Preferred Pronouns

Cultural competence is paramount in the admissions and recruitment process. It is even more imperative to continue this competency throughout the enrollment process and campus placement. Continual education and diversity training are key components in working with students and their families.

Many colleges and universities are making strides in becoming even more sensitive and inclusive of diverse students. Asking for a students preferred pronoun, having unisex bathrooms on campus, and providing LGBTQQA* Living-Learning Communities are just a few of the examples of fostering a community of inclusion and diversity on college campuses. Education professionals can also embrace inclusivity in daily interactions with students, faculty, and staff by using preferred pronouns.

What exactly are preferred pronouns?

A “preferred gender pronoun” (or PGP) is the pronoun that a person chooses to use for themself.

For example: If Xena’s preferred pronouns are she, her, and hers, you could say “Xena ate her food because she was hungry.”

 There are also lots of gender-neutral pronouns in use.

Here are a few you might hear:

They, them, theirs (Xena ate their food because they were hungry.) This is a pretty common gender-neutral pronoun. It can in fact be used in the singular.

Ze, hir (Xena ate hir food because ze was hungry.)
Ze is pronounced like “zee” can also be spelled zie or xe, and replaces she/he/they.
Hir is pronounced like “here” and replaces her/hers/him/his/they/theirs.

Why is it important to respect people’s PGPs?

You can’t always know what someone’s PGP is by looking at them.

Asking and correctly using someone’s preferred pronoun is one of the most basic ways to show your respect for their gender identity* (Gender Identity-One’s innermost concept of self as male or female or both or neither—how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One’s gender identity can be the same or different than the sex assigned at birth.)

When someone is referred to with the wrong pronoun, it can make them feel disrespected, invalidated, dismissed, alienated, or dysphoric (or, often, all of the above.)

It is a privilege to not have to worry about which pronoun someone is going to use for you based on how they perceive your gender. If you have this privilege, yet fail to respect someone else’s gender identity, it is not only disrespectful and hurtful, but also oppressive.

It is imperative for higher education professionals to recognize and respect the diversity of students we are recruiting; this could mean the difference between a student feeling safe, included, and respected at your institution. We are a representation of the institution we work with and first impressions are lasting.

Useful resources:
http://forge-forward.org/
http://www.transstudent.org/graphics
http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2015/03/the-genderbread-person-v3/
https://uwm.edu/lgbtrc/support/gender-pronouns/

 References:
Understanding Gender. (n.d.). Retrieved April 01, 2016, from https://www.genderspectrum.org/quick-links/understanding-gender/

Mateo Medina. (2011). Hampshire College Orientation Training-Materials [Brochure]. Author. Retrieved April 1, 2016.

Courtney Johnson-Benson, M.A.Ed.
Assistant Director of Admissions
Coordinator of Multicultural Recruitment
The University of Akron
caj4@uakron.edu

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Diversity Training in the Workplace

While universities enact policies to maintain compliant with diversity and institutional equity, in efforts to promote inclusivity and an ethical model concerning multiculturalism; offices and departments must ensure that they are doing their own part to remain committed to diversity. In a climate where university administrations are being taken to task for the lack of diversity in institutions or for poor responses to racially hostile environments and race-conscious admission policies are under particular scrutiny, offices being proactive instead of reactive can lead to benefits for the office, staff, and student body.

Diversity Training can come in many forms (e.g. workshops, conferences, one-off meetings, ongoing training programs) and can cover a variety of content (e.g. microagressions, types of diversity, sensitivity training, communication among differences). Trainings can be held internally or by external representatives, but no matter the setup, it should be a key component in the ongoing training of individuals in the workplace. Further, research indicates that an ongoing diversity training program in workplaces is one of the most effective means to promote diversity in your workplace . “It should be something that all departments within the company take part in, and that all department managers are held accountable to enforce and encourage. By making diversity a company-wide initiative, it includes all employees and helps to widen the appeal of diversity to the workforce” (Root, 2016).

But why is it important? One could easily write a book (and there are many readily available) about the essentialness of diversity training. In particular, diversity training in the workplace works to serve and support not only the office, but also individual staff, students, and clients. Implementing training can boost the morale of staff during periods when a campus is struggling with diversity issues, showing that your office not only values diversity, but is willing to take action to make sure staff embrace and support such values. But it is always better for offices to be proactive instead of reactive. Offices should not wait for a protest, a damaging article, or even an internal complaint to take steps to promote diversity and instigate training. Having diversity training shows that your office supports your diverse staff, which is particularly important when you want to retain those talented individuals. It promotes inclusivity and will help staff members recognize behaviors that could potentially create an uncomfortable or hostile environment for other staff, student workers, students, or visitors. Training can assist in making the hiring process more inclusive and finding more diverse talent to bring to your office. It is especially important for admission offices to ensure that their staff members are culturally competent and able to effectively converse with individuals of all background to ensure the appropriate level of service and ability to effectively recruit all types of students to your campus.

Root, G.N. “The best practices of diversity training.” Accessed February 19, 2016. http://smallbusiness.chron.com/practices-diversity-training-1851.html

 

Nicole Williams
Transfer Credit and Articulation Analyst
Ohio University
willian3@ohio.edu