Proper Pronouns, Please


The University of Minnesota will be releasing a state-of-the-art artificial intelligence service nicknamed “PPP.” This development is the first stage in a groundbreaking study to identify students who target members of our community based upon their laptop brand, gender identity, preferred pencil brand, and much more.

For years, members of our community have felt alienated and often driven into hiding by hateful opposition on campus. Hundreds, if not thousands, of microaggressions occur each and every day on our campus.  PPP will live-time monitor students and faculty interactions via cell phones, laptops, and any other Wi-Fi-enabled devices.

Over the past couple of years, PPP has been initiated via the pseudonym Duo. Through the use of Duo, PPP has collected data on hundreds of students who make other students feel victimized through direct and indirect communication. These students will face severe warnings when PPP is enacted at the beginning of spring semester, and any further transgressions will result in fines, suspensions, and even expulsions.

The most controversial aspect of the PPP program is the direct transparency of who made what transgressions. The program will include a website which contains a live-time data bank of comments made similar to a social media platform. Any member of the University of Minnesota community will be able login to their account and search by name or keywords to access any unsafe comment made by who and when. The PPP team understands the severity of this decision but believes it is what is needed to bring our campus efficiently up to the level of social justice that it has been lacking. Additionally, it has stated that this method of transparency will allow students to run checks on classmates and teachers prior to enrolling in their classes or choosing them for group work. Overall, the decision was made such that social pressures force dangerous students on campus into a social awareness reflect that in their future words and actions.

Multiple students were asked their perspective on the topic. Jay Bluejay, a sophomore from Monticello studying Hedge Management at the Carlson School of Bushes, believes the policy is a complete invasion of privacy and has since began considering his words more carefully while on campus. Jay was asked if he was worried about what might be linked to him when PPP roles out, to which he responded, “Of course I’m worried. I’ve been an Apple person my entire life. You know what I do when I text someone and the text bubble is green? Or when one Android person joins a group chat?”

Other students are concerned with other aspects of the policy, such as Jill McGill, a freshmen from Calgary, Canada, studying Alternative Rock at the College of Mineral Arts. She questioned why positive comments will not be shown on users’ profiles along with the negative ones. She stated, “Whenever I am asked if I can loan someone a pencil, I always make sure to ask what brand they use before handing them one. I know how scary it is to use an unfamiliar brand of pencil. It can seriously mess up your notes and even give some students severe anxiety.”

Finally, Raj Mahal, a second year Ph.D. student studying Financial Burdens at the College of Holding Debt, finds the whole program to be quite annoying. He said he has TA’ed for a number of courses, some of which had students with different gender identities. He said he did his best to try and conform to what they asked to be called, but at times he would forget. “That’s all you can do right? We mess up sometimes. You can’t expect everyone to automatically know what you are and what you want to be called. I make mistakes; everyone does, and overtime we get better. Do I think we should punish those who make mistakes? No. Do I think PPP is a good idea? Not really, since all it is going to do is publicize the worst, most likely private things you’ve ever said without context.”

These students reflected the general trend of those we spoke to. Some students had positive thoughts, others had negative notions, and the rest were indifferent.

With this information, we returned to the PPP team office to get a sneak peak at these members’ profiles on the website which will be rolling out next semester. The results were alarming. Jay had nearly 150 comments deemed unsafe for campus. As he mentioned, nearly two-thirds of which occurred a week prior when someone with an Android phone joined his intramural basketball team group chat. Raj had about 200 comments, ranging from misidentifying students to stark beliefs on the Israel-Palestine situation and everything in between. What was most alarming was the number recorded by Jill, which exceeded 1,000. It turns out, Jill is a member of two conservative groups on campus, and 90 percent of her flagged comments occurred Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:00-8:00 p.m.

We followed up with Jill to comment on what she does at this time and she informed us those were the times she met with her conservative clubs. We then pushed further to find out what these clubs could be talking about that is flagged at such a high rate, and she simply said, “We just talk about current trends in politics and topics from a conservative perspective.”

Surely, something had to be wrong. There must be some underlying cause for this. So we returned to the PPP team and informed them of this trend. They seemed unsurprised and almost satisfied as they stated that, “Conservative views do not align with a safe campus community. These students and groups express ideas and hold beliefs that are contrary to a progressive society. This program is aimed at fixing these ideas or removing them from campus.”

It seems that PPP is working exactly as planned. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next semester.