Preferred pronoun policy assessed to accommodate LGBTQ+ students

Members of the Geneseo community have discussed the merits of implementing a preferred pronoun policy. Such a policy would allow students to inform the college of how they identify. 

In fall 2015, the SUNY Board of Trustees launched an initiative for a preferred name policy. By spring 2016, the policy came full circle at Geneseo, ensuring that students can be called by their chosen name, provided that the name is not derogatory, even if it differs from their legal or official name on record. 

A student’s preferred first name can be used on sites like Knightweb, myGeneseo and Faculty Grade Entry.

Communication and international relations double major sophomore Leliana McDermott recently utilized the preferred name policy, but was not able to officially change her pronouns. McDermott didn’t express any major issue with the lack of a preferred pronoun policy.

“I emailed one of my professors this semester and said I was changing my name, since it wasn’t in the system,” McDermott said. “I always email my professors before class to introduce myself. All of them were fine with it.” 

Public colleges around the country have weighed in on pronoun policies. Students applying to schools in the University of California system are given six different gender identities to choose from in an optional question on their application, according to a Sept. 5, 2015 article from USA Today. Similarly, the University of Michigan has allowed students to choose their own personal pronouns following a student petition. 

Although Geneseo has not had any notable resistance from faculty or staff on the possibility of instituting a pronoun policy, the current technological infrastructure would not allow for it, according to Dean of Students and the Director of Center for Community Leonard Sancilio. 

“We put into play the preferred name policy a few years ago, but we have not gotten to the point of being able to put together a preferred pronoun policy,” Sancilio said. “It gets complicated with our database system, specifically with rosters. But there really has not been any conversation as to if we can implement this policy. We can certainly ask people to use the pronouns, but can we make people use them? We have not gotten over that hurdle yet.”  

To allow pronoun specificity and increased customization in Geneseo’s Banner database system, Sancilio is working with Assistant Director & Manager of Information Systems Paul Jackson. There is no plan to institute changes on a specific timetable, according to Sancilio. 

Coordinator of LGBTQ Programs and Services Dillon Federici believes that the newness of preferred pronouns to many members of the college community has reduced motivation to create a new policy.

“I’m sure that faculty do not often understand the situation,” Federici said. “The whole concept of pronouns is new to them … almost everyone takes it seriously because names and pronouns are part of how we address and interact with people and certainly most people on campus are respectful, decent people.”u

 The preferred name policy, instituted in 2016, allows students to have their records match their identity. Now, members of the campus community are considering whether to institute a supplemental preferred pronoun policy. (Annalee Bainnson/Photo Editor)

The preferred name policy, instituted in 2016, allows students to have their records match their identity. Now, members of the campus community are considering whether to institute a supplemental preferred pronoun policy. (Annalee Bainnson/Photo Editor)

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