Home Education A look inside OU’s preferred pronoun and name policy

A look inside OU’s preferred pronoun and name policy

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What would you do if someone took away the word or words that help define who you are?

Students in the LGBT community experience this frequently upon entering college. However, at Ohio University this frustration will soon be left behind thanks to the preferred pronoun and name policy implemented by the university this year.

OU has become one of the handful of colleges across the United States to implement such a policy. Other universities with similar policies include American University, Harvard University, Cornell University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology according to a story by the Associated Press published in mid-September. As a push for inclusion and acceptance is felt by universities across the nation, more colleges are beginning to research how they can implement similar policies.

What is Ohio University’s Preferred Pronoun and Name Policy?

The policy that was approved on June 4, 2015 gives students the ability to enter their preferred name and/or pronouns on My Ohio Student Center. When students enter their preferred name and/or pronouns, their request is shown on the class rosters, on forms at Campus Care and Counseling and Psychological services, and on Catmail and Blackboard accounts.

In order for it to be streamline and include as few errors as possible, this process took two years to complete following its initial proposal by Student Senate and Graduate Student Senate in 2013. While that may seem like a long time, Ohio University LGBT Center Director delfin bautista said they believe it was necessary.

“Two years is a long time, but also not a long time,” bautista said. “And ultimately the question that was raised was how to make sure that all of the systems that have student information are communicating with each other.”

Although this policy has been very well-received by faculty, staff and students, there is definitely still some confusion on what exactly preferred pronouns are and how to use them. To help with this, the LGBT Center website has a page that explains and answers many questions that might arise during the policy’s first year of implementation.

In the years previous to the creation of this policy, students may have done what Marcus Pavilonis was prepared to do before he arrived on campus. Pavilonis, a freshman in the College of Fine Arts whose preferred pronouns are he/him/his, said he had emails ready for each of his professors.

“Before I knew that [the preferred pronoun and name policy] was a thing I’d been drafting emails for each professor to be like, ‘Hey, on the roster it will say this, but please call me this,’” Pavilonis said. “So I’m very glad that they have implemented that and it made things a lot easier for me.”

Gender Neutral Housing

The preferred pronoun and name policy was not the first step Ohio University took in trying to provide a safe and comfortable environment for the LGBT community. In 2010, Residential Housing launched a pilot program to see if Gender Neutral Housing, or “GNH,” could be a implemented on OU’s campus. The program was determined a success, and GNH is currently housed on one floor in Smith Hall on South Green.

Pavilonis said one of his reasons for choosing OU was because of the Gender Neutral Housing, where he lives now.

“Looking for some sort of GNH option in the colleges I was looking at was a big part of [the decision making process] and one of the reasons I chose Ohio University actually,” Pavilonis said. “GNH is fantastic; I’m very glad that I have chosen it.”

According to Campus Pride, currently 197 colleges and universities have “gender-inclusive housing.” However, compared to the total number of institutions across the U.S. the number of colleges and universities that do offer “gender-inclusive housing” is small. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2011-2012 there were 7,234 postsecondary Title IV institutions. From that number, 4,706 are degree-granting institutions, which can be divided into 1,738 two-year colleges and 2,968 four-year colleges. These numbers show that many universities and colleges across the country do not provide gender inclusive housing.

What More Can Be Done for the LGBT Community on Campus?

The preferred pronoun and name policy and Gender Neutral Housing have benefited not only the LGBT community. However, delfin said more can be done to ensure everyone has equal rights on campus.

For example, although GNH was a significant step in Housing and Residence Life, bautista pointed out that there is not enough GNH to support all LGBT students.

“If all of the LGBT people on campus wanted to live there, the reality is, is that they can’t,” delfin said.

The next big questions bautista believes OU will have to tackle include how the university will continue to define what it means to be a man or a woman in relation to housing, team sports, and other shared spaces around campus.

“Ultimately it comes down to our definitions of male and female and who gets to define them and what do you do if you don’t fit that definition,” bautista said. “We’re getting there, slowly but surely.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: delfin bautista uses they/them/their pronouns and prefers to have their name spelled with all lower case letters.

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