Catholic college responds after student gets zero on assignment for using ‘gendered language’

Alumni Hall at St. Anselm College
Alumni Hall at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. |

A Catholic college in New Hampshire has responded to a report claiming that a student in a theology class was given a zero for using “gendered language” such as "man" and "mankind" when completing an assignment on the book of Genesis.

St. Anselm College Chief Communications and Marketing Officer Paul Pronovost told The Christian Post that a report published last week by the conservative youth organization Young America's Foundation mischaracterized grading reports in a Biblical studies course this semester.

“Students are not asked to change Biblical passages when quoting the Bible directly, and are not marked down when doing so, regardless of the language used in the quoted text," Pronovost said.

"In making critical analysis of Biblical texts in their own writing, students in the course are expected to choose words that most accurately convey the meaning of the text, and are assessed accordingly based on how well they meet this expectation.”

He said that as a Benedictine college, St. Anselm "provides all students with a liberal arts education that encourages the lifelong pursuit of the truth and fosters intellectual, moral and spiritual growth."

The college's statement comes after Young America’s Foundation shared a student's screenshots of comments made by Gilberto Ruiz, an associate professor of theology. The student, who asked to remain anonymous citing fear of retribution, sent it to YAF’s Campus Bias Tipline.

The assignment asked the student to read two passages in the Old Testament’s book of Genesis — using the NABRE translation — and list similarities and differences between them.

“Both of these readings share a picture of what earth was like before God finished his creation and before God created man,” the student wrote in the assignment.

According to Ruiz, the student’s use of the word “man” violated a portion of the assignment’s rubric requiring the use of “inclusive language, unless exclusive language is used to reflect the biblical text’s perspective.”

In a comment, Ruiz urged the student to “instead, use terms like ‘humankind,’ ‘humanity,’ ‘human beings,’ ‘people,’ and so forth" when referring to the human species. The professor also took issue with the student’s use of the word “mankind” when listing the differences between the two Bible passages.

According to YAF, “the assignment was graded as all-or-nothing.” Therefore, the student received a zero for the assignment because it did not “use inclusive language.”

According to the rubric, the student also did not use “direct quotations” from the NABRE translation, which uses gender-neutral language.

Ruiz did not respond to a request for comment.

In an interview with CP, YAF spokesman Spencer Brown cited what happened to the St. Anselm student as an example demonstrating that many Catholic colleges have gone “very far to the left and sort of bought into the same liberal orthodoxy that we see at larger, liberal colleges.”

“It’s sad to see that even courses dealing with biblical text have been corrupted by the left’s influence in higher education,” he said.

Earlier this summer, another concerned student reached out to the YAF campus bias tipline to share a syllabus from an English class at Iowa State University that warned of retributions for students who used language or made arguments she disagreed with.

The professor banned students from committing “any instances of othering” such as “racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, sorophobia, transphobia, classism, mocking of mental health issues, (and) body shaming” in class, citing the aforementioned offenses as “grounds for dismissal from the classroom.” She also banned students from making “arguments against gay marriage, abortion, [and] Black Lives Matter.”

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