Harvard University has become the latest and certainly the most notable American university to hop on the bandwagon of letting students choose personalized pronouns for themselves.
As reported by The Harvard Crimson, the online registration tool for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) now includes a page where students can input not only their chosen gender but also the specific pronoun they wish to go by. Besides traditional pronoun sets like “she, her, hers,” students can also choose options like “they, them, theirs” (referring to a single person) and “ze, hir, hirs.”
FAS registrar Michael Burke told the Crimson the shift had been discussed for years, with the school finally deciding to put it into practice for 2015 in order to “make students feel more comfortable with their gender identity.” The school collaborated with the Harvard Trans* Task Force to create the new policy.
“It’s important when you are writing emails or referring a student to another person in the College, you want to do it the right way,” he said, comparing it to letting students have a preferred nickname rather than going by their legal name.
One student at Harvard praised the move, saying it made things much easier for students who aren’t satisfied with regular pronouns.
“Before, folks really had to have a personal conversation of pronouns that they prefer,” senior Joshua Blecher-Cohen told the Crimson. “Often times in classes there was no space on the first day of class for folks to make that clear, and so this standardizes it across the board.” Another student said they believed the policy would cut down on “awkward conversations” with professors who “misgender” students.
Custom pronouns are a popular trend among young people who say they fall outside the traditional “gender binary.” Last week, the University of Tennessee made a post online instructing students to open conversations and discussions by asking for the preferred pronouns of others, in order to avoid causing any offense. (RELATED: Orwell’s Newspeak Is Coming To A Campus Near You)
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