University Administration Drafts Compulsory Language Resolution Regarding Pronouns

hand holding english word over blur english cards on wooden table

hand holding english word over blur english cards on wooden table

Madison Dibble

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Administrators at the University of Minnesota drafted a compulsory language policy that forces “University Members” to refer to a student by his or her preferred pronoun or face job termination or expulsion. The Minnesota Student Association voted unanimously to declare support for the proposed rule. 

The resolution defines “University Members” as “students, faculty or staff members, University guests, volunteer, contractors, or employees of an affiliated entity.” 

Under this resolution, anyone interacting with the university must comply with a student’s preferred pronouns and name. Students do not have to submit legal proof of pronoun preference or name change for this policy to take effect. A student must only inform the individual in writing or verbally. 

The resolution also states that retaliation is prohibited in the case of a student—in “good faith”—reporting faculty or peers for the misuse of pronouns. The resolution defines “gender expression,” “gender identity,” “specified name,” and “university members,” but the resolution does not clarify what the standard of “good faith” is. Students will oversee the implementation and, in effect, the enforcement of the policy without any possibility of repercussion. 

Beyond reporting incidents, students can also participate in “any process designed to review or investigate suspected or alleged misconduct or non-compliance with applicable policies, rules, and laws” without retaliation. In effect, this means a student can set up a scenario for a professor or other “University Member” to test if they are following the policy and report any failures. 

The administrative policy applies not only to preferred pronouns, but preferred names. Students do not have to provide any form of legal documentation to change the name or preferred pronouns for classes or on his or her U Card, which is the university identification card.  

Additionally, the policy secures the ability of a student to have access to his or her preferred bathroom, locker room, and attire, as the resolution mandates that no attire can be gender-specific.

Finally, the policy demands that the university keep all data regarding biological sex private and only release the information when legally required. 

The policy does not disclose the process for noncompliance punishment. The resolution states “Violations of the provisions of this Policy could constitute discrimination or harassment based on gender identity or gender expression.” 

The resolution continues, “Discrimination or harassment based on gender identity or gender expression may result in appropriate responsive action, including but not limited to disciplinary action up to and including termination from employment and academic sanctions up to and including academic expulsion.”

It is unclear if “University Members” as to how severe the actions must be to warrant termination or expulsion. It also fails to address what would happen in the event of a slip-of-the-tongue or an honest mistake, as the policy does not list clarify what the “appropriate responsive action” is in that case. 

The authors of the proposed resolution, Director of the Office for Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Title IX coordinator Tina Marisam, Director of the Gender and Sexuality Center for Queer and Trans Life Ahmad Qais Munhazim, and Chairs of the Trans Advisory and Action team Jay Wilson and Raychel Benson hope to have the resolution before the University Senate for approval in the fall.