As universities across the country take steps to be more inclusive, especially for transgender, genderqueer and non-binary students, students and faculty/staff must understand why things like pronouns matter and what resources are available to help aid or protect them.
For some people, pronouns are not an issue; for others, using the right or wrong pronouns means everything. Using the wrong pronouns toward people who identify as transgender, genderqueer or non-binary jeopardizes their sense of security and safety.
Many universities, including Texas State, have started implementing gender-neutral pronouns or asking students to state their preferred pronouns in classrooms, emails and daily conversations. Unfortunately, the programs and resources at Texas State are not well known to the student body, according to Assistant Director of Student Initiatives Robert J. Garcia.
Garcia stated that many students do not know the resources available to them because these resources are not promoted or published at the rate they should be. Texas State has taken strides to ensure more inclusivity and diversity on campus, so it should be regularly informing students about its efforts and available resources.
At Texas State, the LGBTQIA+ and Allies program provides students with resources that create safe places for students and challenges injustice against the LGBTQIA+ community. This program is part of the Institutional Inclusive Excellence - Student Initiatives office, formally known as the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion.
Student Initiatives also has programs and resources in place to help faculty/staff and students understand and safely handle LGBTQIA+ issues, including advocation for the correct use of pronouns.
LGBTQIA+ ally training is provided and recommended, but not required, and Safe Offices are designated to departments and offices with more than 75% of full-time employees who have completed ally training.
When it comes to making pronouns and gender identity known throughout the Texas State database, Garcia said students can update their personal information through the University Registrar's Office. This method is good for students to make sure their personal information (pronoun, gender identity and preferred name) correctly shows up on class rosters.
The programs are doing a great job of creating a culture of inclusivity on campus. The resources also benefit students outside of the LGBTQIA+ community. Students who do not identify as such can still use these programs and resources as allies.
Students should also be aware of their ability to report identity-based misconduct. Students can file a bias incident report if a professor or faculty member discriminates against them based on gender identity or preferred pronouns. The bias incident reports go through the Office of Equity and Inclusion. The report can include any speech, expression or action that shows bias or prejudice against a person's race, religion, sexual orientation, gender or disability.
Student Initiatives is very active on campus, managing not only the LGBTQIA+ and Allies program but also other programs that benefit other underrepresented communities. This office has the potential to help a lot of students; it is just a matter of getting students involved.
Texas State is still making changes to promote inclusivity through pronouns. Students have reached out to the IT Assistance Center about a setting in Canvas that allows students to display their preferred pronouns on the platform. The setting is currently turned off for Texas State students.
"Our developers are working so that when you update your preferred pronouns in CatsWeb, they will sync with Canvas and be displayed there as well," ITAC said.
Texas State and the Institutional Inclusive Excellence organization have good programs and resources for students to ensure that a student's pronoun, gender identity or sexuality are respected. Sadly, the promotion to make sure these resources are known to students is not as focused as it should be, and that must change.
In-person promotions are limited right now, but that is not the only way to get students' attention. Interaction through social media is an excellent way to spread awareness to students—through raffles, giveaways, polls and virtual events. Collaborating with student organizations/clubs or utilizing other Texas State offices and programs is also an option.
Texas State must see that spreading awareness about these programs can provide students a sense of security and safety while promoting inclusivity on campus.
- Junior Pacheco is a journalism sophomore
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