University of Iowa to Use ‘Preferred Pronouns’ When Addressing Students

By Barbara Hollingsworth | July 22, 2016 | 3:16pm EDT
Screenshot from University of Iowa video on using "preferred pronouns" to address students.

( – Faculty and staff at the University of Iowa (UI) have been instructed to use “preferred names and gender pronouns” when addressing new and returning students – including “ze”, “zem”, “zir or hir”, “zirs or hirs”.

According to the Gender Neutral Pronoun Blog, ze/hir and its derivatives are just some of the “scores” of “invented pronouns” to use “when someone’s gender is unknown or when the individual is neither male or female.”

Other acceptable “preferred pronouns” at UI include using the grammatically incorrect plural “they” instead of the singular “she” or “he” when referring to one person.

“My pronouns are he, him and his,” UI president Bruce Harreld says in a July 6 video posted on YouTube announcing the new policy. “Don’t make assumptions. Help us make the University of Iowa as inclusive and affirming as possible.”

 “In 2013, the University of Iowa became the first public university in the U.S. to allow students to identify as transgender on their admission application,” Assistant Professor of Education Jodi Linley said in the video. “Now, in 2016, the University of Iowa will become one of the first universities in the nation to ask for students’ gender pronouns.”

“These changes give students an agency to tell us what name and pronouns to use in our communication and interaction with them,” Linley explained.

“Current students will be able to update their preferred name and gender pronouns in the MyUI system, and new applicants to the university will be able to tell us their preferred name, gender, and pronoun alongside their legal name and sex assigned at birth,” she said.

The UI community is advised to “just ask” about an individual’s “preferred pronoun” if they are uncertain which one to use.

“If you make a mistake, own it and move past it,” they were told in the video.

UI officials are also spending $30,000 to relabel 147 single-occupancy bathrooms with signs reading: “Anyone can use this restroom, regardless of gender identity or expression,” HeatStreet reported.

The university also intends to expand its "inclusion" policies beyond the campus.

Georgina Dodge, UI’s chief diversity officer, said that the university has begun a “partnership with the Tippie College of Business and the Downtown Business District to develop training and incentives for business owners and their employees to build skills for inclusion.”

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