Colleges and universities are making strides in gender inclusivity, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
Ten years ago, the University of Vermont became the first school in the US to allow students to self-identify their pronouns and to include it in their student data.
Now, according to the Campus Pride Trans Policy Clearinghouse, 255 colleges enable students to use a chosen first name, instead of their legal name, on campus records and documents; 60 colleges enable students to change the gender on their campus records without evidence of medical intervention; and 19 colleges enable students to indicate the pronouns they use for themselves on course rosters.
Jeane Robles, a student at the University of Vermont, said that these options mean a lot.
“Just having the option to do that makes me feel like I can exist here,” Robles, a graduate student whose pronouns are they/them, told NPR. Without these options, “I [wouldn’t] be able to fully be present.”
Z Nicolazzo, a professor at the University of Arizona, told NPR that these policies need to come with a new mindset for higher education.
“I really worry that it becomes almost like a checkbox kind of way of thinking about diversity and equity work,” Nicolazzo, whose pronouns are she/her or ze/hir, said.
She said higher education still tends to look at gender as a binary concept. For instance, having sex-segregated athletic teams feeds into this mindset.
Pronouns are just one part of gender-inclusivity, Nicolazzo told NPR, and “much more needs to be done.”
Ashley Dobson is NACAC’s senior communications manager for content and social media. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.