 

"Every icebreaker I've done, I've had to do my pronouns. I think it's a good thing, but for someone who's politically incorrect most of the time, it's just a bit of an adjustment."

The form said, "The overwhelming majority of students will use gender binary pronouns." Even so, it noted there is "a growing number of students who identify as transgender, genderfluid, or non binary who use they/them or additional pronouns."


Please note All comments are eligible for publication by ENN.