Students now have the option to list their pronouns on ConnectCarolina as part of a larger diversity and inclusiveness initiative, the University announced Oct. 14.
The decision gives students the opportunity to list their gender identity and pronouns. This will currently be seen only by the individual student and faculty while the University works with student groups to determine where else to list this information.
"The use of Preferred Gender/Pronoun is a small step toward inclusion on our campus and it further supports the guiding principles for the Registrar, ITS, Student Affairs and the University. This is the first step in what we hope will be many phases of improved recognition and acknowledgment of all members of our campus community," Chris Williams, student affairs IT director, said in a newsletter announcing the initiative.
Williams said the initiative has already gone live on ConnectCarolina. Students can log in to their ConnectCarolina accounts to find the option to list their pronouns.
While students can now list their pronouns, University employees will not have the same option for 12 to 18 months. But some students feel the use of the word "preferred" by the University is an improper way to describe students' pronouns.
Jo Snow, a junior English major and a transgender nonbinary person, said the decision is nothing to praise and that the University is late to the game.
“As I started to transition on campus, there was just blatant transphobia where the University really does nothing for gender-nonconforming students,” Snow said.
Snow said they are glad the information will stay private and not be publicly available, because some students are only openly out on their college campus and would not want the information to be known in their home environment.
Williams said the pronouns will not be displayed in the student directory, so the public will not have access to see students’ pronouns or gender identities. This includes proxies, such as parents or guardians, who sometimes have access to a student’s account to pay bills and do other things.
“Anytime we add it anywhere, we’re going to make sure that any student who has used the feature is aware of where we are going to put it, so they have the opportunity to say, 'I’m not comfortable with that,'” Williams told The Daily Tar Heel.
But the language used in the announcement of the decision, which used the term “preferred pronouns,” was improper, Snow said.
“What I am, and what I feel comfortable with, and what I always have been is not just something that I prefer," Snow said. “They are not preferred. They are just pronouns."
Snow said it seems like the decisions being made are not trying to create a transgender-inclusive space on campus. They said where there is acceptance and inclusivity in spaces on campus, it comes from the faculty and not the administration.
“They are false statements of solidarity in a way,” Snow said.
Maribel Carrion, ITS senior director of student administration applications, said in a statement that the use of “preferred pronouns” was used when providing students the option in order to be consistent with the other option for students to list their preferred name.
“The University welcomes any feedback and suggestions on how to better serve and represent the campus community,” Carrion said.
While this is a new feature for students, University employees currently do not have the option to list their pronouns.
Rich Arnold, the senior director of HR information management, said in a statement that the University strives for diversity and inclusion for all members in the campus community.
“Human Resources is participating in an advisory group that works with the software company that develops the PeopleSoft system used by ConnectCarolina," Arnold said. "Together, they’re working to ensure personal pronouns are an option for employees sometime in the next 12 to 18 months."
Terri Phoenix, director of the UNC LGBTQ Center, said the decision to allow students to list their pronouns came from the notion that gender expression does not always align with gender identity. The University wanted to give students the opportunity to identify their pronouns on forms, Phoenix said.
This way, the individuals who have access to the forms and databases can be respectful with the pronouns they use, Phoenix said. He said the center has been working on this for the past couple of years.
“I would say it is applicable and important for all students,” Phoenix said.
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