U. of Tennessee rethinks gender-neutral pronoun policy

U. of Tennessee rethinks gender-neutral pronoun policy
President Joe DiPietro (credit: Wade Payne)

Now xe see it, now xe don’t.

A week ago the University of Tennessee Knoxville’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion announced its decision to ban standard personal pronouns (e.g. he and she) in favor gender-neutral variants (ze and zyr). On Friday, the school’s president, Joe DiPietro, declared that he’d rather fight than switch.

According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, DiPietro informed the UT Board of Trustees that a directive ordering the exclusive use of ze in place of both he and she had been rescinded and and would be removed from the university’s website.

Copies of DiPietro’s letter to trustees also went to select Republican legislative leaders, who had blown up over the “gender neutral” language issue last week. They accused the Knoxville campus of “political correctness” and announced the controversy would be included in a previously scheduled Senate higher education hearing in October.

The quarterly newsletter article, written by Donna Braquet, the Knoxville campus’ Pride Center director, offered the new pronouns in order to create a more inclusive campus for gays, lesbians and transgender students.

In her article, Braquet wrote, “Transgender people and people who do not identify within the gender binary may use a different name than their legal name and pronouns of their gender identity, rather than the pronouns of the sex they were assigned at birth.”

gender neutral pronouns

One state lawmaker, Sen. Bo Watson (R), called the policy “ridiculous,” while former senator and current president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, David Fowler, “blasted the pronouns as reflecting a ‘new worldview running higher education in Tennessee.'”

In his letter to trustees, DiPietro pointed out Braquet’s article only “suggested use of ‘gender-neutral’ pronouns as an inclusive practice.”

But the president noted, “despite the aggressive efforts by UT Knoxville to communicate the fact that the campus does not require the use of gender-neutral pronouns, I am deeply concerned about the attention this matter continues to receive and the harm it has had on the reputation of the University of Tennessee.”

He added that the social issues and practices raised by the Office for Diversity and Inclusion are “appropriate ones for discussion on a university campus,” but emphasized that “it was not appropriate to do so in a manner that suggests it is the expectation that all on campus embrace these practices.”

To Donna Braquet and others who will view this as a setback, remember: In life, as in sports, zirs win some, and zirs lose some.

LU Staff

LU Staff

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