University rescinds reprimand of professor who failed student for using term 'biological women'

College students sit in a classroom, with one student raising his hand.
College students sit in a classroom, with one student raising his hand. | iStock/fpphotobank

The University of Cincinnati university rescinded a reprimand against a professor who gave a student a failing grade on an assignment discussing trans-identified athletes that used the term "biological women," a decision the student declared was an "injustice."

Melanie Nipper, a 28-year-old adjunct professor, received the formal reprimand on June 14 after she gave her student, Olivia Krolczyk, a zero on a May final project proposal for a Gender in Popular Culture class. Krolczyk's project proposal discussed men who identify as females competing in women's sports. 

As The Cincinnati Enquirer reported Thursday, a June 29 email from the College of Arts and Sciences Interim Dean Margaret Hanson agreed that the reprimand was "issued in error." The email also stated that the reprimand would be removed from Nipper's personal file. However, the professor is still expected to undergo training on the school's free speech policy and provide the department head with her course syllabus.

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In a statement, Krolcyzk said that the university's decision to rescind the reprimand "is an injustice to students everywhere." She contended that the school's actions convey that professors will face no accountability for failing students who disagree with their instructor's opinions. 

"They will not uphold a student's rights to free speech, and will take no action to ensure that the educators hired are acting in a professional manner," the student stated. "At what point is the line drawn? What kind of example has the University just set?" 

"The University shouldn't pick and choose which policies they decide to enforce based on whether the professor follows in line with their woke ideologies or goes against them," she continued. 

While the dean of arts and sciences regraded Krolcyzk's project proposal, giving her a passing grade, the student feels that the school rescinding the reprimand solidifies the idea that using scientific terms to describe the sexes is "harmful" and "transphobic," which she feels undermines women.

"Congrats to the University of Cincinnati for contributing to the erasure of women and for letting future students know that they must conform to certain ideologies or else they will be punished," she concluded. 

In a separate statement to The Enquirer, Nipper said she had received over 300 hate emails and angry phone calls due to the incident. The adjunct professor believes that the case is an example of "the very real harm and threat people can pose when their worldview is informed by white supremacy, cisheteronormativity, classism, patriarchy, and more."

She also thinks that her having to argue why some free speech restrictions in the classroom are necessary showcases why "more restrictions on inclusion, diversity, equity, and justice-oriented disciplines are imminent." 

The instructor disclosed that she does not plan to stop working as an educator and that she looks forward to continuing to support "marginalized communities."

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

As The Christian Post previously reported, Nipper had informed Krolcyzk after grading her project proposal that the term "biological women" is an "exclusionary" phrase, as it reinforces "heteronormativity." The professor told her student that she'd regrade the assignment if Krolczyk edited it to focus on "women's rights (not just females)."

In a May TikTok video, the student shared a screenshot of her assignment and the professor's comments. Krolcyzk questioned how she was supposed to complete her project if she couldn't use the phrase "biological women." 

The following month, Nipper received the formal reprimand, a copy of which was obtained by The Enquirer. The reprimand stated that the professor's actions violated the Campus Free Speech Policy. The letter also stated that any other violations of the university's policies may result in termination. 

The professor appealed the letter in a June 19 email to Hanson, explaining that she believed the student's project was "inappropriate" because it framed trans people as oppressors. Nipper argued that she felt the restriction on what she deemed to be "harmful speech" was necessary to "ensure a safe learning environment." 

"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 in the email. 

The student's project touches on an ongoing discussion surrounding the impact of allowing biological men to compete as women in sports and whether this disadvantages female athletes. Some studies have shown that, on average, men who identify as women maintain a competitive advantage over females, even after taking "feminizing" hormones, adding to the debate. 

Riley Gaines testified last month during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, highlighting the impact that allowing men into women's spaces has had on female athletes. Gaines, a former collegiate swimmer and University of Kentucky graduate, competed against trans athlete Lia Thomas during last year's NCAA championships. 

Thomas, whose first name is Will, competed on the men's swimming team for three seasons at the University of Pennsylvania before he started competing on the women's team during the 2021-'22 season.

As Gaines noted in her testimony, female athletes watched Thomas beat multiple women swimmers, and they were forced to share a locker room with him. The women's sports advocate accused the NCAA of discrimination by allowing a biological male to compete against them. 

"Although the NCAA claimed that it acted in the name of inclusion, its policies, in fact, excluded female athletes, which are the very female athletes whom Title IX was passed to protect," Gaines said.

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

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