Columbia University employees could be fired for using wrong pronouns

A tutorial video describes the plethora of pronouns students can now use, including xe/xem,' 'ze/hir,' 'per/pers' and 'ey/em.'
Columbia University, New York City. March 9, 2020
(Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)

Faculty members and students at Columbia University can now be fired or expelled for "intentionally misgendering" fellow students by not using their preferred pronouns.

In a recent YouTube video posted by the college entitled "Why Pronouns Matter" explains at length the different pronouns people use, and how "using correct pronouns is a way to respect those around you."

"Intentionally misgendering someone by refusing to use the correct pronouns or name is a violation of the Columbia University nondiscrimination policy," the video stated. "Words matter. Even unintentional errors can create challenges."

The college's video describes the plethora of pronouns students can now use on official transcripts, such as xe/xem,' 'ze/hir,' 'per/pers' and 'ey/em'. It also directs faculty to use the new honorific of "Mx." when referring to a nonbinary student in lieu of the standard Mr., Mrs., Ms., or Miss.

According to Columbia University's EOAA policies and procedures, staff and students could face administrative consequences for misgendering someone because the university considers it a "nondiscrimination violation." Penalties for educators could range from loss of pay, administrative leave, removal from academic posts, and even termination. Students could face potential expulsion from the college entirely.

"Discipline may include, but is not limited to: reprimand/warning, change of the Respondent’s job duties, disciplinary probation, revocation of honors and awards, restricted access to University facilities or activities, a ‘no-contact’ order, relocation of a Respondent’s University-provided residence, relocation of Respondent’s workplace/station, demotion, administrative leave with or without pay, suspension with or without pay, unpaid leave, and dismissal or restriction from University employment. The University may also require training or educational intervention," the policy states.

The college's website notes that accidental "misuse of a pronoun is not discrimination," but advised educators to immediately correct their mistake, and ensure it doesn't become habitual.

"You don’t want to inadvertently refer to someone by the wrong gender; even unintentional errors can create challenges for students in the learning environment. Be cognizant of the pronouns a student uses and always try to use them," the statement reads.

Columbia University did not immediately respond to a request for comment.