Christian college in Atlanta to allow preferred pronouns in official school records, diplomas

Pronouns, gender
Sharon McCutcheon/Unsplash

Students at Emory University in Atlanta, a college that maintains historical affiliation to the United Methodist Church, now have the option to designate their preferred pronouns for use in official university records.

The policy change, which took effect in June, offers students the choice of "he/him/his," "she/her/hers," "they/them/theirs," "xie/hir/hirs" and "ze/zir/zirs" as pronouns, according to Emory's website.

Once students make their selection, the pronouns, like chosen names, will populate in locations such as class rosters, enrollment records and other university documents.

Students can also opt-out of designating their pronouns altogether.

Christa Acampora, deputy provost for academic affairs, said the change comes in response to requests from students to make the campus more welcoming to students of all genders.

"This change was really driven by Emory students and their desire to help us be a better community," said Acampora in a statement. "A large group of people at Emory — including staff, administrators, faculty, and students — worked to shape the policy change and enable the systems to support its implementation. I'm truly grateful for all of those efforts." 

To avoid confusion, Emory will use a student's legal name where there is a legal or business need and for all external reporting, but will allow the use of a student's designated name or pronoun "where use of one's Legal Name is not absolutely necessary."

The policy change will also impact how students decide to be designated on their diplomas.

Students who opt to list a name other than their legal name on a diploma are cautioned that they may face "anticipated and unanticipated rejection, delay, scrutiny, and/or requirements for additional proof of identification" stemming from the decision, including "any applications for employment, licensure, credentialing, visa applications, or other processes requiring education records."

Guidelines for proper pronoun usage for faculty and staff were not immediately announced but are expected in the coming weeks. 

Dona Yarbrough, assistant vice president of Campus Life and a consultant to the Designated Pronouns implementation team, said the effort is intended to "reflect our appreciation of the range of gender identities and our respect for all people."

"Our names and pronouns are essential to our identities, the most common ways we refer to one another," said Yarbrough. "When we call a person by the wrong name or pronoun, we risk causing them to feel disrespected."

Founded by the Methodists Episcopal Church in 1836, Emory University has official ties to the UMC, including its Candler School of Theology, a Methodist seminary. 

Similar pronoun efforts have been implemented at several college campuses around the U.S., including New York University and Columbia University, where students were encouraged to report any instances of students "misgendering" others, according to Campus Reform.

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