Friday, August 19

After some conservative backlash, one university in Ohio inches closer to “Inclusive Gender Practices”

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A proposed policy at The University of Toledo that would require students and employee’s to use a person’s preferred name in all communications is in its final review period, awaiting approval. 

The policy — called Inclusive Gender Practices — has an aim of “affording students, faculty and staff the opportunity to identify their chosen first name, pronouns and identity.”

The university has said that the policy is in accordance with their commitment to “fostering an environment of inclusivity” and that it is “aligned with the University’s LGBTQA+ Strategic Plan.”

Proposed by their Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the policy was first posted for public comment on Jan. 14. The initial comment period was originally intended to run until Feb. 16.

Backlash came in the form of a public letter sent to the university by Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), posted two days before the public comment period was to end.

The letter argued that the policy is an overboard approach and would violate the First Amendment by attempting to restrict free speech. 

The letter extensively cites Meriwether v. Hartop, the recently settled case in which an Ohio professor was awarded $400K for his refusal to use a student’s pronouns.

Following receipt of the letter, the comment period on the policy was extended more than a month to March 21. With the comment period now closed, the university is currently reviewing the feedback in order to help make a final decision on whether the Gender Inclusive Practices will go into effect.

Despite the negativity from the FIRE letter, Amber Rank, a University of Toledo student and secretary of Sexuality and Gender Alliance, said the response they’ve seen on campus regarding the policy has been positive overall.

“I feel very lucky from my perspective to have experienced a lot of love and support, not just for my identity and my friends’ identities, but for this policy in support of trans young adults here at UT,” Rank said. “So for me, I’ve seen great things. But that’s not to say there haven’t been bad things.”

Rank explained that if the policy goes through, it could have a very positive impact on campus, especially because the University of Toledo has a large trans population.

“While you’re going to have some students with more conservative ideals that are going to be upset or angry about it, in the end it’s really about basic human respect and just being a kind person to respect someone’s identity,” Rank said. “Someone’s own personal identity does not affect you in any way, other than a slight change in language. I think within the student body, it would go over pretty well.”

Sharon Barnes is an associate professor, chair of Women’s & Gender Studies, and a member of the LGBT Advisory Board at the university. She said she has also seen positive support for the policy among most faculty and staff. 

“I think anytime the institution creates policy to support its body — the people who live, work and study here — I think people are generally pleased by it,” she said.

The Inclusive Gender Practices policy comes at a volatile time for LGBTQ+ equal rights and inclusivity here in Ohio and across the country. 

“I think we’re in a global moment where <we need> to recognize the humanity of all people, and that means recognizing their right to healthcare, their right to safe living conditions,” Barnes said. “And I see this [policy]as a part of that.” 🔥 

About Author

Maria McGinnis is a recent graduate of Kent State University where she studied journalism and minored in advertising and psychology. She is now working as a freelance writer and editor. In her free time when she's not typing away on her laptop, Maria enjoys spending time with her friends and family, baking, yoga, discovering new music and thrift shopping.

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