Gender studies professor reprimanded after failing student for using 'biological women'

University professor addresses his students during a lecture.
University professor addresses his students during a lecture. | Getty Images

An Ohio gender studies professor was formally reprimanded and ordered to complete free speech training after giving a student a failing grade on a project centered around women's rights in sports that used the phrase "biological women."

Melanie Nipper, an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati, received an official reprimand from the school in June after she gave her student, Olivia Krolczyk, a zero out of 20 on a May final project in a Gender in Popular Culture class, stating that "biological women" is an "exclusionary" term. 

A copy of the reprimand obtained by The Cincinnati Enquirer stated that Nipper's actions violated the university's Campus Free Speech Policy. The letter also stated that any other violations of the university's policies may result in termination. 

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"To prevent any further violation of this policy, you must complete training on the requirements of the Campus Free Speech Policy," Ashley Currier, head of the Department of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies at UC, wrote in the letter. "Through the end of Academic Year 2024/2025, you must submit all syllabi to me at least two weeks prior to the beginning of classes for review and approval." 

Nipper appealed the reprimand in a June 19 letter to UC's Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Margaret Hanson. She argued that the restriction on what she referred to as "harmful speech" was necessary to "ensure a safe learning environment." 

The professor defended her actions, stating that she informed the student that her project was "inappropriate" because she believed it framed trans individuals as oppressors. 

"My language in the Canvas comment informed the student that the term "biological women" was the issue; however, in follow-up emails with the student, I answered her questions and explained that the context of the topic with the phrase was the issue, rather than the isolated phrase itself," Nipper wrote. 

The adjunct instructor felt it necessary to tell the student to change her project topic or alter the language to include "all women." Another reason the professor cited for the failing grade was that the project failed to use in-class sources, which she noted do not support "trans-exclusionary feminism." 

"Additionally, as the class has students that identify as gender non-conforming and/or trans, I felt it was necessary to educate her regarding inclusive language to ensure a safe learning environment for other students in the course discussion boards," Nipper added. 

Nipper concluded her letter by requesting that the interim dean reconsider the reprimand, expressing confidence that she can continue teaching students without violating the school's policy on freedom of expression.

The University of Cincinnati did not immediately respond to The Christian Post's request for comment. 

In May, Krolczyk shared her final project grade and the professor's comments in a TikTok video. The student's video featured a screenshot of Nipper's remarks on her project, saying that she'd regrade the assignment if Krolczyk edited it to focus on "women's rights (not just females)." In addition to deriding the phrase "biological women" as "exclusionary," Nipper said that the term is not allowed in the course because it reinforces "heteronormativity." 

Krolczyk's project focused on women's rights in sports, from securing a spot for women in the Olympic Games to the current challenges female athletes face when biological men are allowed to compete as women. The student questioned in the video how she was supposed to complete her project if she couldn't use the phrase "biological women." 

Women's sports advocates such as Riley Gaines have repeatedly addressed the impact that allowing biological men into women's spaces has had on female athletes. Last month, Gaines testified during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing titled "Protecting Pride: Defending the Civil Rights of LGBTQ+ Americans."

Gaines, a former collegiate swimmer and University of Kentucky graduate, discussed her experience competing against Will Thomas, a biological man who identifies as a woman named Lia Thomas. Thomas previously competed as a man for three seasons at the University of Pennsylvania before he started competing on the girls' team during the 2021-'22 season.

Besides being forced to share a locker room with Thomas, the women athletes watched Thomas beat multiple female swimmers. Gaines accused the NCAA of discriminating against women by allowing a man to compete against them and claim their awards.

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follow her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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