Beginning today, a new module will provide all students the option to specify their chosen pronouns through Your Enrollment Services (YES), the university’s online student services and academic information portal.
The options will include “he” and “she,” the gender-neutral pronouns “they” and “ze,” and a name-only option for students who choose not to be identified by any pronoun. The pronouns will appear alongside student names on class rolls and housing rosters, be visible to advisers and other offices in regular contact with students, and will be accessible by faculty and staff, including student employees. Students have been able to choose their preferred names since 2011.
“Being recognized and accepted for who we are is essential to Vanderbilt’s teaching and learning mission,” said Cynthia Cyrus, vice provost for learning and residential affairs. “Streamlining students’ communication of this important information to faculty and staff they interact with will help all our students feel more at home in our classrooms and residence halls.”
Pronoun selection, usage optional
Students are not required to select a pronoun; rather, the pronoun selection feature was developed to give students a way to communicate this additional information to faculty and staff if they wish. Currently, no pronouns are associated with student names on university rosters, and students who choose not to select a pronoun in the future will see no change – they will continue to appear on university rosters without one.
“I encourage our faculty and staff to use these pronouns when students choose to provide them,” said Mark Bandas, associate provost and dean of students. “This step furthers our efforts to respect students’ identities and foster a more inclusive and welcoming environment at Vanderbilt.”
VSG-Faculty Senate collaboration
This addition to YES emerged from a significant collaboration between the Vanderbilt Faculty Senate and Vanderbilt Student Government that began in 2015 under the auspices of then-Faculty Senate Chair Richard Willis to foster awareness and sensitivity among the Vanderbilt community to matters relating to gender identity. That collaboration resulted in the development of trainings, workshops and a teaching guide in partnership with the Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Life, and culminated in a 2016 resolution by Vanderbilt Student Government commending the Faculty Senate for its collaboration and advocacy for the inclusion of pronoun choices on school rosters.
“Pronouns are small words with great impact,” said Geoffrey Fleming, associate professor of pediatrics and current chair of the Faculty Senate. “This update shows how progress is possible when students and faculty align to make inclusive changes on behalf of the campus community as a whole.”
“This is an important step in affirming students’ identities and ensuring that all students, particularly our transgender and gender non-conforming students, can focus on learning in the classroom environment,” added Chris Purcell, director of LGBTQI Life. “I am pleased that Vanderbilt is continuing to work to ensure we are living the values of equity and inclusion that we espouse.”
Educational Resources Available
Faculty and staff who want to learn more about pronoun usage and other gender identity and LGBTQI topics are encouraged to take advantage of the variety of campus resources available including the Center for Teaching’s Teaching Beyond the Gender Binary guide, which emerged from the VSG-Faculty Senate partnership, and the Office of LGBTQI Life’s PRIDE training workshop. Faculty and staff are also encouraged to refer students to the English Language Center’s (ELC) pronoun guide.