Columbia University employees should be careful about the pronouns they use, as intentionally employing incorrect pronouns is considered a violation of the study house’s non-discrimination policy, according to a video posted on the college’s official YouTube channel.
The video, titled “Why Pronouns Matter,” which lasts nearly two minutes, says that “research shows that using someone’s correct pronouns has a big impact on their mental health and well-being.”
“While many use she/her and he/him pronouns a growing number are using other pronouns like they/them xe/xem ze/hir per/pers and ey/em,” says one of the voiceovers at the beginning of the video.
“You can’t know a person’s gender by just looking at them. Asking for and using correct pronouns is a way to respect those around you and create an inclusive environment,” the clip continues, to then explain that “intentionally misgendering someone by refusing to use the correct pronouns or name is a violation of the Columbia university non-discrimination policy.”
A fireable offense
Columbia University’s Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Policies and Procedures state that a violation of the nondiscrimination policy can have different penalties ranging from a formal reprimand or warning to eventual loss of employment.
“Discipline may include, but is not limited to: reprimand/warning, change of the Respondent’s job duties, disciplinary probation, revocation of honors and awards, restricted access to University facilities or activities, a ‘no-contact’ order, relocation of a Respondent’s University-provided residence, relocation of Respondent’s workplace/station, demotion, administrative leave with or without pay, suspension with or without pay, unpaid leave, and dismissal or restriction from University employment. The University may also require training or educational intervention,” the policy reads.
In this case, the occasional use of an incorrect pronoun is not considered discrimination, but if the misuse becomes repeated and intentional, the faculty considers it a violation of its policies.
The university advises staff to learn students’ pronouns to avoid misusing them on its website: “it is important to keep the student’s experience in mind, because you don’t want to inadvertently refer to someone by the wrong gender; even unintentional errors can create challenges for students in the learning environment. Be cognizant of the pronouns a student uses and always try to use them.”
Fox News, one of the media outlets that provided coverage of the video released by Columbia University, spoke with Cherise Trump, executive director of Speech First, who mentioned that what the New York house of learning is doing is a potential First Amendment violation, but will likely not suffer consequences because it is a private university.
“Mandating the use of pronouns is a form of compelled speech and a violation of students’ First Amendment rights. However, Columbia University is a private institution and therefore, not beholden to the Constitution in the same ways public universities are,” Trump explained. “This is why it is vital that students and parents do their research and strongly consider the pros and cons of private vs. public schools when selecting which one to attend and spend thousands of dollars on.”