Wheaton College Guide Advises Professors Against Using Terms Like “Women” And “Female”

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2022/04/19/wheaton-college-guide-advises-professors-against-using-terms-like-women-and-female/

Should college professors use gendered language in the classroom?

Wheaton College advises its professors against it.

The private liberal arts college that serves about 1,700 students and is located in Norton, Massachusetts has an online guide for its professors to help them avoid gendered language. It’s called “The Gender-Affirming Classroom.”

The college’s gender-affirming classroom guide has existed since the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, according to the web page’s coding, which looks like this:


The guide tells professors that on the first day of class, they should ask their students “what name/pronoun should I use for you in class?”

“This avoids using the term ‘preferred pronoun’ (which some trans & nonbinary people find problematic because it makes using their pronouns seem optional),” the guide says.

It tells professors to keep an updated roster of students’ names and pronouns and that they shouldn’t assume people’s pronouns.

“If you couldn’t recall a student’s name, you wouldn’t call them Chad just because ‘they really look like a Chad,’ would you?” the guide says.

When it comes to in-class content, the guide also offers several suggestions.

The guide tells professors that they should include content from authors and creators of different genders outside of people who identify as men and women.

“It is important for students to see diverse scholars and artists as important contributors to the work of any discipline,” it says. “Look at your syllabus:  does it feature women? Queer and/or trans people? People of color (and not just in a week focusing on “diversity”)?  Inclusion means featuring diverse and marginalized people as creators — not just subjects — of art and knowledge. And, as with members of the class, be careful not to make assumptions about an author’s gender and pronouns if you don’t know; using last names is a good alternative!”

Wheaton College’s guide goes on to say professors should avoid using gendered language in their curriculum, when possible.

For example, the guide tells professors of science classes to avoid terms like “women” and “females.” Instead, it tells them to use terms like “people with uteruses,” “people who menstruate,” and “pregnant people.”

The guide says that this kind of practice “helps to specify the relevant organs or biological processes, instead of making assumptions about the identities of the people in question.”

It also tells the professor to use the term “Assigned [male/female] at birth” instead of terms like “born female” or “biological male” to describe people.

Additionally, the school guide tells professors to not correct students’ use of the singular “they,” which has traditionally been considered a plural pronoun for the third person.

“In 2017, the Associated Press ruled that the singular ‘they’ was acceptable for journalists to use,” the guide says. “The APA and MLA style guides followed suit in 2019 and 2020, respectively. In 2019, Merriam-Webster named the singular ‘they’ as its word of the year. Use of the singular ‘they’ is grammatically correct, even if it sounds awkward to you.”

Additionally, the guide tells professors to avoid referring to all of their students who identify as nonbinary with they/them pronouns.

“Be mindful of respecting the pronoun a person requests that you use — not everyone who identifies as nonbinary uses ‘they’; there are other gender-neutral pronouns that people may adopt for themselves (see Gender & Pronouns 101 for some examples), and some nonbinary people use binary pronouns (she and/or he), too.”

Wheaton College was founded in 1834 as “Wheaton Female Seminary.” Men were first admitted in 1988.

A spokesman for Wheaton College, asked about the gender guide, directed NewBostonPost to the college’s gender identity policy web page.

“Wheaton believes embracing diversity leads to personal growth, intellectual enrichment, freedom and social justice,” a statement on the page reads. “Being a part of Wheaton means appreciating and celebrating our differences. It also means maintaining an environment free from discriminatory conduct, including conduct that impedes the academic freedom, security, or well-being of any member of the Wheaton community.”


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