COLUMN: Syllabus struggles for gender non-comforming folks


Rob Le Cates

Ci Richardson is a psychology major and can be reached at 217-581-2812.

Ci Richardson, Columnist

The first couple days of class, the easiest day of the semester, syllabus day.

Now this can be the most mundane day of class for most people, but for trans, intersex and gender non-conforming folks are partially dreading this.

This is the day when you find out if a professor is a proactive ally or not.

One way could be as easy as the professor putting their own pronouns in their syllabus. That is a great way of showing allyship and letting LGBTQ+ students know they can be themselves around you.

However, that is completely thrown out the window if further down in the syllabus there is “he or she” written in regards to one of the classroom rules.

As someone who often uses they/them pronouns, I’m already hit in the gut with uncomfiness when I read that part of the syllabus. This is the start when you don’t know if a professor is going to respect/use your pronouns for the rest of the semester.

Now, I would love to be able to use the clause that I use they/them pronouns and so this rule doesn’t apply to me, but I don’t think that would work in my favor.

Having the specified “he/she” pronouns in a syllabus also happens in classes that are supposed to be teaching diversity.

You would think classes that are supposed to teach diversity would know that one of the easiest ways to be inclusive of gender identities is to use singular “they” as an all encompassing pronoun, but apparently not.

If any teacher is wary of singular they not being “grammatically correct”, there could be an entire history course on singular “they”. Emily Dickinson had even used the singular version of “they” in some of her writings.

If a professor would still like to argue this, they can take it up with the Oxford English Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Dictionary, American Dialect Society, and many other linguistics organizations.

Ci Richardson is a music education major. They can be reached at [email protected] or 217-581-2812.