University of Minnesota Considers Firing Professors Who Don’t Use Transgender Students’ Preferred Pronouns

If you’re a professor at the University of Minnesota, you could soon lose your job for merely using a pronoun that you believe is accurate. 

The school is reportedly considering a new rule that would allow transgender students to enter their chosen locker rooms and effectively demand that professors use their preferred pronouns. 

“University members and units are expected to use the names, gender identities, and pronouns specified to them by University members, except as legally required,” the school’s draft policy document read. 

According to the Star Tribune, the university already started asking students to self-identify — as male, female, non binary or genderqueer, and gender nonconforming — as well as choose their preferred pronouns.

It’s unclear at what point a professor would face punishment for using a transgender pronoun. 

Gabrielle Mead, an assistant director withe university’s Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action office, reportedly didn’t provide a threshold for punishment, but rather said it would “really depend on the circumstances.”

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The school’s drafted policy document indicated that disrespecting pronoun requests was a form of “harassment.”

“Violations of the provisions of this Policy could constitute discrimination or harassment based on gender identity or gender expression,” it said. 

Those actions could result in “responsive action” that includes termination and “academic sanctions” such as “academic expulsion.”

The new policy was just the latest of many flash points in a nationwide debate about how to accommodate transgender individuals.

New York City and Chicago both banned people from using non-preferred pronouns in certain situations. According to legal scholar Eugene Volokh, willfully using non-preferred pronouns could result in up to $250,000 in fines. 

Those accommodations might expand as groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) continue bringing lawsuits alleging that organizations discriminate by refusing to perform certain surgical procedures on transgender individuals or blocking a transgender person from using the women’s locker room.

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